Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Migraine

Who needs an oil change?!

You’ve likely heard of Omega-3 fatty acids – types of fats found in salmon, walnuts, and your fish oil pills. You may have also heard that these fats can reduce inflammation, support brain health, and even help improve migraine! So cool right?

Definitely so cool, but there’s a little more to the picture when we’re talking about fatty acids.

Omega-3′s are known as “essential fatty acids”, meaning your body can’t make them and you must get them from food. They’re not the only essential fatty acids though! There are also Omega-6 fatty acids, but these honestly get a bad rap around the internet. Omega-6 are viewed as inflammatory and bad, but the truth is you need Omega-6! You just need them in appropriate amounts for your body.

Your body relies on a balanced ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. In a perfect word this ratio would be close to 1:1, meaning you eat just as much Omega-3 as Omega-6. Because of the nature of our modern diets, most of us don’t get anywhere close to this ratio! Many people in western societies eat 10 to 30 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids, and THIS is when Omega-6 fatty acids start to contribute to inflammation.

Studies have shown that people with migraine who eat a diet higher in Omega-3 fatty acids have an average of 2 fewer migraine days per month. Want even more improvements? People with migraine who ate a diet higher in Omega-3‘s AND lower in Omega-6′s saw 4 fewer migraine days per month!

The takeaway? Start bumping up the amount of Omega-3 rich foods you eat (salmon and other fatty fish, pasture-raised meats and dairy, and Omega-3 eggs) and reduce the amount of Omega-6′s you eat (primarily from refined vegetable/seed oils and highly processed foods).

Vegetarian or vegan? You can get Omega-3 fatty acids from plant foods like walnuts and chia seeds, but these plant sources alone are typically not enough to sustain a healthy ratio. However, you can give your body a helping hand by using an algae-based Omega-3 supplement so you can rest easy that you’re getting the nutrients you need to manage migraine as best you can!

Written by: Kathryn Darsillo

Reviewed by Kelli Yates, RDN, LD, CLT

Published by Kelli Yates, RDN, LD, CLT

Kelli Yates, RDN, LD, CLT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in holistic migraine management and fellow migraineur!

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