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The association of alcohol drinking with migraine headache
Date:6/13/2011

Migraine is a neurovascular disease that affects about 15% of the western population. Compounds in foods and beverages (chocolate, wine, citrus, etc) considered as migraine triggers include tyramine, phenylethylamine and possibly histamine and phenolic compounds. Avoiding those triggers may significantly reduce the frequency of migraines in some patients.

However, only a small percentage of patients in one study became headache-free simply by excluding those foods, epidemiological studies are pointing out that genetic factors may be an underlying cause. Discrepancies in the way people are reacting to wine intake, and whether or not it triggers migraine, may be potentially explained by genetic polymorphisms in specific enzymes related to metabolism Alcoholic drinks are a migraine trigger in about one third of patients with migraine in retrospective studies on trigger factors. Many population studies show that patients with migraine consume alcohol in a smaller percentage than the general population. Research has shown a decreased prevalence of headache with increasing number of alcohol units consumed. The classification criteria of alcohol-related headaches remain problematic.

An excellent paper from The Headache Center in Empoli, Italy by Panconesi A et al (Curr Pain Headache Rep (2011) )15:177-184 summarizes the scientific data relating to alcohol and migraine headaches. The factors that trigger an attack of migraine, or of other headaches as well, are poorly understood. While retrospective studies tend to include alcohol as a trigger for an attack, the authors describe that in a recent prospective study (in which information on the factors that could potentially trigger an attack were collected prior to the migraine attack), menstruation, stress, and fatigue were found most commonly to relate to a subsequent attack, In the present paper, the authors reviewed the role and mechanism of the action of alcohol or other components of a
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Contact: R. Curtis Ellison
ellison@bu.edu
508-333-1256
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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