The brain chemical boost that
could end your migraines
Did you know that brain scans of migraine patients have shown that dopamine levels fall dramatically during attacks? I don’t want to give you anxiety by taking you back to high school science class, but it’s important to know that if you suffer from migraines, you experience brain changes in the basal ganglia. This is where the neurotransmitter dopamine helps modulate pain.
A decrease in dopamine levels during migraine attacks could make people with migraines more sensitive to non-painful stimuli such as smell, sunlight, light touch and sound. Due to this increased sensitivity, usually benign nerve signals that are sent from skin, blood vessels and muscle are instead perceived as painful.
In other words, one minute you’re feeling fine and then suddenly the levels of dopamine in your brain drop and then things that didn’t hurt before are immediately so painful you can’t stand them. Cue migraine.
Sound familiar? If so, here’s how you keep dopamine levels up to stave off migraines:
#1 — Exercise
You have to exercise if you want to keep that feel-good chemical in your brain pumping. Set a daily activity schedule — anything from taking a walk to hitting the gym for a yoga class. The type of exercise doesn’t matter as long as you get moving.
#2 — Meditate
Meditation leads to a dopamine boost. Spend 10 to 15 minutes each day in focused relaxation.
#3 — Get a massage
A massage is not only relaxing, it can increase the dopamine levels in your brain an average of 31 percent.
#4 — Supplement
There are a number of supplements that can really help when it comes time for a dopamine boost.
• Resveratrol — This compound that you can find in the skin of grapes, but more prominently in highbush blueberries and bilberries, helps to protect the neurons in your brain that are responsible for producing dopamine.
• L-theanine — L-Theanine is an amino acid prized for its ability to support healthy sleep, relaxation and a calm mind and it can dramatically improve dopamine levels in your brain.
• Ginger — A powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, this spice will give your brain a feel-good boost.