Migraine is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Existing therapies are frequently insufficient to provide patients with complete comfort. Recent research published in The BMJ reveals other alternatives individuals may take to experience fewer migraines and headaches – a diet modification over 16 week period.
Including Specific Fatty Acids In The Diet Can Help To Reduce The Severity Of Migraine Headaches
According to Daisy Zamora, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNC Department of Psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and co-first author, the ancestors ate substantially different quantities and kinds of lipids compared to contemporary modern diets. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, which the body does not generate, have grown significantly in the diet as a result of the inclusion of oils like maize, soybean, and cottonseed to many processed foods like chips, crackers, and granola.
This study looked at two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids: omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) (n-3). Both serve vital purposes in the body, but they must be balanced since n-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce inflammation while certain n-6 derivatives have been shown to induce discomfort. However, because of the quantity of processed food consumed today, most individuals in the United States receive far more n-6 and fewer n-3 fatty acids.
To investigate if the amount of these fatty acids in a person’s diet may affect headache pain, 182 migraine patients were included in this randomized, controlled research headed by Doug Mann, MD, professor of Neurology and Internal Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. In addition to their current treatments, patients followed one of three diets for 16 weeks: a control diet that maintained the average amount of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids consumed by people in the United States, a diet that increased n-3 while maintaining n-6 fatty acids, and a diet that increased n-3 while decreasing n-6 fatty acids.
Participants were given 2/3 of their daily dietary needs, as well as an electronic diary to record how many hours of headache discomfort they had each day.
According to Beth MacIntosh, MPH, RD, clinical nutrition manager for the UNC Metabolic and Nutrition Research Core, participants were extremely motivated to follow these diets owing to the level of discomfort they were feeling.
According to Zamora, the results are extremely encouraging. Patients who followed either diet had less discomfort than those who did not. Those who followed a diet high in n-3 fatty acids and low in n-6 fatty acids had the greatest improvement.
Participants reported fewer headache days per month, and some were able to reduce the quantity of pain medication they required. However, individuals reported no difference in the quality of life.
Zamora believes that changing her diet will have an influence. The impact they found for headache reduction is comparable to what they find with certain medicines. The caveat is that, while participants reported fewer headaches, some people’s view of how headaches affected them did not alter.
According to research co-author Keturah Faurot, associate professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and assistant director of the Program on Integrative Medicine, this study particularly examined n-3 fatty acids from fish rather than dietary supplements. The findings do not apply to the usage of supplements.
According to Zamora, the molecular concept of how specific fatty acids impact pain applies to a wide range of chronic pain. Her team and she are presently embarking on the second research to investigate diet modification in different pain conditions.
This research is the product of a huge collaborative effort by the 24 multidisciplinary researchers.
This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), National Institutes of Health (NIH)