Do you suffer from headaches? Omega 3 can be salvation

Change diet to improve migraine. It's possible? We tell you how omega 3 seems to reduce headache attacks and improve quality of life.

Last update: August 26, 2021

The relationship between headaches and omega 3 could be a path of relief for many migraine sufferers. The possibility that people with recurrent headaches benefit from a diet rich in these compounds is also being studied.

Although the foods that work as triggers headaches, too there are others that would function as protectors. In other words, if we increase its presence in the usual diet, we reduce acute episodes of pain.

They are not analgesic products. They don't act magic either. But they would lead to a better quality of life.

Although omega 3s show promise for reducing headaches, consider a broad diet that meets several requirements. Among the many that exist, it seems that the Mediterranean is the most optimal.

What is omega 3 and how is it related to headaches?

When we talk about omega fatty acids, we are actually referring to a biochemical nomenclature. And not all people are familiar with these terms.

Omega 3s are long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Its representatives most recognized by science as beneficial are EPA, DPA and DHA. However, it is speculated that their natural and bodily production is not sufficient for the human body. Hence, artificial supplementation is proposed.

And it is that omega 3 fatty acids have important roles in various aspects of human physiology. They are antioxidants, so slow down the cellular aging process. They also protect neuronal tissues, as they participate in maintaining the integrity of the membrane of neurons. Finally, they are anti-inflammatory, which allows them to balance chronic inflammation, associated with obesity and cardiovascular diseases, for example.

Omega 3 and migraine

Considering that long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and stabilizers of the neuronal membrane, it is proposed that its high presence contributes to regulate the imbalance of migraine. This would be explained, above all, by its effects on the transmission of the nerve impulse and by counteracting pro-inflammatory substances.

In patients with migraine there is a high production of metabolites that promote inflammation in the nervous system. Omega 3s would have the ability to balance the inflammatory balance.

This would control the biochemical cascade that develops when the migraine attack occurs. By stabilizing the membrane of neurons, omega 3 fatty acids would prevent cranial vascular changes which are at the base of headaches.

Migraine occurs in the form of intense attacks that force you to stop daily activity.

The Mediterranean diet as a supplement for migraines

Assuming that omega 3 can prevent headaches, then our search for a diet that meets the characteristics of being rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids begins. The answer is found, quickly, in the Mediterranean diet.

This eating plan has a interesting amount of omega 3 from fish. At the same time, it reduces the presence of red meat and the fats that are present in it.

But not only fish provides the omega 3 of the Mediterranean diet. We also find it in legumes, grains and fruits that form the foundations of this food proposal.

At par, as red meat is limited, the amount of omega 6 fatty acids is low. And it is this ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 that seems most effective in reducing inflammation in the body and preventing migraine attacks. This is how they studied it in an investigation published in The Journal of Pain in 2015.

According to the authors of this study, people who eat a diet with more omega 3 than omega 6 have more metabolites of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in their blood. These act as natural anti-inflammatories, circulating through all systems, including the nervous.

Similarly, the research participants not only had fewer migraine attacks when they followed a Mediterranean-type diet, but the attacks were also milder. This means that despite experiencing some headaches, they were reduced in duration and intensity.

Should we take omega 3 supplements for headaches?

Due to the evidence on the effects of a diet rich in omega 3 to reduce headache episodes, the possibility of prescribing tablets with these fatty acids was also considered. Although here the situation is not so clear and there are no accurate data to recommend this supplementation.

When migraine treatments that include omega 3 pills are compared to other more traditional approaches, no significant differences are found. Similarly, when using fish oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids as a supplement for migraineurs, no improvements were found that would justify its addition to the therapeutic plan.

And in children?

Migraine and recurrent headaches are no stranger to childhood. There are epidemiological surveys that found a prevalence of more than 30% in children under 15 years of age. This means that 3 out of 10 children ever experience a recurring headache.

For this reason, the effect of omega 3 supplements for children has also been investigated. But the results lead to the same place as with adults. That is, there is no improvement in children's migraine when up to 1 milligram of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are administered daily as prophylaxis.

In children there is insufficient evidence to recommend supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids in pill form.

Omega 3 can improve your headaches if you increase it in the diet

With the available data, we can say that omega 3 would be able to reduce the episodes of headaches if you increase its presence in the diet. So far, the same effect is not achieved with supplements in pills or tablets, nor with those that are marketed in the form of fish oil.

These supplements may be recommended if you have a migraine. And you can take them safely. There will be no adverse effects. In any case, with a Mediterranean diet you could naturally increase the presence of the active metabolites of these fatty acids.

In parallel, if you modify your lifestyle, you will enhance the results. Reducing stress in various ways has been proven to reduce migraine attacks. Choose activities that are pleasant and enjoyable for you. You can choose yoga, mindfulness, deep breaths or others.

A healthy diet and stress management will not only help you with a migraine. They are ways to improve the overall quality of life.