A Functional Nutrition Approach to Migraine Headaches
Specialized and Specific for your head.
By Jessica Marshall Regan RDN, LDN, FMN, CLT
“Throb. Pound. On Fire.”, words describing the physical sensations from a migraine direct from many of our clients. It is hard to imagine a generalized treatment to the masses will be effective. Symptom control is often the first approach in conventional medicine, but what if that still doesn’t work? It could mean more medications to manage and, in some cases, additional side effects. What if conventional testing is still saying everything is normal? What are we missing? Are we digging deep enough for our migraine sufferers?
Daily persistent and in some cases debilitating migraine headaches are becoming more and more common today. A migraine is a throbbing, unilateral headache often associated with nausea, vomiting, photophobia (light sensitivity), or an aura (a transient disturbance of vision or of various aspects of neurological function). More than 10% of Americans (30 million+) suffer from migraines, with the prevalence in women being about 3x that in men. (2)
We can help make sense of and investigate these areas:
- Mitochondria insufficiencies (ALA, CoQ10, B vitamins, carnitine)
- Methylation and detox insufficiencies
- Food sensitivities (caffeine, gluten, aged food/drink, alcohol, MSG, tested food sensitivities based on individual immune system [MRT/LEAP])
- Celiac disease (genetic testing if missed with first conventional test)
- Histamine intolerance
- Nutritional deficiencies (magnesium, B2, B12, CoQ10)
- Hormone imbalances (melatonin, cortisol, estrogen dominance)
- Essential fatty acid deficiencies (omega 3, 6, 9 balance)
- Gut microbiota imbalances
- Hypoglycemia or blood sugar imbalances
Patients with chronic migraines experience higher rates of comorbidities, including impaired sleep, anxiety and depression, and gastrointestinal disorders, all of which can greatly impact quality of life. (1)
It is a complex problem that is commonly associated with other inflammatory diseases. It can often have a myriad of triggers at the core of it which makes it near impossible to generalize solutions for the masses
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This is where a complementary approach to medicine can really help fast track solutions for the patient. Functional medicine looks for root imbalances. This can really complement what conventional testing has already ruled out. Here at New Directions Nutrition Counseling, we further explore with the patient, possible underlying causes through dietary and lifestyle interventions. In addition, functional medicine testing is utilized when appropriate.
Migraine Nutrition Changes
All of these imbalances and inefficiencies have nutrition at their core. We can target deficiencies responsibly through testing and supplementation. This is using therapeutic forms of food in appropriate amounts over time to replete these nutrients found to be low. Some nutrients are involved with getting better blood flow throughout the body and to the brain (iron for example).
Here are some other nutrition approaches to migraine reduction:
- We can change the foods on the plate to reduce inflammation which can allow the gut brain axis to better communicate, correct any food sensitivities via therapeutic elimination diets (3,4), and/or create a healthy microbiome by showing one how to provide enough fiber on the plate that the good gut bugs need to thrive.
- If that person isn’t responding well to the fiber addition on the plate we can identify microbial imbalances in the gut through testing.
- We can work on meal timing to reduce stress and improve blood sugar control via the plate. We can emphasis foods that detox organs like the liver and gallbladder love in an effort up regulate a clearance of toxins.
- We can improve digestion through way of probiotics, enzymes, or bitters to better utilize our nutrients internally from the food we eat.
Your health could change drastically through nutrition, lifestyle and supplement changes. We are happy to explore deeper with you and then teach you how to implement these changes successfully in a comprehensive effort toward migraine resolve and prevention.
- Aurora SK, Brin MF. Chronic migraine: an update on physiology, imaging, and the mechanism of action of two available pharmacologic therapies. Headache. 2017;57(1):109-125. doi:10.1111/head.12999
- Gaby, A. Nutritional Medicine. 2nd Edition., Concord, NH., Fritz Perlberg Publishing, 2017.
- Patenaude J & Bright D. Clinical improvement of IBS, migraine, fibromyalgia and arthritis using elimination diets based on mediator release blood testing. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 9, Supplement, 2009, Page A32, ISSN 0002-8223, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2009.06.092. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822309008645).
- Alternative approach to IBS and migraine is winning over providers. Dis ManagAdvis. 2004;10(1):6-1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15007999/
- Hyman, M. The Food Migraine Solution. Lenox, MA., Hyman Enterprises LLC, 2018.
- Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1185-96. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185. PMID: 17490952.