Migraines and 5-HTP, A Life Without Pain.

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A Migraine is a common condition that effects the neurological systems of the brain. It is a disorder more common in women, but is present in 1/7 people in the UK alone. Triggers for a migraines are wide and varied, as are the symptoms in many of the sufferers.

However, one thing is for certain, biochemical disturbances of the brain can be to blame.

Classical symptoms of a migraine include:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Visual disturbances, such a flashing lights and distorted vision.
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to concentrate and think
  • Stiffness and paralysis.

Many describe an attack as “the inability to carry out your daily life”. These attacks can last between 4 and 72 hours and tend to occur on average 13 times a year, but of course the symptoms can vary greatly and some may suffer worse than others. [1]

Causes of Migraines …

There are a multitude of triggers for Migraine headaches ranging from hormonal, to emotional, to physical. Hormonal causes include:

  • Monthly Oestrogen fluctuations in women
  • Menopausal Migraines
  • Neurological Hormone fluctuations

Emotional causes:

  • Stress
  • Depressive episodes
  • Excitement

Physical Causes:

  • Poor sleep routine and tiredness
  • Shift work
  • Poor diet and low blood sugar
  • High intake of caffeinated products.

The best plan of action is to monitor and record your symptoms, attempt to link it to events e.g. hormonal changes or high levels of stress that day. When the cause has been found attempt to control it the best you can.

One cause that has been intensely studied are brain chemicals such as Serotonin and Noradrenaline. Both are stimulant neurotransmitters that cause change. Serotonin and its effect in Migraines was discovered retrospectively via the use of medication including anti-depressants and Triptophans. These cause an increase in Serotonin activity and were found to reduce symptoms of migraines and headaches [3]. The founding reason for this is that Serotonin has the ability to both vasodilate and vasoconstrict. When blood vessels swell and enlarge in the brain there is not enough Serotonin to constrict the vessels to normal size. It is exactly the swelling that causes the pain and high pressured sensation felt during a Migraine attack [4].

Boosting your Serotonin

There are natural ways to boost your Serotonin. Serotonin is produced from a chemical called 5-hydroxytrptophan (5-HTP), which is produced from an essential amino acid, Tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in foods such as Eggs, Cheese, Tofu, Salmon, Nuts and Seeds. However not all these foods are consumed in the modern diet so supplementation may be required. The best supplement for migraines is 5-HTP. It has been proposed that 5-HTP is extremely effective in preventing symptoms of a migraine, in one study 71% of patients recorded a “Significant improvement” in symptoms. Moreover, 5-HTP was found to decrease the intensity and duration of attacks [5]. Supplements of 5-Hydroxytryptophan work by increasing the natural pool of chemicals that Serotonin derives from. Thus, biological Serotonin will rise reducing neurological vessel size and pain.

How to take 5-HTP

You are advised to to take between 50 and 100mg, however some higher doses are tolerated (300mg) [6]. 5-HTP is a reasonably safe natural herb when take correctly. The only precautions you must take are to check the quality of the product and secondly ensure there are no interactions between other medication and 5-HTP.

Low quality 5-HTP products can actually have adverse effects to health. Poorly processed products may contain a contaminant known as “Peak X”, which has been associated with the disease Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome (EMS), and can even be fatal when taken in high doses [7]. Oxford Vitality guarantees a high quality pure and natural product. In addition, 5-HTP shouldn’t be taken alongside Antidepressant medication, Parkinson’s medication, Narcotics or any medicine containing the ingredient Dextromethorphan (DM).

5-HTP can change a person’s life, helping them to regain control and live free from Migraine pain.

  1. Migraine Action . (2016). Migraine Information. Available: http://www.migraine.org.uk/information/.
  2. NHS. (2016). Migraine. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
  3. Dib.M. (2008). Optimizing prophylactic treatment of migraine: Subtypes and patient matching. Journal of Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 4 (5), Pg. 1061-1078.
  4. Allocca.J. (2015). Guidebook for Preventing Migraine Headaches, Depression, Insomnia, and Bipolar Syndrome. Available: http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/guidebook-for-preventing-migraine-headaches-depression-insomnia-and-bipolar-syndrome/.
  5. Titus.F, et-al. (1986). 5-Hydroxytryptophan versus methysergide in the prophylaxis of migraine. Randomized clinical trial.. European Neurology. 25 (5), Pg. 327-329.
  6. HerbWisdom. (2016). 5-HTP. Available: http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-5-htp.html.
  7. Brewer, S.Dr.. (2002). 5-hydroxy-tryptophan. In: Grapevine Publishing Services The Daily Telegraph Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements. . London: Constable & Robinson. Pg. 203-205.
  8. Drugs. (2012). 5-HTP. Available: https://www.drugs.com/mtm/5-htp.html.

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