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Serotonin and Migraine Headaches

  • Synopsis: Published: 2013-03-30 - While Serotonin does not appear to be the main cause of a migraine low levels have been linked to migraine headaches - Thomas C. Weiss.
Serotonin - (5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)) is a monoamine neurotransmitter. Biochemically derived from tryptophan, serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract, platelets, and in the central nervous system of animals including humans. It is thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. In addition to animals, serotonin is found in fungi and plants.

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Quote: "While Serotonin does not appear to be the main cause of a migraine, low levels have been linked to migraine headaches for a long time"

A serotonin migraine is due to a deficiency in a person's serotonin level. During a Serotonin migraine, the levels of Serotonin in a person's system may rise and suddenly fall prior to the migraine. Low levels of serotonin are linked to both migraines and depression.

There is a definite link between migraines and the levels of Serotonin in a person's body. Serotonin has been intensively studied and is believed to play a crucial role involving migraine headaches. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter. It is important in the maintenance of extra cranial vasoconstriction.

Serotonin and its Production

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that passes signals from one portion of a person's brain to another. While you might never have a doctor mention anything about Serotonin, some medications are supposed to increase levels of it in people who experience migraines and skilled headache specialists are aware of this fact. Serotonin is produced in a person's brain where its main function is, yet surprisingly - 90% of Serotonin is found in a person's stomach and blood platelets.

Serotonin is made through a biochemical process. Changes in the levels of Serotonin in a person's brain may also alter their mood. A number of people are administered antidepressants to help with Serotonin migraines. Serotonin is an organic compound that is also known as, '5-hydroxytryptamine,' or, '5-HT.' In a person's body, approximately 90% is found in their stomach and 10% in their blood platelets. The levels of the neurotransmitter in a person's body, either too much or too little, has been linked to a number of disorders including:

  • Bulimia
  • Migraine
  • Depression
  • Alcoholism
  • Cluster headache
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Serotonin appears to influence a person's mood and libido, as well as impacting blood vessel constriction. According to J. John Mann of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, the message molecule flow from a nerve cell or, 'neuron,' onto other neurons act as receivers. There, they attach to a distinctly shaped area on the neuron referred to as a, 'receptor site.' The union, which is similar to a key fitting into a lock, then triggers signals which either permit the message to be passed on to other cells, or prevent the message from being passed forward.

While Serotonin does not appear to be the main cause of a migraine, low levels have been linked to migraine headaches for a long time. The majority of medication treatments of migraines influence Serotonin levels in one way or another, from the early use of, 'Ergotamine Tartrate,' the more recent, 'Triptan,' medications such as Imatrex. Repeated use of over the counter painkillers might actually lower levels of Serotonin in a person's body, potentially explaining why headaches begin returning on a regular basis when a person takes too many painkillers.

Hormonal headache might also have a relationship to Serotonin since the levels appear to be linked to estrogen levels. Recently, at least one genetic defect has been discovered that influences the production of Serotonin in a person's body. The defect, as well as other related defects, might explain why some people are more prone to disorders including depression.

Along with specific medications for migraine, Serotonin levels might be influenced by the foods a person eats. 'Tryptphen,' which is a precursor of the neurotransmitter in a person's body, can be found in a number of different foods. A newer means of increasing levels is by taking a 5-HTP supplement. People may be able to learn to recognize and avoid fluctuations in their Serotonin levels that affect their moods and appetite. People who experience migraines can reduce the frequency and severity of their headaches by avoiding certain activities and foods that are known to trigger migraines, as well as by selecting foods and activities that will raise their brain's supply of tryptophan.

Serotonin and Health

Serotonin is believed to influence several body functions. The majority of a person's brain cells are influenced either directly or indirectly by Serotonin, to include brain cells that are related to:

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Appetite
  • Some social behavior

Serotonin also plays a crucial role in a number of additional functions in a person's body. You might think that having low levels of Serotonin in your body could put you at risk of a Serotonin migraine and that the solution is to take more Serotonin - this is not the case. The following is what may happen if a person develops, 'Serotonin syndrome,' by having levels of Serotonin that are too high.

Serotonin Syndrome

Serotonin syndrome happens when a person takes medications that cause high levels of Serotonin to accumulate in their body. Serotonin syndrome may happen when a person increases the dosage of a medication, or adds a new one to their regimen. Certain illicit drugs and dietary supplements are also associated with the syndrome. Too much Serotonin causes symptoms that can range from mild, such as diarrhea or shivering, to severe - such as fever, muscle rigidity, and seizures. Severe Serotonin syndrome may even be fatal if not treated.

Milder forms of Serotonin syndrome might simply go away within a day of stopping the medications that are causing the symptoms. Sometimes, taking medications that block Serotonin can produce the same results. If a doctor switches your medications that raise Serotonin levels be sure to pay close attention and when it says to wait two weeks between taking one and another medication - do so. Watch for symptoms of elevated levels of Serotonin such as:

  • Fever
  • Anxiety
  • Flushing
  • Paleness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Poor coordination
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Change in heart rate

Unfortunately, if a person's Serotonin levels are too low, they may also experience Serotonin migraine. It is important to pay attention to how much you take and the side effects. There are also easy ways to naturally stimulate the production of Serotonin. Regular exercise, relaxation, walking while the sun is out, spending time with a pet, or simply enjoying yourself are all ways to stimulate Serotonin production. All of these are also stimulate natural pain killers called, 'endorphins.'

Serotonin Level & Migraines

Many people regularly suffer the pain of migraine headaches. Serotonin, a chemical in the brain, may be a key factor in migraine headaches.

Serotonin and Headache

Serotonin is a critical chemical neurotransmitter in your brain, gut and other nerve tissues.

Guidebook for Preventing Migraine Headaches, Depression, Insomnia, and Bipolar Syndrome

The Migraine Syndrome may begin in childhood, adolescence or early adult life and continue to reoccur at periodic intervals, which vary with the individual, and sometimes diminish in frequency as the person advances in age.

Related Information:

  1. SIDS may be Caused by Low Production of Serotonin in Brainstem - Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) linked with low production of serotonin in the brainstem - (Published 2010-02-03).
  2. Nausea is Significantly Debilitating Symptom of Migraine - Those with frequent migraine related nausea experienced more severe pain and worse outcomes than those with rare or no presence of nausea - (Published 2011-06-02).
  3. Why Light Worsens Migraine Headaches - Light sensitivity in blind patients helps researchers identify a new visual pathway for photophobia during migraines - (Published 2010-01-10).

Information from our Migraines & Headaches: Types & Relief Treatments section - (Full List).

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