Fight Migraine: Be nice to your Mitochondria

by James on 26 January 2009

Links between related diseases, such as migraine and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are important for more than one reason.  First, they get us closer to finding the common cause, which could lead to future treatments of both diseases.

But learning about links can be important to you right now.  They can give you new insight into how to prioritize your treatment, and what lifestyle changes you can make that can give you more "healthy days" to enjoy your life.

That’s why I was interested in the report put out by researchers at the Mayo Clinic earlier this month.  The report had the typically long name Mitochondrial DNA, Gastrointestinal Motor and Sensory Functions in Health and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.  Let me break it down quickly for you.

Mitochondrion diagram
Simplified diagram of a mitochondrion

Researchers of various diseases, not just what are technically called mitochondrial diseases, are very interested in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and something called nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).  These are variations in the mtDNA that might be related to diseases such as stroke, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome.

To get to the key point – these researchers believe that certain variations – SNPs – may be associated with gastric emptying, and even pain.  The same variations are related to migraine, and childhood cyclic vomiting syndrome (which in many cases is probably abdominal migraine).

Developing treatments

Treatments are being investigated to treat diseases related to mtDNA.  This includes diet and supplement treatments, exercise training, and more direct DNA therapy, such as artificially manufactured enzymes.  One of the big jobs of the mitochondria is energy production, so a lot of today’s therapy is based around reducing energy "leaks" (ie excessive stress), and keeping a steady source of energy (snacks with complex carbohydrates, eating regularly, supplements, etc).

Can this research benefit me Now?

This research actually supports much of what we’ve talked about before.  For example, we just talked about gastric stasis and the benefit of migraine nasal sprays.  Gastric stasis may be linked to migraine through these SNPs, or variations (which may explain why many migraineurs have gastric stasis all the time).

Much of the common treatment for mitochondrial disease makes sense for migraineurs.  Ever had an attack because you skipped a meal?  Or slept in (and so went longer without eating)?  Here are some key treatments and lifestyle changes which have even more credibility when looking at the link between migraine and the mitochondria:

  • B complex vitamins:  Very common in migraine treatment, and a key ingredient in Migreleif, a well researched supplement.
  • Antioxidents:  such as vitamin E.  Magnesium is also key in the cleansing of the body (also a key ingredient in Migrelief).  (this also means avoiding toxins, like cigarette smoke, alcohol, and MSG).  Magnesium and antioxidant superfoods include beans and spinach.
  • Eating regularly:  Be careful not to skip meals.  Try healthy snacks thoughout the day, including complex carbohydrates which will keep a steady supply of energy in your body.
  • Coenzyme Q10:  A key supplement for migraine which we have discussed before in HeadWay.  CoQ10 is also an antioxidant.  But the key factor may be the way it "jump starts" the energy production in your cells.  I am personally taking CoQ10 now, in the 300mg softgels (3 month supply of softgels).  For migraine, between 150mg and 300mg is recommended, but check with your doctor for the amount right for you (CoQ10 at Vitacost).

You may find that following these suggestions not only cut down your migraine attacks, but also related mitochondrial symptoms such as depression, muscle fatigue and IBS.  Fighting gastric stasis will also make your medication more effective when you need to take it.  There are a suprising number of benefits to treating your mitochondria right!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmie Anne Browning April 20, 2009 at 10:08 am

Hi, I just found this website, looking for new news on chiari 1. I was diagnosed a year or 2 ago with an eight milimeter. I was having a lot of pain all over, especially in my neck shoulder and arms, my doctor sent me to a reumatologist and she sent me to a neurologist. I had never heard of Chiari as most people and all he said was, if I started having balance problems, they would have to decompress my brain and for me to go to pain management. I started doing research and could not believe how many symptoms I had and had for a very long time, always nauseated, thought I was sick alot. I don’t think I have irritable bowel syndrome, it is more chronic constipation, have taken laxatives everyday for years and years, if i don’t go I have unbelieveable attacks of pain, I think it is related to the vagus nerve, because I have bladder, heart palatations and breathing problems. I am currently 59 years old, I can’t take pain pills, any of them make me very very sick, I take alot of otc and once in a while I can take a celebrex. For some reason, my hot tub helps me a great deal. It is not always easy, but I have to walk on the treadmill, I think it helps me a great deal. Recently the back of my neck has become numb after a spell of bad pain with my neck, but I keep on trucking and play fiddle and paint and take small trips on the motorcycle with my husband, I hope I can make it through the rest of my life without surgery. Jimmie

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JoAnn July 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

The article on migraines and irritable bowel syndrome mentions magnesium as a treatment for migraine, “magnesium and antioxidant superfoods include beans and spinach”.
Certain beans are high in tryramine, and consequently, are migraine triggers.
Spinach is high in uric acid, and should be consumed cautiously by those predisposed to gout.
Lastly, have you researched the link between migraines and spinal stenosis?

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Lena Welch January 25, 2013 at 11:25 am

I have been very suspicious the mito theory is right in my case. The things that work at preventing migraine are the supplements B2, magnesium, and CoQ10. When my sinuses are not bothering me this combo drops my migraines by over 50%.

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