When the big guns aren’t effective, it may be time to go back and give some simple tools a try. That’s the finding of a new study that tested dietary supplements on patients who had been unsuccessful in relieving migraines with a variety of drugs.
Migraines: Preliminary results look promising
Could free radical damage contribute to migraine headaches? Dr. Sirichai Chayasirisobhon of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center set out to address that question when he recruited a dozen patients, each with a long-term history of little or no success at treating migraines with various drugs, including antidepressants, beta-blockers and anticonvulsants.
At the outset of the study, subjects completed a migraine disability assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire to assess the impact of migraine flare-ups on activities at home, at work and while interacting with friends and family. For the three-month trial period, each subject received daily supplements that contained 600 mg of vitamin C, 300 IU of vitamin E and 1,200 mg of a pine bark extract. Subjects were allowed to continue using whatever medications they were currently taking.
When subjects completed a second MIDAS questionnaire at the end of the study period, their responses indicated a marked improvement. And even though the lack of a control group opens the possibility of placebo effect, the results were promising:
The overall MIDAS score improvement was more than 50 percent
Average Number of migraine days was reduced from 44 days in the three months prior to supplementation, to just 26 days during the trial period
Average migraine severity score was reduced from 7.5 (out of 10) to 5.5
One subject dropped out of the trial. Of the remaining 11, two reported no change in migraine frequency, duration or severity. Among the other nine, the overall MIDAS score improvement was nearly 68 percent.
Migraines: CoQ10 helps alleviate migraines
So…what’s up with this pine bark extract?
Although not identified in the study, I believe the extract is almost certainly Pycnogenol; a natural antioxidant extracted from French maritime pine bark. Pycnogenol contains a variety of polyphenols with anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to benefit the cardiovascular system by promoting proper blood flow. In a previous e-Alert we compared the effectiveness of Pycnogenol’s antioxidant qualities to two of the most powerful antioxidants: glutathione and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
In fact, Dr. Chayasirisobhon might have produced even more impressive migraine relief if he had added CoQ10 to the supplement mix.
In a CoQ10 trial conducted in 2002, 32 migraine patients each received 150 mg of the antioxidant daily for three months. In the month before the study began, the group experienced an average of more than seven days of migraine each. But by the end of the study that monthly average had dropped to just under three days. About 60 percent of the subjects reported that their frequency of migraines dropped to less than half of what it had been before the study.
And in another e-Alert I told you about a Swiss study in which 42 migraine patients received either 100 mg of CoQ10 three times each day, or a placebo. No other methods were used to prevent migraines. After three months of supplementation, researchers found that migraine frequency, total days with migraine, and total days with nausea were all significantly reduced in the CoQ10 group, compared to placebo. Overall, the incidence of migraines was almost cut in half in the CoQ10 group, while the reduction of migraines in the placebo group was less than 15 percent.
When this research was presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, the Swiss team noted that migraines might be triggered by a breakdown in the production of cellular energy. They theorised that CoQ10 helps prevent migraines by promoting proper respiration in the powerhouses of the cell: the mitochondria.
If you suffer from migraines, talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional about these promising antioxidant studies before expanding your supplement regimen.
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‘Use of a Pine Bark Extract and Antioxidant Vitamin Combination Product as Therapy for Migraine in Patients Refractory to Pharmacologic Medication’ Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, Vol. 46, No. 5, May 2006, Blackwell-synergy.com
‘Antioxidant Combo May Prevent Some Migraines’ Reuters Health, 6/1/06, reutershealth.com
‘Teen Refuses Court-Ordered Test to Check Cancer Status’ Elizabeth Simpson, The Virginian-Pilot, 6/26/06, home.hamptonroads.com
‘Judge OKs Alternative Treatment for Teen’ The Guardian, 6/2/06, guardian.co.uk