Migraine headaches can be savage. Usually encompassing half of your head or more, and lasting from two hours to three days, they are also by their nature recurring. Because the pain is made worse by physical activity, migraine headaches can shut us down completely.
Long thought to be caused by a mix of environment and genetics, some new research is looking at vitamins, and finding some unexpected answers.
Even mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 – a vitamin-like substance found in every cell of the body that is used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance – appear to be the source of migraines suffered by a high percentage of children, teens and young adults, according to a recent study.
"Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation," says Suzanne Hagler, MD, a Headache Medicine fellow in the division of Neurology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the study.
Hagler presented her findings at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego.
The study utilized records from a database that featured patients with migraines who had baseline blood levels checked for riboflavin, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D and folate. All of these compounds had been suspected of having a connection with migraines, to one degree or another, according to previous studies. Those previous studies were flawed as many of the subjects were put on preventive migraine medications and received vitamin supplementation, but none of the patients received vitamins alone. Therefore, the researchers were unable to determine vitamin effectiveness alone in preventing migraines.
In Hagler's work, she found that girls and young woman were more likely than boys and young men to have coenzyme Q10 deficiencies at baseline. Vitamin D deficiency was the hallmark of boys and young men suffering from migraines. It was unclear whether there were folate deficiencies in either group. Patients with chronic migraines were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 and riboflavin deficiencies than those with episodic migraines.
Can dosing up on vitamins treat and help prevent migraines? The data is so far inconclusive. We do know that certain vitamins and vitamin deficiencies appear to be important in the migraine process.