Migraine Pain: Supplements To Cut The Frequency and Provide Relief

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Migraines can be a challenging and painful experience for many people. While various treatments exist, nutritional supplements have gained attention for their role in managing migraine symptoms. This article explores nutritional supplements, and how certain vitamins and minerals can support migraine relief. We will discuss evidence-backed options, giving you insights into how these supplements might fit into your overall strategy for managing migraines. Remember, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

What Is A Migraine?

A migraine is more than just a headache. It is a complex neurological condition often characterized by intense, debilitating headaches. Symptoms can vary but typically include a throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head, which can last for hours or even days. People with migraines may also experience nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Some report visual disturbances known as aura, such as flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg.

While the exact cause of migraines remains unclear, they are believed to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain. Various factors can trigger a migraine, including hormonal changes, stress, certain foods and drinks, bright lights, loud sounds, intense physical exertion, changes in sleep patterns, and medications. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can be a crucial part of managing migraine episodes.

What Food and Lifestyle Factors Are Important For Managing Migraine?

  • Food Triggers: Certain foods can trigger migraines in some people. Common culprits include aged cheeses, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, particularly red wine. It’s beneficial to keep a food diary to identify any personal triggers.
  • Regular Meals: Skipping meals or fasting can trigger migraines in some people. Eating regular, balanced meals helps maintain stable blood sugar levels, which might reduce the risk of a migraine.
  • Hydration: Dehydration can be a significant trigger for migraines. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is essential.
  • Limiting Caffeine: While small amounts of caffeine can help alleviate a migraine for some, excessive consumption can increase the frequency of migraines in others. Moderating caffeine intake is advisable.
  • Sleep Routine: Poor or irregular sleep can trigger migraines. Establishing a regular sleep schedule and ensuring adequate sleep can be helpful.
  • Stress Management: Stress is a well-known migraine trigger. Techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity can help manage stress.
  • Regular Exercise: Regular, moderate exercise can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. However, intense exercise can trigger migraines in some people, so it’s important to find the right balance.
  • Weight Management: In some cases, excess weight can increase the frequency of migraines. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoiding Strong Stimuli: Bright lights, loud noises, and strong odors can trigger migraines in sensitive persons. Avoiding these triggers when possible can be beneficial.
  • Limiting Certain Additives: Some people find that food additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners like aspartame can trigger migraines.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, may help reduce the frequency of migraines.

Here are some commonly recommended supplements for migraines:

  • Melatonin: Melatonin may help regulate pain response and sleep patterns, both of which can be beneficial for migraine sufferers. Researchers found that Melatonin helped prevent migraine, reduced migraine severity, and attack duration, attack frequency, and pain reliever use. [PMC10586587] Study Dose: 2-3 mg for 8-12 weeks.
  • Magnesium: Often used for migraine prevention, particularly in those with a known magnesium deficiency. It’s thought to help by relaxing blood vessels and preventing the wave of brain signaling, known as cortical spreading depression, which produces migraine symptoms. [PMID: 31691193] Research Dose: 600 mg per day of magnesium citrate, minimum 12 weeks (*)(*)
  • Vitamin D: Some research has reported a link between low levels of vitamin D and increased frequency of headaches, including migraines. Researchers who reviewed the studies reported, “Vitamin D treatment is effective to alleviate migraine.” [PMID: 33449474] Vitamin D dosages should be adjusted based on your blood level with many clinicians recommending an optimal Vitamin D level of 50-80 ng/ml. Vitamin D labs can be ordered online through the NutriScape Lab Shop (Affiliate Link).
  • Combinations of B Vitamins: Migrains study reviewers found that “significant benefits were registered for the use of B6 alone, in combination with folate and in combination with folate and B12 in the [prevention] of migraine with aura (MA) in adults.” [PMID: 32279306]
    • Vitamin B6: This vitamin plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis and may help in reducing migraine frequency and severity, often used in conjunction with other B vitamins.
    • Vitamin B12: Deficiencies in Vitamin B12 have been linked to increased migraine frequency in some persons. Supplementation may help, especially in those with a diagnosed deficiency.
    • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): High doses of riboflavin have been shown to be effective in reducing migraine frequency and severity. Riboflavin is thought to play a role in mitochondrial energy production, which might be impaired in people with migraines. Reserchers who reviewed the studies found, “supplementation with vitamin B2 in adults can play a positive role in reducing the frequency and duration of migraine attacks with no serious side effects.” [PMID: 26780280]
  • Feverfew: A traditional herbal remedy used for migraines. Feverfew is believed to reduce inflammation and prevent the constriction of blood vessels in the brain. A review of studies showed that on average, feverfew reduced migraines by 0.6 per month greater than placebo. [PMC7133498] Research Dosage: 6.25-18.75 mg, three times per day, minimum 12 weeks (*)(*)
  • Butterbur: Though some studies have suggested that butterbur can reduce migraine frequency, it’s important to use caution. Unprocessed butterbur plant extracts contain harmful chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can cause liver damage. Fortunately, the commercial preparation process of butterbur typically removes these substances. Thus, it is recommended that consumers of butterbur only buy brands that are free of alkaloids. Researchers found that migraine attack frequency was reduced significantly at 150 mg/day of butterbur. [PMC9108977]
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: While research is still emerging, some studies suggest that omega-3 supplements might help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines by reducing inflammation. Researchers who reviewed the studies found “omega-3 intake leads to a significant reduction of approximately 3.44 hours in the duration of migraine”. [PMID: 28665211]
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Like riboflavin, CoQ10 is involved in energy production within cells. Studies have suggested that CoQ10 supplements can reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. [PMID: 30428123] Research Dosage: 100 mg/day. [PMID: 27670440]
  • Ginger: Known for its anti-nausea properties, ginger can be particularly helpful in managing migraine symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.

