Chronic migraine relieved by increasing omega-3 and reducing omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are needed for our body to produce pain-relieving and pain-enhancing substances. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a randomized, single-blinded, parallel-group clinical trial, which was published in the journal Pain, to assess clinical and biochemical effects of changing the dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on chronic headaches.

After a 4-week baseline, patients with chronic daily headaches undergoing usual care were randomized to 1 of 2 intensive, food-based 12-week dietary interventions: a high omega-3 plus low omega-6 intervention, or a low omega-6 intervention. Clinical outcomes included the Headache Impact Test, which measures headache-related disability, headache days per month, and headache hours per day. They also measured omega-3 and omega-6 levels in red blood cells. Fifty-six of 67 patients completed the intervention.

The first intervention (increasing omega-3 and lowering omega-6) produced significantly greater improvement in the Headache Impact Test score and the number of headache days per month compared to the second group (lowering omega-6). The first intervention also produced significantly greater reductions in headache hours per day. The authors concluded that dietary intervention increasing omega-3 and reducing omega-6 fatty acids reduced headache pain and improved quality-of-life in chronic headache sufferers.

The omega-3 fatty acids are generally considered good and the omega-6 are considered bad, but it appears that what is more important is the balance between the two types. The known beneficial effects of fish oil include their effect on the heart, brain, peripheral nerves, mood, inflammation, as well as headaches. There is little downside to taking omega-3 supplements, as long as you buy fish oil from a reputable store chain or a well-know brand, which is purified of mercury.

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