Migraine headaches are among the most common causes of chronic pain and disability worldwide. They are more frequent in women than men and most common in those 30-39 years of age. Medications may only offer some relief and can have side effects that make them difficult to use. A recent study identified that dietary changes can have an impact on this debilitating condition.
Modern diets tend to be low in n-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) such as those found in fatty fish, and high in n-6 linoleic acid such as those found in vegetable oils like corn and soybean. The study “Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trial” published in The BMJ found that diets with increased n-3’s (EPA+DHA) as well as those with increased n-3/low n-6’s (increased EPA+DHA, reduced linoleic acid) reduced the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.
The National Institutes of Health News Release on this study, quoted Chris Ramsden, who led the clinical investigation team, “Changes in diet could offer some relief for the millions of Americans who suffer from migraine pain. It’s further evidence that the foods we eat can influence pain pathways.”
If you have patients experiencing frequent migraines an inquiry into their dietary habits may uncover simple changes that could be made, such as adding fatty fish or a fish oil supplement and removing vegetables oils. If such an inquiry isn’t within your scope of practice, consider referring your patient to an integrative healthcare provider – such as a acupuncturist, chiropractic or naturopathic physician – to discuss their migraines and dietary options for treatment.