New research is claiming to link all migraine triggers together with one central principle, with the hopes that a simple new migraine treatment may be discovered. However, the research is preliminary and should be viewed with caution.
A Rusty Brain
This paper looked at “oxidative stress,” in which free radicals attack the body’s tissues. Oxidation is the same process that causes rust, and it’s already been linked to aging and a number of other diseases. The author hypothesized that oxidative stress might be behind all the reasons why migraine triggers set off the headaches.
Then he set off to examine which of the migraine triggers could actually do this. There were five potential mechanisms that could lead to oxidative stress considered for this study, including taxing the energy factory (mitochondria) in cells or poisoning the cells, altering the mechanism of cell membranes, inflaming nerve cells, or causing a calcium overload in cells.
After analyzing 22 migraine triggers, the author concluded that all of them could cause oxidative stress, although the evidence was not equally strong for all triggers. The strongest evidence was found for alcohol, infection, the sweetener aspartame, and psychological stress.
Moderate evidence was found for dehydration, noise, disturbed sleep, monosodium glutamate, weather and pollution, oxygen deprivation, daily hassles, and the drug nitroglycerin.
Low levels of evidence supported the oxidative effects of tyramine, beta-phenylethylamine, flavonoids, and nitrates found in food. There was also little evidence that reduced estrogen, low blood sugar, and mental strain led to oxidative stress.
How the New Study Affects TMJ Treatment
Although it is interesting to look at this potential link between migraine triggers, it doesn’t significantly impact our understanding of the links between temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and migraines. We know that TMJ likely contributes to migraine risk because it pressures branches of the trigeminal nerve, which underlie and control the jaw muscles, run past the temporomandibular joint, and interact with many other parts of the jaw system. When the trigeminal nerve gets overstimulated, it triggers a chain reaction that sets off migraines.
This falls under the category of “nerve inflammation,” which contributes to oxidative stress.
By restoring your jaw to its healthy position, TMJ treatment can reduce or even eliminate pressure on the trigeminal nerve and its branches, which, in turn, can reduce or eliminate migraines.
This proven treatment is much better than the proposal that some day we may be able to use vitamins to prevent migraines, something that is unproven and may be potentially dangerous.