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Supplement Safety Information

Magnesium, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), Feverfew, Butterbur, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Ginger, Vitamin D, and Melatonin are generally considered safe when used appropriately for managing migraines. Magnesium is involved in nerve transmission and muscle contraction, and its deficiency is linked to headaches. Riboflavin, a B vitamin, plays a crucial role in mitochondrial efficiency and brain function. CoQ10, an antioxidant, aids in cellular energy production. Feverfew and Butterbur, both herbal supplements, have been used for centuries for their anti-inflammatory properties, although Butterbur should be used with caution as some preparations can be liver-toxic. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found in fish oil, are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea agent, is beneficial for acute migraine relief. Vitamin D’s role in nerve health may be relevant in migraines, and Melatonin, a hormone regulating sleep, can influence migraine patterns. These supplements, when used under the guidance of a healthcare provider, offer a safe approach to possibly reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. However, it’s important to note that while these supplements are generally safe, they can interact with other medications and may not be suitable for everyone, especially pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Medication Interactions:

  • Bisphosphonates: Magnesium can interfere with the absorption of bisphosphonates when taken together, which may reduce the effectiveness of bisphosphonate therapy for conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics may have reduced absorption when taken with magnesium, which could decrease their effectiveness in treating bacterial infections.
  • Diuretics: Interaction with magnesium can affect magnesium levels in the body, which may impact the effectiveness of diuretic therapy for conditions like hypertension or edema.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors: Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors can lead to a reduction in magnesium levels, may causing magnesium deficiency over time.
  • Anticholinergic Drugs: Concurrent use of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) may affect the effectiveness of anticholinergic drugs, which are used for various conditions like overactive bladder or gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Tetracycline Antibiotics: Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) can interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of tetracycline antibiotics when taken together, reducing their effectiveness in treating bacterial infections.
  • Warfarin: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can reduce the effectiveness of warfarin, an anticoagulant medication, possibly increasing the risk of blood clots or other complications.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs: Interaction with Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may occur with certain chemotherapy drugs, which could affect treatment effectiveness or increase the risk of adverse effects.
  • Blood Thinners: Supplements like feverfew, omega-3 fatty acids, and ginger may increase bleeding risks when taken alongside blood thinners like warfarin or aspirin, and may lead to excessive bleeding or other complications.
  • CYP3A4 Substrates: Feverfew can affect drugs metabolized by the CYP3A4 liver enzyme, and could alter their metabolism and effectiveness when taken concurrently.
  • Liver Metabolized Drugs: Interaction with butterbur may affect the liver’s ability to metabolize certain drugs over time, which may alter their effectiveness or increase the risk of adverse effects.
  • Blood Pressure Medications: Omega-3 fatty acids and melatonin may impact blood pressure control when taken with blood pressure medications, might affect treatment effectiveness or increase the risk of adverse effects.
  • Diabetes Medications: Ginger and melatonin may affect blood sugar levels when taken with diabetes medications, which could impact glycemic control or increase the risk of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.
  • Steroids: Long-term use of steroids can reduce the effectiveness of vitamin D over time, possibly leading to vitamin D deficiency and related complications.
  • Weight Loss Drugs: Certain weight loss drugs may reduce the absorption of vitamin D when taken concurrently, which may lead to vitamin D deficiency and related health issues.
  • Seizure Medications: Some seizure medications may affect vitamin D levels over time, and might lead to vitamin D deficiency and related complications.
  • Sedative Medications (CNS Depressants): Melatonin can enhance the effects of sedative medications when taken together, possibly increasing the risk of drowsiness, dizziness, or other side effects.

