Curbing Migraines With Unsweetened Cocoa

Migraines can be debilitating, and migraine side effects may include pain, sensitivity, and aural hallucinations. Sweet relief may be within reach for the estimated 39 million Americans who suffer from migraines. In early July 2022, Dr. Paul Durham, professor of biology and director of The Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences at Missouri State University announced findings from his migraine pain relief study. Utilizing Askinosie Chocolate’s Single Origin Natural Cocoa PowderRoasted Cocoa Nibs, and the 100% Dark Chocolate Zero Sugar BarDr. Durham found that unsweetened dark chocolate has many pain and inflammation-reduction benefits.  

Scott Askinosie, M.S. Biomedical Science; Ph.D. in Cellular Molecular Biology, and Askinosie Chocolate’s Director of Science and Technology, discussed the study with Dr. Durham. Durham stated that there are many benefits to incorporating cocoa into the diet. He stressed that cocoa is not curative like a pharmaceutical but acts as a supplement that triggers the body’s natural methods of reducing inflammation. Like other plant-derived polyphenols, cocoa requires regular consumption to be effective. 

The Benefits of Cocoa For Migraine Sufferers

During the interview, Durham stated, “The bottom line is, what we found with the cocoa… is that actually, it contains a lot of polyphenols or antioxidant-type molecules.” Protective antioxidants work similarly to vitamins. They promote health and minimize inflammation and oxidative stress, which occurs when we overuse cells.

Cocoa is neuroprotective; it protects the nervous system from becoming hyperexcitable. It dampens pain pathways, maintaining a homeostatic balance. If cocoa is taken regularly and inflammation occurs, the beneficial chemicals and molecules found in cocoa are already present in the body and can help block pain. 

Cocoa works by activating protective proteins that regulate immunological and physiological inflammatory responses and can shut down major inflammatory pathways.

Unlike pharmaceuticals, which target a single area of the body, cocoa benefits the body holistically. Cocoa nibs and powders are high in fiber. Fiber supports the digestive system and helps cultivate a healthy gut biome. Cocoa can also curb joint swelling, thereby decreasing musculoskeletal system strain. 

Durham believes that nutraceuticals like cocoa could be utilized in tandem with pharmaceuticals to effectively decrease pain and inflammation while reducing the negative side effects associated with pharmaceutical medication.

Regarding the larger application of his research, Dr. Durham states, “anybody who’s got any kind of joint pain or inflammation, I assume would benefit from this [cocoa powder].” 

Incorporating Cocoa Into Your Diet

Dr. Durham suggests daily consumption of cocoa products that contain 70% or higher cocoa to reduce inflammation. While cocoa may contain carbohydrates, the cost-benefit of regular consumption outweighs carbohydrate intake. There are three primary options for cocoa consumption, cocoa powder, nibs, or bars. Durham suggests, “rotate them- one day use the nibs, the next day cocoa powder.” 

Many antioxidant-rich, plant-derived beverages, including coffee and tea, are already common in our daily routines. You can prepare cocoa powder similarly by mixing it with warm water. Dr. Durham suggests “supplement that instead of having a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, just use the cocoa.” Though adding sugar to unsweetened cocoa may be tempting, sugar can act as a migraine catalyst. Askinosie’s Cocoa Powder is made from scratch, Certified Kosher D.E., vegan, gluten, and dairy-free, and is entirely unsweetened and non-alkalized. 

Cocoa nibs can be mixed in with oatmeal or unsweetened yogurt, and the Askinosie Dark Chocolate Bar, containing zero sugar, can be broken into squares. Dr. Durham suggests a “handful” of cocoa each day. In powder and nib form, this equates to about 2 tablespoons. In bar form, two squares are suggested.