What we eat can help in case of a headache? It seems so, and this is thanks to a fascinating mechanism that connects some nutrients with the energy available to brain cells. This is what emerges from a very recent review published in the Nutrients journal by a Polish team (Fila et al, Nutrients, 2021).
The connection between mitochondria, energy and headache
Migraine is a very common condition that mainly affects people under 50 with symptoms such as headaches, but also nausea and photophobia. The causes have not yet been fully understood but recent studies have observed, thanks to magnetic resonance tests, that those suffering from migraines show a deficit of energy in the brain. Mitochondria are the part of the cells responsible for producing energy and therefore play a role in the onset of migraines. The review collected all the studies performed previously and was able to derive the nutrients that, by acting on the functionality of the mitochondria, can help prevent or counteract migraine attacks. But let's understand better.
Riboflavin and coenzyme Q 10 against migraine
Riboflavin supports the mitochondria and keeps them active and healthy. Not only that, studies have also observed that ribloflavin helps prevent migraine attacks, thus also demonstrating the link between mitochondrial function and headache. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, can be taken, after a conversation with your doctor, in the form of a supplement. Riboflavin is also contained in foods such as eggs, cheeses and dairy products, cereals but also green leafy vegetables. Another nutrient useful against migraine attacks is coenzyme Q 10, which can protect the mitochondria from the action of free radicals. In fact, it has been observed that the intake of coenzyme Q 10, while not reducing the severity of headache attacks, has however reduced both the frequency and duration of the attacks. For example, supplements of 150 mg of coenzyme Q 10 per day cut the number of days affected by headaches in half. Coenzyme Q 10, in addition to being taken in supplement form, is contained in fish, dried fruit, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts and sesame and vegetable oils.
The role of magnesium
Magnesium deserves a separate chapter. It is involved in more than 600 reactions within our body, including the processes involved in the production of energy. Magnesium levels have been observed to be lower in migraine sufferers. Not only that, those suffering from very painful headache attacks have even lower magnesium levels than those with mild to moderate attacks. Magnesium can be taken in supplement form, while foods that contain it include almonds, bananas, beans, broccoli, cashew nuts, flax seeds, nuts, oats, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, and whole grains.