Common Vitamin Deficiencies For Migraines

Migraines are severe headaches caused by multiple neurological triggers. Approximately 5-25% of the population (depending on age, gender, etc.) get migraines at least once every three months. Symptoms may develop a few days before the onset of the migraine and include constipation, mood changes, food cravings, neck stiffness, and frequent yawning that may come and go.

Some develop an “aura” or visual disturbances (such as vision loss and bright spots) and even pins and needles throughout the arms and legs just before or during a migraine. Once a migraine develops, it can last 4-72 hours and cause pain in the head that throbs or pulses, along with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and smell or touch problems that can be hard to manage.

What exactly causes migraines? Medical science isn’t certain, but some believe it’s caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, drops in serotonin, and even nerve issues. However, a recent movement towards understanding vitamin deficiencies in migraines, and other migraine causes and migraine triggers marks understanding nutritional deficiencies and migraines an important step.

Understanding Migraines: Causes and Triggers

Vitamin deficiencies migraines might seem like a long shot: especially because medical science often focuses on other triggers. As a result, it’s worth understanding these other causes before diving into vitamin deficiencies. Doing so can ensure you have a better understanding of migraines.

What Are Migraines?

It’s important to know that not everybody gets migraines — a very bad headache is simply not the same as a migraine, and those who get them understand the difference. Migraines are a neurological condition that goes far beyond headaches and can affect your body and mind in deep ways.

Migraine pain is described as “perforating, pounding, debilitating, throbbing, pulsating etc” and an attack can put a person in bed for hours: even days. Other problems (like hyperactivity, irritability, fatigue, depression, and food cravings) may also occur before and during a migraine attack.

Common Migraine Triggers

Migraine causes, and migraine triggers are often quite mysterious — medical science is still not sure what exactly makes these such a potent problem. There are some theories, however. For example, hormonal changes (such as changes in serotonin levels) seem to play a part in migraines.

Changes in blood flow (once thought to be the main cause of migraines) are now known to contribute to pain but probably not the first trigger. Some people might develop migraines due to fatigue, weather changes, genetic factors (i.e., “it runs in the family”), gender, conditions, age, and diet.

For instance, women are known to experience migraines at three times the rate of men, though nutritional deficiencies and migraines may be more tightly connected than doctors initially understood. Understanding these connections is critical to getting the help you need.

Role of Nutrition in Migraine Management

Nutrition plays a significant role in all our health concerns, and vitamin deficiencies and migraines are a real issue. While migraine causes and migraine triggers go beyond the food we eat, you can worsen an attack or increase your risk if you don’t eat properly. Thankfully, vitamins can help you out here.

The Importance of Nutrition in Migraine Prevention

Proper nutrition can potentially impact your migraine development and either a) reduce their risk of happening or b) decrease their intensity. However, the wrong foods can also have the opposite effect: unhealthy diets could make you more prone to getting migraines in the first place.

For example, people who drink alcohol and eat lots of red meat may experience a higher risk of migraines, especially if they’re already sensitive to them. In the same way, vitamin deficiencies (common in most people) can make migraine attacks even worse in many people.

Note: eating a healthy and balanced diet might not entirely eliminate your risk of migraines. As it is a severe neurological condition, it can likely happen at any time for any reason. However, eating a healthy diet (with minimal junk food) can at least help to manage them a little bit.

How Vitamin Deficiencies Can Contribute to Migraines

Nutritional deficiencies and migraines have been highly connected and studied over the years, with nutritionists analyzing their interaction. Deficiencies in things like vitamins B12 and D have been shown to help trigger migraine attacks and make them even worse when they do occur.

These are far from the only vitamins that can worsen migraine or even trigger them, though. Over the years, intensive studies in this subject have revealed some unsettling results that everyone who experiences migraines needs to understand to protect themselves from unnecessary pain.

vitamins for migraines

Common Vitamin Deficiencies Linked to Migraines

Vitamin deficiencies migraines are most commonly linked to four vitamins and minerals: vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin D, and coenzyme Q10. Understanding these migraine causes and migraine triggers can ensure that you manage your nutritional deficiencies and migraines properly. Note: these are just a few of the vitamins linked to migraines, so make sure you talk with your doctor first.

Vitamin B2 Deficiency and Migraine Risk

In multiple studies, it’s been found that various B vitamins (particularly vitamin B2) could help reduce migraines when taken properly. In a double-blind study on women, it was found that B complex significantly decreased the use of migraine drugs in women who experienced this condition. The exact role is uncertain, but it’s clear that deficiency could play a part in worsening migraine intensity.

