Plus, what to eat to help reduce your migraines.
Q: My migraine medication, which combines caffeine, acetaminophen and codeine, doesn't help enough. What can I do — beyond medications — that might?
A: Did you know that a migraine is the third most common disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization? More than 39 million Americans regularly get attacks that last from four to 72 hours.
What Is a Migraine?
Unfortunately, we're just beginning to truly understand the migraine and how to treat it. The newest theory is that the pain is triggered when an immune system enzyme and a messenger that influences hormones and neurotransmitters disrupt neural pathways in the upper cervical nerves, peripheral nervous system or the hypothalamus.
There are four newly FDA-approved monoclonal antibodies that may address those causes by inhibiting the action of a specific neurotransmitter. About 50–75% of people who take one of the antibodies say their migraine frequency is cut by 60–75%. But that still leaves a lot of people in a lot of pain.
Does Your Diet Affect Migraines?
Well, a newly discovered dietary adjustment may tip the balance! Turns out a lack of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in your diet and an overabundance of omega-6s can crank up migraine pain. A study in The BMJ found that, compared with people who had a diet loaded with omega-6, those who consumed more EPA and DHA experienced a 30–40% reduction in headache hours per day and headache days per month.
Eating to Help Reduce Migraines
Omega-6 lurks in most prepared foods, such as mayo, salad dressings, chips, baked goods, fast and restaurant food, sauces, and shortening, as well as in red meats and poultry raised on soy and corn. It predominates in vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, and soy. So, slash your intake of prepared foods and increase your intake of fatty fish, like salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines, as well as chia seeds, Brussels sprouts and walnuts. Give it a month. We think you may be surprised by the benefits.