Nutritional Factors In The Treatment Of Migraine
by Dr. Paul Jaconello
Doctor Jaconello is the Medical Director of the Jaconello Health Centre for Nutritional and Preventive Medicine
Migraine is a type of severe, recurrent headache usually situated in one side of the head. The name is derived from the Greek: hemi half and Kranian, skull.
About 26 million Americans suffer from recurrent migraines causing a severe disabling effect on the quality of life in these sufferers, more so than the so-called serious conditions like arthritis and heart disease. It is not only the pain that it causes but also, the anticipation on living in fear of having a headache that distresses the afflicted.
Any disabling headache of a duration greater than four hours should be considered as migraine.
Migraine begins in the brain stem in a "migraine" centre. It’s activation leads to stimulation of the trigeminal nerve nucleus which in turn sends messages into the skull cavity and meningeal blood vessels which begin to secrete an "inflammatory soup" of compounds. These chemicals make the nerve endings in the blood vessel walls very sensitive so that the normal pulsation of the blood vessels becomes painful.
That is why the pain of migraine is often throbbing and it is this message that gets back to the brain and tells you that you have a bad headache.
All types of migraine headaches appear to be driven by non-atopic allergy. An extra trigger is often necessary to provoke migraine. The response is usually delayed by 18 to 48 hours.
The pattern of food allergies differs from person to person and can include any food and diagnosis can be difficulty. There are blood tests available which can identify these foods and allow the person to go on a programme of elimination of the offenders plus go on a four day rotation diet to reduce risk of developing reactions to their new different foods.
The alternative is an oligo antigenic diet for two weeks followed by challenging the body with one food at a time at one-week intervals. Many sufferers find this procedure too daunting.
A study done has shown that 85% of migraine sufferers experienced a cessation of their headaches after eliminating their food allergens.
There are non-allergic triggers to migraine and these include stress, fatigue, bright/flashing lights and eyestrain.
Pharmacological agents from food-derived acting amines also trigger headaches. These amines are contained in red wine, chocolate, avocados, raisins, papayas, chocolate, yeast products, cheese, oranges, canned fish and broad beans. Also, MSG, premenstrual hormone fluxes, aspartame, weather changes, fumes (especially from perfumes), hyperventilation and temperomandibular joint dysfunction can be triggers but it is probable that underlying undiagnosed food allergens are underlying factors and that by removing these or treating them with low dose allergen desensitization techniques, these additional triggers would not be as stimulating.
Other non-drug treatments for migraine can be very helpful. These include exercise, which is a very beneficial treatment for almost any condition. A schedule of regular aerobic exercise at 20 to 30 minutes per day, 4 to 5 days a week is often accompanied by a significant improvement of headache severity and frequency.
A beneficial supplement is magnesium. Magnesium has been suspected to play a role in migraines for almost a hundred years. In fact, one study measuring whole brain magnesium in live people with migraine headaches found they had less magnesium in their brains than a control group of individuals with no headaches. A dosage of 400 to 600 mg per day in divided doses can be very helpful in the prevention of migraine and even a magnesium infusion can cut short an acute attack.
Also, riboflavin (vitamin B2) is very important for mitochondrial energy production and has been suspected as very important for the prophylactic treatment of migraine for some time. A well done double blind trial by respected researchers in Belgium who gave 400 mg of riboflavin (a mega dose) to patients with migraine showed statistically significant results better than placebo but it took 2 – 3 months for the difference to occur. You have to use it long enough.
Herbal therapies can be useful. Feverfew has been used for a 100 years for migraine and there are 4 double bind studies published that demonstrated its efficacy in some migraineurs.
Butter root extract has been shown to reduce frequency of attacks.
Other helpful treatments have included acupuncture, acupressure, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, osteopathic treatment and biofeedback.
There are effective pharmaceutical treatments available for the treatment and prevention of migraine, which is not in the scope of this article. Although effective, they are attended by side effects.
So knowing about and using the above strategies could help relieve much unnecessary suffering with fewer side effects and assist the migraineur to live a more stress free and pain free life.
Paul Jaconello, M.D.
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