How fish could be the answer to your migraine agony

EATING a diet rich in oily fish could quell your migraine misery, doctors have revealed.

Experts say that certain fatty acids found in in Omega 3 can have pain-reducing effects.

Researchers in the US wanted to find out whether or not diets high in oily fish would help with migraine relief.

Before recruiting participants they established that oxylipins derived from omega 3 fatty acids are associated with pain-reducing effects.

However they also stated that oxylipins derived from omega 6 fatty acids worsen pain and can provoke migraines.

The team looked at data from 182 patients, with an average age of 38-years-old.

Of the participants, 88 per cent were women, and on average they would suffer from migraines five to 20 days a month.

Each participant was assigned to one of three diets for a period of 16 weeks.

What is classed as oily fish?

Guidance from the NHS states that to have a healthy balanced diet, you should try and have two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish.

Oily fish:

  • Herring
  • Pilchards
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Sprats
  • Trout
  • Mackerel

One diet (the control diet) included normal levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

Two diets raised omega 3 intake while one kept omega 6 the same as the control diet and the other lowered omega 6.

Over the 16 weeks headache frequency was statistically significantly decreased in the second and third groups.

Participants reported shorter and less severe headaches than those eating a normal diet of omega 3.

The high omega 3 diet was linked to a reduction of 1.3 headache hours a day and two headache days a month.

The experts found that the high omega 3 plus low omega 6 diet group saw a reduction of 1.7 headache hours per day and four headache days per month, suggesting additional benefit from lowering dietary omega-6 fatty acid.

While the benefits of omega 3 diets are clear, the researchers say it would be tough for people who suffer with migraines to stick to strict diets.

They added that the majority of participants were women, so the results might not prove to be the same in children and men.

What is a migraine?

MIGRAINES can cause blurry vision, nausea, sensitivity to light and can last for days.

It is not totally clear what causes migraines, but hormonal changes in women, diet – including aged cheeses, wine, food additives, salty and processed foods – stress, medications and changes in sleep patterns can all bring one on.

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they're thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain.

What are the symptoms?

  • Throbbing, pulsating pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Pain on one side
  • Vision changes, blurred vision
  • Aura
  • Vomiting

Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University said while the results are useful, they couldn't be used to help people who have different types of migraines.

"The researchers do mention in the paper that further research could look at whether the same approach might help in other populations with chronic pain, but this particular study can’t directly say whether it would help or not, except in relation to migraine", he added.

The authors of the paper state: "While the diets did not significantly improve quality of life, they produced large, robust reductions in frequency and severity of headaches relative to the control diet.

"This study provides a biologically plausible demonstration that pain can be treated through targeted dietary alterations in humans."

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