Man’s Migraine Linked to Soy Consumption
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A man who increased his soy intake hoping to relieve discomfort from his ailing prostate developed migraine headaches, according to a new report.
As people age they become less likely to have migraines, and new-onset migraine in older people is particularly rare, according to Dr. Peter Engel of Albany Medical College in New York. He reports the case of a 57-year-old man who mysteriously developed migraine with aura in the October issue of Neurology.
The patient, himself a doctor, told Engel that he had increased his daily intake of soy up to about 177 milligrams over the course of several months. His aim was to relieve himself of some of the discomfort he experienced from his prostate, which had bothered him for more than 20 years and had not responded to conventional or alternative treatment.
While his prostate symptoms diminished, the man reported developing exercise-induced headache that later progressed to migraine headaches with aura that occurred when he was not exercising.
The man reduced his soy intake and for 10 months remained headache-free, although he did continue to have visual disturbances. Then he further cut his intake to half of the original level, and for 5 months “remained free of headaches, visual phenomena and (prostate-related) discomfort,” Engel reports.
While previous research has found that estrogen used in the birth control pill or for hormone replacement after menopause may worsen–or ease–migraine or induce aura for the first time, “no comparable effects have been reported with the use of (plant-based estrogens),” Engel points out.
“Many soy-based foods and supplements contain high concentrations of isoflavones, phytochemicals with estrogenic and other biologically important activities,” Engel writes.
Engel notes that there are several possible biological mechanisms that could explain how the plant-based estrogen in soy may induce migraines. Nonetheless, the man's experience alone should not be considered proof that the soy products were the definite cause for his migraines, the author adds.
Migraine headaches are characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. About 20 to 40 minutes before migraine pain begins, some people experience a visual aura. The signs of an aura vary, but they may include seeing spots or lines, or in some cases, hallucinations.
SOURCE: Neurology 2002;59:1289-1290.