Migraines are more than just headaches.
Brain fog, vision problems, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound—all common features of a migraine attack—make this particular “headache” a full-blown, miserable sensory experience. And it’s one that can deliver a serious blow to your quality of life.
Rest assured, it’s also a condition that I’ve treated successfully for years—without the use of dangerous medications. As always, I like to focus on targeted nutritional supplementation and dietary changes, instead.
So when I came across a recent article that analyzed the role of omega-3s alongside migraine relief, I just had to share the details with you…
Fatty fish fights migraines
This study looked at the impact of omega-3 and omega-6 fats on chronic migraines in 182 adult subjects.
The patients all received meal kits featuring fish, veggies, hummus, salad, and breakfast items. Then, they were each randomly assigned one of three diets for the next 16 weeks.
One diet boosted intake of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to 1.5 grams per day, while keeping the omega-6 linoleic acid at roughly seven percent of energy intake. The second diet also boosted EPA/DHA to 1.5 grams per day, but lowered linoleic acid intake even more significantly.
The control diet, meanwhile, kept linoleic acid at around seven percent, with an EPA/DHA intake of less than 1.5 grams per day—which is more in line with the average American diet.
Unsurprisingly, increased EPA/DHA intake boosted patients’ blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. But here’s the really important part: Both intervention diets also improved scores on the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6), compared to the control diet.
Unfortunately, the effect wasn’t large enough to be statistically significant. But the improvements in migraine frequency were a whole different story…
Subjects on the diets high in omega-3s suffered 1.3 fewer headache hours daily, and two fewer headache days monthly. In subjects who followed the high omega-3, low omega-6 diet, results were even better: These patients suffered 1.7 fewer headache hours daily, and four fewer headache days monthly.
Finally, both intervention groups had shorter, less severe migraines compared to controls.
Take your fish oil every day
If you ask me, these results speak for themselves. But it’s still worth noting that current migraine drugs on the market don’t even perform this well. (Recently approved treatments cut monthly migraine days by only two to two-and-a-half days, compared to placebo.)
In other words, consuming more omega-3s could potentially work twice as well at preventing migraines than pharmaceuticals. (And it’s almost certainly cheaper.)
But as usual, the naysayers came out of the woodwork to warn that migraine patients shouldn’t start taking omega-3 supplements because of this study. (The idiocy never ceases to amaze me, folks!)
Given what we know about the role of omega-3s—and more specifically, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 intake—on the body’s basic inflammation mechanisms, nothing about these results should surprise anyone. And the fact is, everyone should be taking fish oil.
That’s why this supplement has a permanent place on my “Desert Island” list. As you may recall, I typically recommend a dose that’s twice as high as this study’s dosage—to the tune of 3,000 mg of EPA/DHA per day. (I typically recommend a split-dosage. In other words, 1,500 mg of high-quality EPA/DHA, twice daily.)
And while you’re at it, start regularly enjoying fatty fish as part of your balanced, healthy diet, too. I personally like to opt for oily, dark, lean fishes like salmon, tuna steak, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Ramsden CE, et al. “Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trial.” BMJ 2021;374:n1448.