For adults under 50 years of age, migraine headaches are one of the leading causes of disability. There are several potential underlying causes for the condition, of which one appears to be a proinflammatory and oxidative state in the body. Fortunately, this can be addressed through healthier lifestyle choices.
Low-grade or systemic inflammation happens when the immune system is chronically under stress due to the effect of obesity, smoking, excessive drinking, a poor diet, lingering injury, stress, or a combination of these things. In addition to being a potential cause of migraines, systemic inflammation is also linked to an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and poor cancer outcomes.
Eating patterns such as the Paleo, DASH, and Mediterranean diets are characterized by a high intake of foods with anti-inflammatory properties (such as fruit and vegetables) and avoidance of pro-inflammatory fare, such as highly processed foods and those with added sugars. Other studies have found that the Ketogenic, low-glycemic, and even a modified Atkins diet can reduce inflammation. On the other hand, the typical Western diet is associated with a high intake of unhealthy fat and sugars, which can stimulate an inflammatory response.
It’s suspected that the gut microbiota may play a role in the inflammatory process, so consuming food that nurtures a healthy population of bacteria in the gut may benefit migraine headache patients. Other research has shown that eating more omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods can help reduce inflammation.
The diets associated with lower inflammation can also aid in weight loss, which is important because carrying excess weight can also stimulate inflammation in the body. A systemic review presented in 2019 at the annual meeting for the Endocrine Society concluded that weight loss can reduce migraine headache frequency, intensity, duration, and disability. In addition to its role in weight loss, exercise can also reduce stress, which is another driver of inflammation.
Living a healthier lifestyle isn’t easy, especially after years or decades of unhealthy habits. Your doctor of chiropractic can answer nutrition and fitness-related questions and even show you exercises that may be a better fit for your current situation. If aches and pains are getting in the way, your chiropractor can provide treatment in the office to help restore normal motion so that you can stay active—especially when it comes to the cervical spine as dysfunction in the neck has been shown to play some role in the migraine process.