|Back to Back Issues Page|
HeadWay, Issue #043 -- Fish oil: Just how good is it?
February 21, 2007
*Please note: URLs may wrap onto the next line. To visit the website, cut and paste the entire URL into your address bar on your browser*
In this month's issue:
Fish oil: Just how good is it?
Investigating Trileptal for migraine and tension
Say what?! Interictal
Fish oil: Just how good is it?When Judy from the United States asked if I could write about fish oil, I wondered why I hadn't done it sooner. Then again, to be honest, I'm a little suspicious of something that is just so trendy. Fish oil is the latest "miracle food", and omega-3 is the word you put on your box if you want to sell it. Studies are being done all over the place - a lot of them little tiny studies that don't tell us a lot, but at least they're fast, so they can get the word out to the media. But is fish oil really that great? Or is it dangerous? And is it of any interest to a headache sufferer? Let's try to cut through the hype and find out. (Have a suggestion for a topic? Send it through the HeadWay MailRoom, password nomoache).
What's this all about?By now you've probably heard something about fish oil, but here it is in a nutshell. Omega-3 fatty acids are plentiful in fish oils and other foods. Certain types of omega-3s, particularly EPA, and DHA, are the ones that nutritionists focus on. The evidence is mounting that omega-3s in these "good oils" are excellent for your health. Ironically, as people have been turning away from red meat and eggs they've been lowering their omega-3 intake, which may be why we're suddenly realizing we need more.
Can omega-3s benefit a headache sufferer?So far, omega-3s really do seem to be important to headache sufferers, and migraineurs. The good oils we'll talk about in a moment can reduce inflammation, which make them like a natural painkiller. It also may be that omega-3s can help your cell absorb serotonin. Migraine attacks have been linked to low levels of this important neurotransmitter.
Fish oils have been suggested for other diseases that relate to migraine, such as depression and heart disease. (Though a new omega-3 depression study brings into question the whole depression theory.) As I mentioned, so many studies are coming out at once they're liable to go up and down for a while. As a general rule, however, fish oil seems to be very promising. The well known study (published on the National Headache Foundation site) was done in 1986, using Max EPA Fish Oil capsules. Most subjects showed a major reduction in migraines. A 2002 study showed that fish oil held promise for adolescents with migraine. A 2001 study failed to show significant help for migraineurs from fish oil. So although it looks promising on paper, more studies need to be done.
Should I take it?I'm not a doctor, which is why I look at the research and just point you to it. As I said above, increasing your omega-3 intake looks beneficial for migraine sufferers and headache sufferers alike. It's generally safe, if you follow certain guidelines.
Here's something else that is the subject of current research. We've been using anti-seizure drugs for a long time to combat migraine. Topamax is a well known drug in this category. But another drug that has been used with some success is Trileptal, or oxcarbazepine. Trileptal is also used for bipolar disorder.
|Back to Back Issues Page|