A Fish In Your Diet May Keep The Migraines At Bay


What we eat contributes mainly to the well-being of one’s entire health; hence eating a balanced and healthy diet is very important to keep our bodies fit and healthy. Foods may contain either a health hazard or crucial nutrients the body needs to function at its best. Hence, what we eat significantly affects how our bodies feel.

In this light, 2021 research demonstrated that a diet packed with omega-3-rich fish, including salmon, tuna, and cod, reduced the frequency and severity of headaches in people with migraine. The researchers of the study published in The BMJ suggest that changing the way we eat significantly improves headaches and migraines.

The study is an expansion of the team’s previous research on the impact of linoleic acid and chronic pain, where they investigated the effect of linoleic acid on inflamed migraine-related pain processing tissues and pathways in the trigeminal nerve. Their current research examined 182 adults with frequent migraines and found interesting results on how omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve migraine, which we will explore in this article.

How Omega-3 Fats May Help With Your Migraine

The researchers of the BMJ study previously explored how linoleic acid contributes to the development of migraine. They found that a diet with lower linoleic acid and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, including those found in fish and shellfish, could soothe the pain pathway inflammation of migraine.

They aimed to expand their findings by conducting further research examining 182 adults experiencing frequent migraines. The participants were randomly designated to one of three healthy diet plans in a 16-week dietary intervention where they received meal kits that included fish, vegetables, hummus, salads, and breakfast items. 

The participants were categorized into three groups: one that received meals with high levels of oils from fatty fish and lowered linoleic acid. Another group received meals with high levels of fatty fish and higher linoleic acid. And the last group received meals with high linoleic acid and lower levels of fatty fish to replicate average U.S. intakes.

Within the intervention period, the researchers instructed the participants to monitor the number of their migraine days, duration, severity, how their headaches affected their abilities to function and their social lives, and how frequently they had to take pain medications.

At the beginning of the study, the participants had:

  • An average of more than 16 headache days a month.
  • Over five hours of migraine pain per headache a day.
  • Experienced significant impact on quality of life despite using multiple headache medications.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that:

  • Participants with a diet lower in vegetable oil and higher in fatty fish had reductions of around 30 to 40 percent in total daily headache hours, daily severe headache hours, and overall daily headache per month compared to the control group.
  • The same participants also showed lower levels of pain-related lipids.
  • These participants also reported only minor improvements in migraine-related overall quality of life than other groups in the study despite the reductions in their headache frequency and migraine pain.

The study’s findings demonstrate how dietary changes can potentially improve chronic pain conditions like migraine without the related disadvantages of commonly prescribed medications. 

Specifically, it validates that diet-based interventions increasing omega-3 fats while reducing linoleic acid sources show better promise for helping people with migraines. More so, it reduces the number and impact of headache days than fish oil-based supplements while reducing the need for pain medications. 

People may take the suggestions from the research differently regarding food preferences and financial and cultural perspectives. Despite specifically suggesting an increase in omega-3 fatty acids intake, the researchers stated that it does not necessitate the need to eat fatty fish every day to improve health.

There are other ways to do it by taking a closer look at your diet and finding aspects where you can increase your omega-3 fatty acids intake, including having walnuts as a snack instead of having fries. Another option is to take supplements containing essential fatty acids. 

Although this study focused on the advantages of boosting omega-3s through fish, other plant-based sources, such as flaxseed and chia seeds, may assist you in obtaining high-quality fats.

Journal Reference

Ramsden, C. E., Zamora, D., Faurot, K. R., MacIntosh, B., Horowitz, M., Keyes, G. S., Yuan, Z.-X., Miller, V., Lynch, C., Honvoh, G., Park, J., Levy, R., Domenichiello, A. F., Johnston, A., Majchrzak-Hong, S., Hibbeln, J. R., Barrow, D. A., Loewke, J., Davis, J. M., … Mann, J. D. (2021). Dietary alteration of N-3 and N-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: Randomized controlled trial. BMJ. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1448 

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