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Migraine Triggers Oxidative Stress

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  • High exposure to migraine triggers leads to brain damage.
  • Research now shows that oxidative stress may be the reason behind the triggers.
  • Understanding the processes that lead to symptoms could provide cure.
  • Intake of antioxidants can counteract the ill-effects of reactive oxygen species.
A migraine is a severe headache that is triggered by a number of factors, but when the threshold level for these triggers is breached, they lead to migraines. Recent research by Jonathan M. Borkum titled " Migraine Triggers And Oxidative Stress: a Narrative Review And Synthesis" found that these triggers lead to an increase in oxidative stress, which was a common pathway that resulted in symptoms of a migraine.

Laboratory investigations found that a single trigger may not be sufficient to trigger a migraine as effectively as multiple triggers that occur in succession. This was the indication that there was a common pathway that leads to the development of migraine.

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Migraine Triggers and Oxidative Stress
Migraine Triggers Oxidative Stress

Observation 1: Migraine triggers constrict blood vessels and dilate them, affecting peripheral nociceptors or resulting in the activation of a hyperexcitable cortex.

Observation 2: Migraine triggers like hypoxia, alcohol, extreme heat or cold or hypoglycemia could affect the brain when in large amounts.

Migraines and Oxidative Stress

A molecule is said to be oxidized when it loses a hydrogen atom and becomes highly reactive, it is capable of oxidizing any molecule that it encounters. The brain has a certain amount of oxidants, and when the amount increases, it can become toxic by triggering neurological inflammation through ion channels.

The various known triggers for migraines are:
  • Alcohol: Exposure to large volumes of alcohol can lead to:
    • Loss in volume of the frontal lobe
    • Diffused white matter
    • Premature aging
    • Loss in volume of prefrontal complex and hippocampus
    High concentration of alcohol leads to the activation of microglia, which increases the concentration, and the production of reactive oxygen species.

  • MonoSodium Glutamate: The levels of glutamate in the brain are increased by the presence of MSG in the blood. This leads to an increase in superoxide anions through calcium influx.
  • Water Deprivation: Low amount of water leads to increase in reaction oxygen species due to activation of arginine vasopressin.
  • Tyramine: Tyramine that is present in cheese, aged and in red wine leads to the formation of hydrogen peroxide on degradation.
  • Aspartame: It is 180 times sweeter than sugar and it is used to sweeten food and sweets. The breakdown of aspartame also increases reactive oxygen species. Other important triggers that lead to the activation of reactive oxygen species include  flavanoids, mental stress, estrogen, infection, hypoxia, noise, nitrates, flavanoids, pollution, daily stressors, nitroglycerin.
All these migraine triggers lead to the production of reactive oxygen species through any one of the following mechanisms:
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Change in the membrane properties of the mitochondria
  • Calcium influx
  • Increased production of energy by the mitochondria
  • Activation of microglia
  • Neuronal NADPH oxidase activation
This study offers hope for people suffering from migraine as the use of antioxidants can counteract the presence of superoxide anions that affect the neurons in the brain. Though a certain amount of programmed cell death is necessary to remove aged and dysfunctional cells, it proves costly in terms of neurons as they cannot be regenerated.

Some anti-oxidant rich foods include grapes, blueberries, oranges, sweet potatoes, beans, whole grains and tea.

There are other pathways by which migraine triggers lead to neural damage, other than pathways that lead to reactive oxygen species. However, the inclusion of anti-oxidants in the diet will counteract damages caused due to pathways that trigger reactive oxygen species.

  1. http://icnapedia.org/journal-watch/migraine-triggers-and-oxidative-stress
Source: Medindia

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