While most sufferers consider them separate entities, migraines and seizures share many common characteristics, and the underlying problem with the cells of the brain are also similar. What contributions to or triggers a migraine headache can also trigger a seizure, such as lack of sleep, stress or skipping a meal. In the short term, both of these conditions dramatically affect quality of life. Even more concerned is what these conditions due to the brain in the long run.
Memory loss and cognitive decline are very common in migraineurs and epileptics. The progress to dementia is slow but steady. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the mere control of the condition with medication does nothing to fix the underlying problem in the brain. This merely masks the warning signs the brain is giving off as brain cells continue to become progressively more sick and dysfunctional. Multiple research studies support the idea that both epilepsy and migraines are progressive brain disorders, and some medications used to treat these conditions, have actually been shown to increase memory loss and brain damage.
For these reasons, anything that we can do to prevent this decline and protect the brain is of the utmost importance. Good thing there are some good answers. Here are 3 ideas:
1) The modified ketogenic diet is exceedingly powerful. In addition, patients who follow the diet are very likely to stay on it long term. AND, it seems to positively change the long term likelihood of having a seizure even in those who discontinue the diet.
2) GABA, or gamma-amino-butyric acid, is a very powerful neurotransmitter that calms the brain, lowering the risk of brain cells going wild and causing a migraine or seizure. Medications like Valium and Xanax act on GABA pathways. Glutamine is an amino acid that the body uses to make more GABA. Some studies have suggested that using glutamine as a supplement can help calm the brain.
3) Melatonin is a hormone produced deep in the brain by the pineal gland. It's production is shut down by sunlight hitting the retina, thus regulating our sleeping cycle to daylight hours. But in recent years, the power of melatonin to protect the brain has been brought to light (so to speak …). One of melatonin's benefits is as potent an antioxidant that can protect the brain.
A study in the March Epilepsy and Behavior journal further confirms the potential benefit of melatonin on patients suffering with migraines and seizures.
Researchers looked at the effect of melatonin on seizures in rats when the melatonin was given before the seizures. While it had no effect when given after a seizure, there was a benefit on the behavior and memory of the rats who were given melatonin prior to a seizure.
While this is an animal study, given prior research along these lines on the benefits of melatonin, I would not consider it a great stretch to apply this study to a person suffering with migraines and seizures.
A side note on melatonin usage: I have had many patients who start with dosages as high as 10 grams. I am unsure why they would start that high without it was based on recommendations from wherever the supplement was purchased. I will usually start a patient on.5 mg and, if needed, work up to 3 mg, but will rarely go past this dosage. Too high of a dose can induce nightmares and lead to excessive grogginess in the morning.
Read the recent study here http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S152550501100669X