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Migraine: Can a vitamin deficiency be a cause?

Many people know it: a pounding in the head, the skull is buzzing. Almost 8 million people in Germany suffer from migraines. Most of them resort to painkillers. However, this is not the only solution and certainly not the best one.

Table of contents:

  • What actually is a migraine?
  • What is the difference between a migraine and a headache?
  • What are the causes of a migraine
  • Preventing a migraine
  • Vitamin deficiency: the cause of migraines
  • Vitamins B2, B6, B12, niacin and magnesium support energy metabolism
  • Vitamin deficiencies promote migraines

What actually is a migraine?

Typically, a migraine is characterized by periodically recurring, pulsating and usually half-sided headaches, which can be accompanied by symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise. The pain intensifies with physical exertion. A migraine attack usually lasts between 4 and 72 hours. The attacks occur at different intervals and often vary in intensity.

Sometimes a migraine attack can also be accompanied by an aura (around 20% of migraine patients). This is mainly manifested by visual, sensory and speech disturbances and usually lasts up to 60 minutes. The migraine aura is accompanied by the following symptoms: Primarily, visual disturbances such as flickering as well as flashes of light occur, but speech disorders and perceptual disturbances such as tingling or numbness in the arms, hands or cheeks are also possible.

What is the difference between migraines and headaches? While migraines - as already mentioned - are characterized by throbbing, pulsating pain, usually on one side, people with headaches have a dull and pressing feeling in their head. In addition, headaches are usually felt over the entire head. In contrast to a migraine, headaches do not usually have any accompanying symptoms.

What are the causes of a migraine?

It is not yet fully understood what causes migraines with or without aura. It is likely that several factors occur simultaneously. Triggers can include stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, e.g. during the menstrual cycle or due to taking hormone supplements (e.g. the pill), weather changes and vitamin deficiency. Inflammation or an impaired immune system can also be the cause of a migraine.

Preventing a migraine

Regular sleeping and waking rhythm
Regular intake of food and fluids
Relaxation methods such as yoga and autogenic training
Regular exercise, especially endurance sports
Adequate supply of micronutrients (especially magnesium, vitamin B2 and coenzyme Q10)
Walks in the fresh air

Vitamin deficiency: the cause of migraines

Various studies show that migraine patients often have a deficiency of important messenger substances that are important for a functioning energy metabolism. For example, migraine patients often have low blood levels of magnesium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin D and coenzyme Q10. However, a deficiency of other vitamins such as vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12 can also occur.

Vitamin B2, B6, B12, niacin and magnesium support energy metabolism

Vitamin B2, B6, B12, niacin, coenzyme Q10 and magnesium have an important function in the provision of energy and thus support energy metabolism in the brain, for example. As the energy metabolism of the mitochondria is probably altered in migraine, an adequate supply of micronutrients leads to an improved sense of well-being. A study by Boehnke et al. (2004) also shows that vitamin B2 supplementation can have a positive effect on headaches and could therefore be a good migraine prophylaxis. Vitamin B2, magnesium and coenzyme Q10 are therefore also mentioned in the guidelines of the DMKG (German Migraine and Headache Society) for the preventive treatment of migraines.

Magnesium contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and also promotes the release of serotonin. Serotonin, the so-called happiness hormone, transmits nerve signals, controls the dilation and constriction of blood vessels and triggers pain signals, among other things. Serotonin is therefore often associated with migraines. As the serotonin concentration in the blood fluctuates with the female menstrual cycle, migraine attacks may occur more frequently during the cycle.

Vitamin deficiencies promote migraines

Scientists have found that high homocysteine levels in the body can promote migraines. An Australian study investigated the effect of homocysteine-lowering therapy on migraine frequency. In order to reduce homocysteine concentrations in the body, the test subjects were given vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid over a period of six months. The vitamin supplementation reduced the occurrence and severity of migraines, whereas there was no improvement in the control group without supplements.

Furthermore, Iranian researchers investigated the effect of vitamin D on migraines. It turned out that the test subjects with migraines had significantly lower vitamin D levels in their blood than the control group without migraine attacks. One in two subjects with migraines had low vitamin D levels. In the control group, it was only every 4th person.

Note: Before resorting to painkillers, the vitamin, mineral (such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin D) and homocysteine status in the blood should be examined in the case of frequent migraine attacks and the corresponding micronutrients supplemented.

Sources:äne_2018.pdf Boehnke C. et al. (2004) High-dose riboflavin treatment is efficacious in migraine prophylaxis: an open study in a tertiary care center. Eur J Neurol 11(7): 475-7. Gaul C. et al. (2015) Improvement of migraine symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. J Headache Pain 16: 516. Namazi N. et al. (2015) Supplementation with Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) for Migraine Prophylaxis in Adults and Children: A Review. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 85(1-2): 79-87. Trauninger A. et al. (2002) Oral Magnesium Load Test in Patients With Migraine. The Journal of Head and Face Pain 42(2): 114-119.