Migraine Prevention: Antioxidants
Migraines and migraine triggers are associated with oxidative stress (learn more). Antioxidants help to stop oxidative stress and migraines.
Oxidative stress occurs from free radicals, a normal byproduct of digestion.
An excessive amount of free radicals results from things that damage the human body, such as headache triggers (research link).
Antioxidants stop oxidative stress by donating themselves to these free radicals that would otherwise attack other stable molecules and cause havoc on the human body (research link).
Some common substances with antioxidant properties are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, manganese, glutathione, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogen, and many more.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that research has shown is just as effective as or more effective than migraine prevention medications (learn more).
“Antioxidants are actually better explained as a process than an actual thing.”
The popular misconception is that you can eat one antioxidant, such as vitamin C, and that will take care of all your oxidative stress. However, it won’t.
Free radicals attack other molecules by stealing an electron from them.
Antioxidants donate an electron to free radicals to stop the cascade of stealing that turns into oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are actually better explained as a process than an actual thing (research link).
There are trillions of cells in the human body. Eating a little vitamin C will not make it into every cell in the human body to perform the antioxidant’s task of donating an electron to stop oxidative stress.
A Megadose of Vitamin C Won’t Help
Taking a megadose of vitamin C will not help either. Your body can only process so much of one vitamin.
Taking too much vitamin C may trigger gut inflammation, nausea, and headaches.
Inflammation can increase oxidative stress (study link).
Thus, just because you eat an antioxidant does not mean it will automatically raise the antioxidants levels in your blood.
The food industry loves marketing antioxidants, but…
But the truth is that some foods with antioxidants can be far more damaging then helpful.
Processed orange juice with all of its vitamin C is a top migraine trigger.
Many of the nutrients in orange juice are stripped away during processing and a large amount of inflammatory sugar is added.
The result is an acidic gut bomb that ends up using more antioxidants than it delivers.
This is the same case when adding vitamin C to any inflammatory processed food.
Antioxidant Supplements Can Be Harmful
Antioxidant substances are all chemically different and play different roles.
Some substances act as antioxidants in one situation and can cause oxidation in another. For example, one isolated form of vitamin E is actually associated with lung cancer and another increases the growth of tumors in rats (Washington Post link).
The research is mixed on the use of supplements.
It is clear that single, isolated antioxidants will not fix every type of oxidative stress and can even be harmful.
Antioxidants are Tricky
Glutathione has been referred to as the mother of all antioxidants by Dr. Mark Hyman.
One would think that glutathione would be the most important migraine supplement; however, most glutathione supplements are poorly absorbed by the body and do not raise glutathione levels in the blood.
The complexity of raising glutathione levels is solved by natural fruits, vegetables, and meats (learn more).
Get Antioxidants From Real Food
The common theme here is that supplements are not as good as real food.
Eating a variety of natural foods with a variety of different antioxidants is the best way to raise antioxidant levels in the blood.
Vegetables that don’t have a large amount of antioxidants may even raise antioxidant levels. This is because they have fiber and nutrients that can help preserve antioxidants in the blood and filter other migraine triggers.
Remember to limit fruit consumption to avoid the inflammation the sugar in fruit can bring.
Limiting processed foods will also preserve antioxidant levels in the blood.
Click here for a list of foods that promote antioxidants in the blood.