The Role of Magnesium in Migraine Prevention

Physicians have a slightly better understanding of the potential impact of magnesium on migraines than they do on B2 and migraines. For example, one study stated that magnesium plays a significant role in managing various types of cortical depressions and glutamatergic neurotransmission…in layman’s terms, it seems to help manage migraine triggering and reduce severity if it does happen.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Migraine Frequency

The frustrating thing about migraines is that doctors have still never really pinpointed the exact causes for this condition or why it happens in some people and not others. Case in point: vitamin D deficiency and migraines. In many studies, it’s been found that vitamin D deficiency increases and worsens migraine frequency and intensity, respectively: but they still don’t know why that’s true.

Coenzyme Q10 Deficiency and Migraine Severity

Coenzyme Q10 isn’t exactly a household name for most people…though people with migraines should really know about it and how it impacts their attack frequency. In several studies, it’s been found that this coenzyme helps reduce the duration and regularity of migraines, and that deficiency could worsen both. Unfortunately, few people even know what it is or how to get it.

vitamins for migraines

Nutritional Strategies for Migraine Relief

Now that you better understand vitamin deficiencies in migraines and various migraine causes and migraine triggers, it’s a good idea to get some practical advice on getting these nutrients into your life. Nutritional deficiencies and migraines are a serious problem that we can help you manage.

Foods Rich in Vitamin B2, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Coenzyme Q10

Improving your diet can not only minimize your risk of migraines (though you may always have a risk of developing them) but also make you a happier and healthier person in general. Thankfully, there are many delicious and nutritious foods that you can eat to bring these four important vitamins and minerals into your diet. They include options like:

  • Vitamin B2: Integrate foods like liver, soybeans, tempeh, eggs, fish eggs (roe), Atlantic mackerel, Greek yogurt, beef kidney, white button mushrooms, and mussels into your diet for more B2.
  • Magnesium: Get magnesium from nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, etc.), legumes, fiber-rich whole grains, low-fat dairy products, greens, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and tap water.
  • Vitamin D: Foods like herring, salmon, tuna, trout, mushrooms, reindeer lichen, fortified foods like butter, milk, cheese, and yogurt, dark chocolate, and UV rays exposure add vitamin D to your body.
  • Coenzyme Q10: You mostly ingest coenzyme Q10 from meat, such as pork heart, chicken livers, beef hearts, pork shoulder, and beef sirloin, though soybeans, parsley, and broccoli have some.

Considerations for Vitamin Supplementation

Vitamin supplements are a great way of improving your vitamin levels if you simply can’t get enough through your day-to-day eating. However, they aren’t magical and should be taken carefully to ensure you get the best results. For example, you should always:

  • Talk to your doctor before trying any changes
  • Take the proper doses and never overdose
  • Get most of your vitamins from foods
  • Stick to a regular schedule (daily consumption is important

Lifestyle Changes to Support Migraine Management

The American Migraine Foundation provides multiple suggestions and tips for migraine management that you should seriously consider. These changes in your life can help minimize your risk and, when combined with a healthy diet, keep you safer from migraines:

  • Sleep well and turn off your phones, laptops, or tablets two hours before bed
  • Regularly exercise (30-50 minutes 3-5 times a week) to keep your blood flowing
  • Stay well hydrated to minimize your loss of water through sweating
  • Minimize stress through mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

Though knowing how to manage vitamin deficiencies migraines is critical to your recovery, it isn’t the only thing you should do. Working with your healthcare professional can reduce your risk, and while you might always have a migraine potential, you can reduce your danger as much as possible.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Never try to change your diet or lifestyle in such severe ways without first consulting your physician. A nutritionist can help you understand how to change your lifestyle without causing side effects. They can also help you identify conventional care options that minimize your potential danger.

Integrating Nutritional Therapies with Conventional Treatments

Yes, managing nutritional deficiencies and migraines can be a powerful way of reducing severity and attack regularly. But they aren’t a catch-all therapy, and you should still consider conventional treatments to keep your risk and pain as low as possible. These include things like:

  • Pain-Relieving Medications: Your doctor may call these “acute” or “abortive” treatments. They’re designed to stop your pain during your attack and minimize its severity.
  • Preventative Medications: People with migraine may take these medications daily to reduce their risk of onset and minimize intensity if a migraine attack does impact them.
  • Emotional Treatment: Work with your therapist to identify migraine triggers and migraine causes and to handle the psychological impact that they can have on you and those in your life.

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Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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