Every one of us gets headaches every now and then. It’s not really a big deal, all things considered. But then there are the migraines, and unfortunately these are a bit more serious than your run of the mill headaches.
In the US, more than 37 million people suffer from migraines. About 5 million of them suffer at least one attack each month, and 2 to 3 million are debilitated by chronic migraines.
These statistics are rather horrifying when you consider that migraines are severe headaches that are often accompanied by symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Some people actually spend up to three days in a darkened room because they can’t stand the light, while they’re in pain and throwing up constantly.
Differentiating between Migraines and Other Types of Headaches
Before you even try to alleviate or treat your migraine, it’s helpful to check if you really do have a migraine or if it’s another type of headache. While migraines are more severe than regular headaches, so are tension headaches. But there are differences between the two:
- It’s only with migraine that your pain worsens when you move your head.
- If the pain only affects one side of your head, then it’s probably a migraine. Tension headaches usually affect both sides of the head.
- The tension headache comes with a steady ache. With migraines, it’s more of a throbbing sort of pain.
It’s also possible that you may identify a migraine as a sinus headache, and that means you may be taking antibiotics unnecessarily. One of the problems with migraines is that it’s perfectly possible for a migraine to be accompanied by facial pressure and nasal congestion.
You can also check the difference by inspecting your nasal discharge. Usually, this is thick yellow or green when you have a sinus headache. But a migraine headache will show clear and watery nasal discharge.
The Serotonin Migraine Connection
Migraines can be triggered by many different things which happen normally every day. Each one’s set of triggers may be different. If you tend to suffer from migraines, it’s important for you to recognize which events or conditions trigger your attacks.
Some people get migraines because of emotional stress, lack of sleep, or intense physical exertion. Others get them when they eat certain food items or ingredients, while a few may even get them when they miss meals. Other common triggers include bright lights, high altitudes, or travel motion.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) and your level of serotonin may be a factor in the frequency and severity of your migraine headaches. Serotonin itself does not seem to directly cause migraine attacks, but low serotonin and migraines are definitely linked. In fact, it may not be a coincidence that many medications and treatments for migraines also tend to affect serotonin levels as well.
It’s for that reason that some people have taken 5 HTP for migraines. And 5 HTP for headaches may be effective as well.
What is 5 HTP?
5 HTP is short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, and it’s a precursor to serotonin. You can get 5 HTP from a variety of natural sources, such as the plant Griffonia simplicifolia. It’s taken as a dietary supplement, because it’s not exactly easy to find food items full of this compound.
There’s one very good reason why 5 HTP is crucial. In your body, you have two pools of serotonin: one in your brain and one in your peripheral tissues. Peripheral serotonin doesn’t really break through the blood-brain barrier, but it’s been found that 5-HTP (which is transformed into serotonin) does break through this barrier readily.
So when you take a 5 HTP supplement, it can then access the brain from the bloodstream, which serotonin cannot do. It can then boost your serotonin levels and this can in turn help alleviate your migraines. In fact, you may want to think about 5 HTP for migraine prevention so you don’t suffer an attack in the first place.
This is just one of the many potential benefits of 5 HTP, by the way. Many people take 5 HTP because it’s a great supplement for weight loss. Serotonin is also responsible for your appetite, and by boosting your serotonin levels you don’t feel hungry all the time.
Additional Factors You Need to Consider
What you have to remember, though, is that your serotonin levels may be just one among many factors which determines the frequency and severity of your migraine attacks.
- First of all, there’s a hereditary factor to consider, which you can’t really do anything about. It may be a genetic condition, because about 75% of people who suffer migraines have a family history regarding this particular condition.
- Women are also 3 times more likely to suffer from migraines than men, especially among adults. It affects children of both genders equally, but after puberty more girls suffer from this condition than boys. It’s surmised that the fluctuation of female hormones like estrogen is one of the main reasons for the disparity.
- About 50% of women who suffer from migraines also report that they also suffer headaches during menstruation. Other women also report worse migraines during the first trimester of pregnancy, which lessens in severity during the last trimester.
- Migraines also affect mostly people who reach 15 years of age to 55 years. But five to ten percent of children are also affected.
- Children who suffer from migraine headaches, however, are relieved when they reach adulthood, with some transitioning to a less severe tension-headache. The main exceptions are those who have a family history for migraines, and these children may continue to suffer from the condition even into adulthood.
The most prudent course of action for you is to consult a doctor right away if you or any of your children suffer from persistent or recurring headaches. Your doctor can then take your medical history and conduct a physical exam to see if you’re suffering from migraine or not. If you are, you may want to check and see if administering 5 HTP for headaches or migraines is a viable from of treatment.