July 16, 2014

Headaches II: Supplement Discussion


Headaches Part II: In my last post, I discussed foods that help and foods that hurt in regards to headaches. Several of my friends and family experience daily headaches, negatively affecting quality of life. These folks see many specialists and get prescribed treatments and medications.  Some are left being told there's nothing they can do.  If this is the case, why not try some dietary changes or a simple supplement?  If your treating physician is open to it, what do you have to lose?


There is an interesting synopsis written by the American Headache society that briefly discusses some helpful supplements. Check it out here.  During my research, I repeatedly saw melatonin, CoQ10, riboflavin, magnesium, butterbur and feverfew indicated for headaches and migraines.  Some of these might sound familiar to you because they are quite common; our brain makes melatonin naturally for sleep, CoQ10 is another compound our bodies make that is often taken for cardiovascular support, riboflavin is just a B vitamin....let me discuss each briefly here and as always, before considering any of these, talk to your doc to see if it is safe and appropriate! 

Melatonin
Melatonin is a natural compound produced by the pineal gland in your brain that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle and also works as an antioxidant. Some studies have shown lower than normal melatonin levels during migraine attacks and 2-3 mg of melatonin supplementation has proven successful in reducing migraine symptoms.  One clinical study showed that melatonin supplementation trended toward a two-thirds reduction in number of migraine attacks.  

Butterbur (also called petadolex):
A plant commonly used in Europe, butterbur may reduce the frequency (by nearly half!), intensity and duration of a migraine headache.  This plant has relaxing effects on the circulation system (vasodilatatory). Some studies use 75 mg twice per day to achieve the desired affect.  I noticed many migraine combo supplements that incorporate butterbur into them.  



COQ10
CoQ10 is another antioxidant that has been used to prevent migraine attack frequency and duration.  This compound is involved in cellular energy production and is depleted quickly by organs (like the brain!) with a high metabolic rate.  Moderate dosing (100-300mg daily) has been used in studies but keep in mind that this research doesn't offer much help once an adult has been suffering with established headaches - it looks more efficacious in young people.  CoQ10 is used for many conditions and most people tolerate it with no problem at all.

Riboflavin



Just another B vitamin (B2 specifically), riboflavin has been shown to prevent migraines in doses as low as 400mg daily.  Similar to CoQ10, this vitamin is active in cellular metabolism and may help energy production.  Again, this is a very common supplement proving impressive promise in reducing headache frequency and duration. 

Magnesium 
Magnesium impacts many important processes involved in the development of a classic migraine attack. Many studies show that migraine sufferers exhibit low magnesium levels, especially so during an attack.  Supplementing with magnesium citrate could help reduce the frequency of migraines - studies show that magnesium citrate at 400-600mg can be helpful. 


Feverfew
An anti-inflammatory flower, this extract has been used for hundreds of years for headaches and reducing fevers.  There are no great studies that I know of showing it's efficacy, but you'll
see it show up in "headache" products. Keep in mind that feverfew supplements (like to many other products) have questionable quantities in some products so look for a company that you trust that pays for third party certification.  This may be a more expensive product.  


Summary
Your doctor can help decide if supplements are right for you. Present them with research if they are hesitant or work with an herbalist or dietitian who is an expert in the area.  Instead of single-dosing a bunch of stuff, I also found some good headache combos.  Check out products by Life Extension or Pure Encapsulations.   

*Whoa!  I'm not a doctor, I'm a dietitian.  The info above is not intended to take the place of a doctors advice.  If you have headaches, you need to get them checked out by a specialist for safety.  The advice here is not intended to treat or take the place of working with an MD.  Always check with your doctor before you experiment with any of my information - it is for informational purposes only on this site.






June 28, 2014

Headaches: Foods that help, foods that hurt

Friends and family suffering from headaches ask me for dietary advice regularly, so I'd like to address the topic here. The people I know experience daily headaches rather than migraines and both can be debilitating, negatively affecting quality of life.  This topic is vast and complicated so I'm going to do a small series about nutrition and headaches.  First, I'll talk food then present some information on supplements.  The research available is compelling!  My friends with headaches see many specialists and get prescribed treatments and medications.  Some are left being told there's nothing they can do.  If this is the case, why not try some dietary changes or a simple supplement?  If your treating physician is open to it, what do you have to lose?


