Health Day Journalists
THURSDAY, November 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) – People who live with chronic migraines suffer from intense beating and pulsating, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting.
Could a plant-based diet, credited with a variety of positive health impacts, also help relieve these chronic symptoms?
Researchers in New York have published a case study of a man with severe chronic migraines who tried everything to stop them, then switched to a plant-based diet – loaded with lots of dark green leafy vegetables.
He quickly found significant relief from his headaches, doctors online reported in the newspaper Nov. 18 BMJ Case Reports.
“This report suggests that a complete plant-based diet may offer a safe, effective and permanent treatment for reversing chronic migraine,” wrote a team led by Dr David Dunaief, who specializes in nutritional medicine and has a private practice in East Setauket. , New York
A migraine expert who was unrelated to the study was cautiously optimistic about the results.
“It’s hard to do much from a single case report, [but] this illustrates the importance of all of these non-pharmacological, evidence-based treatments, ”said Dr Noah Rosen. He runs the Headache Center at Northwell Health in Great Neck, NY
As the researchers noted, more than a billion people worldwide suffer from migraines, defined as a pulsating headache on one side, sometimes accompanied by various other symptoms, which last between four and 72 hours.
Some migraines are episodic, meaning they occur less than 15 days per month. Others are chronic, with 15 or more migraine days per month plus features of migraine eight days per month.
To be considered successful, migraine treatment must reduce the frequency and duration of attacks by half or improve symptoms.
The 60-year-old man whose experiences are detailed in the report had suffered from severe migraine headaches without aura for more than 12 years. Six months before he was referred to the clinic, his migraines had become chronic, occurring 18 to 24 days per month.
He had tried a number of potential solutions, including the prescribed drugs zolmitriptan and topiramate. It also removed potential “trigger” foods, including chocolate, cheese, nuts, caffeine, and dried fruits. Beyond that, the man also tried yoga and meditation to curb the attacks.
None of these interventions worked.
The man described the pain as throbbing, starting suddenly and intensely in the forehead and temple on the left side of his head. His migraines typically lasted 72 hours and also included sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. The intensity of his pain was 10 to 12 on a scale of 10.
He didn’t have high levels of systemic inflammation but had normal levels of beta-carotene in his blood, possibly because he ate sweet potatoes every day. Sweet potatoes are relatively low in dietary nutrients known as carotenoids, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, the authors explained.
Leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and watercress to do contain high levels of carotenoids, however.
So Rosen’s team advised the man to adopt the Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet. It is a nutrient-dense, whole-food, plant-based diet. The diet calls for eating at least five ounces by weight of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables each day, drinking a 32-ounce green LIFE smoothie per day, and limiting consumption of whole grains, starches, oils and animal protein, especially dairy and red meat.
After two months of the diet, the man said his migraines had been significantly reduced – to just one migraine day per month, and even the headache was less severe.
At the same time, his blood tests showed a substantial increase in beta-carotene levels.
Soon the man stopped taking all of his migraine medications. Her migraine headaches completely stopped after three months and hasn’t come back for seven and a half years.
The man was allergic, and previously published research suggests that better allergy control can also lead to fewer migraines. In this case, the man’s allergy symptoms also improved, to the point that he no longer needed to use seasonal medications.
He was also HIV positive and HIV has been linked to an increased risk of migraine headaches. It is possible that the man’s HIV status and antiretroviral drugs contributed to his symptoms, the authors said, although it was not possible to study this further without stopping the antiretroviral treatment.
“While this report describes a very adherent patient who had a remarkable response, the LIFE regimen reduced the frequency of migraines within 3 months in several additional patients,” added Dunaief.
For her part, Rosen said that “the role of a good diet and migraine has been the subject of a few studies demonstrating the benefits.”
Proper hydration, a healthy diet with a low glycemic index and lots of omega 3 fatty acids (like those found in oily fish) have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing migraines, a- he declared.
Beyond food, good sleep, regular exercise, and psychological interventions such as “cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation” can also help, Rosen said.
Learn more about migraines at the American Migraine Foundation.
THE SOURCE: BMJ Case Reports, press release, November 18, 2021