Buyer’s Guide: The Impact of Migraines

By Cayla Ramey

Migraines affect one in four households in Canada, yet they are still not considered a legitimate medical issue. According to the Ontario Migraine Clinic, Migraines can cost the workforce seven million workdays each year.
Migraines can last hours or days, and be triggered by many things, including smells, stress, sounds, etc. This chronic ailment often begins in childhood or early teen years.

Migraines were once believed to be linked to a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, however, it is now believed that a migraine is caused by abnormalities in a specific cell in the brainstem. In 2010, a team of scientists at the University of Montreal and the University of Oxford identified that the mutation is in the KCNK18 gene and it inhibits the role that TRESK plays in the nerve-cell communication. It is also believed that serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks, which causes the trigeminal nerve to release neuropeptides, resulting in migraine pain.

Migraine symptoms include dizziness, weakness, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea, to name a few. Medications used are often meant to prevent attacks and relieve pain. Often they are also used for other medical conditions as well, including Atenolol, Doxepin, and even Botox.

In recent years, research has found that magnesium, coenzyme Q10, and petasites hybridus (butterbur) help to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks.

Magnesium 200-600 DAILY
Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems that regulate the biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis (Ross, et al., 2012), which can aid TRESK. Magnesium is also essential to nerve and muscle function and helps to maintain a healthy heart, immune system, and bones. Magnesium can be found naturally in food, such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Magnesium can also be an additive found in many fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals.

Research shows that those who suffer from migraines have low levels of tissue magnesium. Studies on the effectiveness of are limited, however, higher doses of oral magnesium have proven to be effective in treating magnesium (Peikert et al., 1996).
Of four short-term, placebo-controlled trials, three found a reduction in the frequency of migraines in patients who were taking 600mg of magnesium daily (Sun-Edelstein, et al., 2009). The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society both concluded that magnesium can be considered an effective therapy in migraines (Holland, et al., 2012).
Results from a prospective, multi-centre, placebo-controlled and double-blind randomized study found that migraine attack frequency was reduced by 41.6 per cent after 9-12 weeks of oral treatment. Patients aged 18-65 years received twelve weeks of oral 600mg magnesium daily or a placebo (Peikert, et al., 1996).
It is also important to note that while magnesium can be helpful for those who experience migraines, magnesium can interact with some muscle relaxants and antibiotics.

Coenzyme Q10 90-120mg
The body naturally makes coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) for the cells to produce energy and to promote cellular growth and maintenance. It is also an antioxidant which protects the body from harmful molecules. CoQ10 is found in a wide variety of foods, however, higher levels are found in organ meats. CoQ10 is believed to help boost energy and reduce the side effects from certain medications. However, it is believed to affect blood sugar levels, and those taking medication for diabetes should be monitored. CoQ10 can also interact with other supplements or herbs, and anti-inflammatory agents.
There has been limited research on CoQ10, however, evidence indicates that supplemental doses can be beneficial for those with migraines.

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 42 patients were given either 300mg of CoQ10 a day, or a placebo. Attack frequency was reported to be 47.6 per cent lower after three months of treatment (Sandor, et al., 2005).
A study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain, which looked at food and supplements as a whole in the management of migraines, concluded that CoQ10 should be a recommended as preventative treatment (Sun-Edelstein, et al., 2009).
Many resources on the matter state that there is not enough research done on the safety of CoQ10, however, many of the studies conducted note that the supplement was well-tolerated in all patients with no noted side effects.
Many prescription drugs can also lower the body’s production of CoQ10 or force the body to use too much of it, which can affect the chain of metabolic chemical reactions.
A recent study found that there was a 50 per cent reduction in the length of an attack after three months of treatment. Patients were given 150mg daily for the length of the trial, and it was concluded that CoQ10 is an effective migraine preventative (Rozen, et al., 2015).