If you or someone you know suffers from migraine headaches, you know how truly debilitating they can be. It is estimated that as many as 37 million Americans suffer from these terrible headaches.
In fact, many in the medical community consider migraines a systemic illness and not just a headache. While migraines are not fully understood, there are some facts that are agreed upon. In this post, I’ll share what you need to know about the latest migraine research.
According to The Mayo Clinic, “A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities. For some people, a warning symptom known as an aura occurs before or with the headache. An aura can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, or other disturbances, such as tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking.”
If this sounds like a miserable experience, that is because it is. For years, there has been mystery surrounding the causes and any potential treatments, as migraines typically do not respond well to typical headache medications or therapies.
No specific cause could be definitively identified. However, that may have changed recently.
Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?
Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP) is a protein found in the nervous system and brain that is implicated in the transmission of pain and the reactive effects of tissues and blood vessels. Medical researchers now believe that understanding this protein is the key to treating migraines.
According to Harvard Medical School, “scientists identified this target molecule, they began trying to develop ways to stop it from being activated at the start of migraines, as a kind of abortive treatment. An agonist makes a molecule work more efficiently, and an antagonist blocks or reduces the molecule’s effect. The CGRP antagonist did work to decrease migraine pain based on certain measures, but there were some serious side effects including liver toxicity.” Not the best outcome, but it provided important data to the researchers.
The next development was a treatment known as monoclonal antibody therapy (mAb). Harvard further noted, “There are lots of different types of mAbs, and while some harness a person’s own immune system to block replication of cancer cells, others stop a reaction in the body by binding to a target molecule or receptor and inhibiting it, thus preventing the reaction from continuing. The CGRP mAbs have this effect, and because they have a long duration of action (called a half-life), they can be administered much less frequently than typical migraine medications that are taken daily (with the exception of botulinum toxin, which is injected every 90 days). These new migraine medications are injected under the skin monthly and have thus far demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in days of migraine.”
However, this treatment is very expensive, so it would be valuable to ask if there is any way to harness the knowledge and understanding of CGRP to mitigate the effects of migraines without breaking the bank on pricey medications.
Some data suggest that certain foods, herbs, supplements, and vitamins have the potential to suppress CGRP in humans. A study conducted by researchers in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University investigated, “The effects of foods and a dietary supplement on two migraine-related mechanisms in vitro: CGRP secretion from neuroendocrine CA77 cells, and calcium uptake by differentiated PC12 cells. Ginger and grape pomace extracts were selected for their anecdotal connections to reducing or promoting migraine.”
Ginger is a plant whose root is often used as a spice in many cuisines and as an alternative medicine in some cultures. Grape pomace is the solid remains of the fruit following the pressing for juice. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems.
The results of the study showed, “A statistically significant decrease in stimulated CGRP secretion from CA77 cells following treatment with ginger (0.2 mg dry ginger equivalent/mL) and two doses of grape pomace (0.25 and 1.0 mg dry pomace equivalent/mL) extracts. Relative to vehicle control, CGRP secretion decreased by 22%, 43%, and 87%…These results suggest that grape pomace and ginger extracts may have anti-inflammatory propensity by preventing CGRP release in migraine.”
Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?
For the millions of migraine sufferers and their loved ones, the discovery of CGRP and its relationship to migraines may lead to more answers in the future. Presently, it may offer some reassurance to know that there are treatments and products with scientific evidence to support their efficacy.
If you suffer from migraines, and have not yet found a satisfactory treatment, you may want to ask your doctor about the treatments discussed above.