If you suffer from migraines, you know how extremely debilitating they can be. Migraines cause severe recurring and intense throbbing pain, combined with visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the face. You get the point. But what does a vitamin deficiency have to do with all that?
Migraines and Headaches
First, it helps to understand what could possibly trigger a migraine. Genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role in causing migraines. A number of things can trigger a migraine attack, including:
- Hormonal Changes – Fluctuations in estrogen in women (and men) can trigger headaches. This occurs before or during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
- Foods – Foods that are salty (not with sea salt, but highly refined salt) and processed foods are thought to be a cause of migraines, along with skipping meals or fasting.
- Drinks – Alcohol, specifically high phenolic red wine, along with high-caffeine drinks, can trigger migraines.
- Stress – Stress at work or at home can trigger migraines, especially when dwelling on a stressful situation or if unable to manage stress.
- Sensory Stimuli – Bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds or unusual smells such as a strong perfume, paint thinner, or secondhand smoke can trigger migraines in some people (those who are believed to have multiple chemical sensitivities).
- Changes in Sleep Patterns – Missing sleep or even getting too much sleep can be a cause of migraines, as well as jet lag. In this case, a lack of grounding or earthing (a lack of direct skin-to-skin connection to the Earth) may be the cause.
- Physical Factors – Intense physical exertion including exercise, manual labor or physical activity may trigger migraines usually due to muscle tension believed to be connected with a lack of calcium and/or magnesium in the diet.
- Environmental Changes – A change of weather or a change in barometric pressure can trigger a migraine.
- Medication – Oral contraceptives and vasodilators can aggravate migraines.
Migraines and Vitamin Deficiency
Did you notice a pattern in the list above? Many of those factors translate into lifestyle choices and habits. So many things can trigger a migraine. And if you make poor food choices, then you’re much less likely to have the nutrients your brain and body need. Fortunately, vitamin deficiency is one migraine trigger with some recent research.
In a study that involved 52 people diagnosed with migraines, the participants were randomly assigned to receive either vitamin supplements or a placebo for six months. The study concluded that Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements produced a two-fold reduction in migraines over the six-month period. Previous studies have also found that Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can help to prevent migraine attacks.
Another study published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found that Vitamin D deficiency is related to migraines. Researchers found that 42% of patients with chronic migraines were deficient in Vitamin D. They concluded that the longer a patient suffered from chronic migraines, the more likely they were to become Vitamin D deficient. (3)
How Does It Work?
Deficiencies of folic acid and Vitamin B12 can cause pernicious anemia. If this condition becomes severe enough, it can trigger migraines, in addition to fatigue, memory loss and irritability. Furthermore, researchers also believe that certain gene mutations lead to higher levels of homocysteine production. This, in turn, can make the body more susceptible to migraine attacks. They have found that Vitamins B6 and B12 work by reducing homocysteine levels.
Simply put, if you’re suffering from migraines, do your best to avoid triggers. Also, make sure you are getting plenty of these important nutrients in your diet to help prevent migraine attacks:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B2
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D