Foods that may help 
When using food to improve headache symptoms or reduce incidence and severity, think calming inflammation, preventing constriction of blood vessels and adjusting potential deficiencies. Including the foods below would be healthy anyhow and maybe they could help with headaches, too!
  
1.  Omega 3 fatty acids
 Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, algae, flax and walnuts help prevent constriction of blood vessels, which may help to improve headache symptoms.   And of course, omega-3's are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.  Less inflammation=less pain.
  
2.  Being hydrated 
Stay on top of a headache by hydrating with water early and often.   When you don't have enough fluid on board, your sensitive brain gets irritated and is affected by the drop in blood pressure.    

3.  Nuts, seeds and beans
There is a whole lot of information on magnesium and headaches out there.  Some go so far as to say that a migraine sufferer is more likely to be magnesium deficient than someone without headaches.  Many foods contain this mineral, so this is an easy thing to increase in the diet.  Magnesium is known as a natural muscle relaxer and a calming agent.  Try: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, black beans, unprocessed organic tofu or edamame, and quinoa.

4.  Green leafies
Green leafy veggies like spinach, kale, and beet greens contain both magnesium as well as riboflavin which is also shown to help with headaches and migraines.  Increase your green leafy vegetables (for many reasons) and include eggs, mushrooms and tempeh in your diet as well. 

Foods that may hurt
Everyone is different, but what if you have a sensitivity to one of the foods known to cause or increase headaches?  It might be worth trying to avoid one or more of these categories while keeping a food journal to see if there are any improvements as you experiment.   To this this right, meet with a doctor or dietitian who specializes in headache elimination diets.  


1.  Ripe banana, avocado, and dried fruit (figs, raisins)
This is an easy place to start. The sulfites in dried fruits can trigger headaches in some.  The other fruits contain potential headache triggers tyramine and histamine.

2.   Tyramine-containing foods
Tyramine is a substance that occurs in foods as they age  (think cheese, processed meat, soy sauce/tempeh and pickles/olives).  It crosses the blood-brain barrier and has long been linked to headaches and migraines.   If this could be a trigger for you, there are low-tyramine diets available and a dietitian could help you with that.  For now, try avoiding:  Blue cheese, Brie, Cheddar, Feta, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Muenster, Parmesan, and Swiss cheeses.  Cut out pickles, olives and anything fermented.  While you're at it, you may as well try avoiding all dairy because there is some evidence that this can help as well. 

3.  Alcohol
All alcohol (especially red wine or champagne) can trigger headaches.  Alcohol increases blood flow to the brain and can also contain unwanted preservatives and additives. 

4.  Food Additives
This one is also easier - don't eat processed foods.  Nitrates/nitrites (think hot dogs) and MSG (sauces and flavoring packets) have been linked to headaches in some people.

References: 
American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 
American Headache Society (AHS)  
Natural Medicines Database
Life Extension


*Whoa!  I'm not a doctor, I'm a dietitian.  The info above is not intended to take the place of a doctors advice.  If you have headaches, you need to get them checked out by a specialist for safety.  The advice here is not intended to treat or take the place of working with an MD.  Always check with your doctor before you experiment with any of my information - it is for informational purposes only on this site.  





                                                                                                                                                                                                         



June 15, 2014

Siriacha Stir-Fry Sauce

Much like the enchilada sauce recipe I recently wrote, there is a need for clean-eating stir-fry sauces as well.  I picked up a bottle of Teriyaki stir-fry sauce at the store the other day and guess what was in it?:

water, sugar, modified corn starch, distilled vinegar, soy sauce (water, hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup, salt, caramel color) less than 2% caramel color, citric acid, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated red bell pepper, flavorings, mushroom powder, onion powder, salt, soy lecithin, spices, yeast extract. 

In dietitian terms: basically a bunch of  sugar and corn with a potentially carcinogenic compound added in for aesthetics.  Making your own sauce is safer than ingesting all that sugar and preservatives; it is also really easy and provides brighter flavors to your dish.  For all you Siriacha sauce addicts out there....this one's for you:

Ingredients
1/3 cup soy sodium soy sauce (organic preferred)
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup (organic preferred)
1 Tablespoon siriacha sauce (*hot sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar and garlic)
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

Instructions:

 1.  Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.  Use to stir-fry vegetables, rice, and/or noodles.  Makes a great marinade for tofu!  Keep sauce in the refrigerator for up to a week.


*Recipe adapted by Ginger Hultin MS RD LDN 6/12/14