Supplement Interactions:

  • Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral but can interfere with calcium absorption if taken in high doses. It can also affect the balance and absorption of other minerals like zinc and can interact with other supplements, including iron and B vitamins, altering their absorption and effectiveness.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): The absorption of riboflavin can be influenced by the use of probiotics or concurrent intake of other B vitamins. High doses of riboflavin may also impact the effectiveness of other vitamins, such as Vitamin K.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 can interact with vitamin E supplements, and may affect the body’s antioxidant balance. When taken with fish oil, it may enhance the absorption and effectiveness of both supplements.
  • Feverfew: This herb may interact with supplements that have blood-thinning effects, such as Ginkgo biloba or garlic, and can also interact with supplements that affect liver metabolism, like St. John’s Wort, could alter its effects.
  • Butterbur: Caution is advised when using butterbur in conjunction with supplements known to affect liver metabolism. It may also interact with supplements that have diuretic properties.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 supplements can increase bleeding risk, especially when taken with other supplements with anticoagulant properties like garlic or Ginkgo biloba. Combining omega-3s with vitamin E may enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of both.
  • Ginger: Ginger can increase bleeding risk when taken with supplements like Ginkgo biloba or vitamin E, which have blood-thinning properties. It may also affect blood sugar levels if combined with supplements that lower blood sugar.
  • Vitamin D: High doses of vitamin A can interfere with vitamin D’s role in calcium metabolism. Taking vitamin D with other calcium supplements can also influence calcium absorption and balance.
  • Melatonin: Melatonin may enhance the sedative effects of supplements like valerian root or chamomile and can interact with supplements that affect hormone levels, such as soy isoflavones.

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

What Lab Tests Might Be Helpful In Managing Migraine?

Several lab tests can be helpful in managing migraines, as they can identify underlying conditions that may contribute to migraine occurrence or severity:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): Anemia or infection can contribute to headache patterns. By identifying abnormalities in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, CBC helps address underlying issues that may exacerbate migraines.
  • Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR): Elevated ESR levels show inflammation in the body, which may be linked to migraines. Monitoring ESR levels helps gauge the extent of inflammation and guide treatment strategies aimed at reducing inflammation and mitigating migraine symptoms.
  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP): Like ESR, CRP is a marker of inflammation. High CRP levels can show systemic inflammation that may worsen migraine symptoms. Monitoring CRP levels helps in assessing the inflammatory component of migraines and guiding interventions to manage inflammation effectively.
  • Thyroid Function Tests: Thyroid imbalances can influence migraine frequency and severity. Assessing thyroid function helps identify and address thyroid-related issues that may contribute to migraines, thereby optimizing migraine management strategies.
  • Liver Function Tests: Liver health is crucial for metabolizing medications used to treat migraines. Abnormal liver function can affect medication metabolism, impact its effectiveness, or cause adverse effects. Monitoring liver function ensures the safe and effective use of migraine medications.
  • Kidney Function Tests: Proper kidney function is essential for metabolizing medications and maintaining overall health. Kidney dysfunction can affect medication clearance and increase the risk of adverse effects. Monitoring kidney function helps ensure safe medication use and overall health in migraine management.
  • Electrolyte Panel: Imbalances in electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium can contribute to migraine development. Assessing electrolyte levels helps identify deficiencies or abnormalities that may trigger or exacerbate migraines, allowing for targeted interventions to restore balance and alleviate migraine symptoms.
  • Blood Glucose Levels: Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can trigger migraines in susceptible persons. Monitoring blood glucose levels helps identify diabetes or pre-diabetes, enabling proactive management to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent migraine triggers.
  • Hormone Levels: Hormonal fluctuations, especially in women, can significantly impact migraine patterns. Assessing hormone levels, such as estrogen and progesterone, helps identify hormonal imbalances that may contribute to migraines, guiding hormone therapy or other interventions to manage migraine symptoms effectively.
  • Vitamin D Levels: Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with chronic pain conditions, including migraines. Monitoring vitamin D levels helps identify deficiencies that may exacerbate migraine symptoms, guiding supplementation to optimize vitamin D levels and alleviate migraine severity.
  • Magnesium Levels: Low magnesium levels are common in persons with migraines and may contribute to migraine pathophysiology. Assessing magnesium levels helps identify deficiencies that may exacerbate migraines, guiding magnesium supplementation to alleviate migraine symptoms and improve overall health.
  • Food Allergy Testing: Certain foods or food additives can trigger migraines in susceptible persons. Conducting food allergy testing helps identify potential food sensitivities or allergies that may exacerbate migraine symptoms, guiding dietary modifications to avoid migraine triggers and improve migraine management outcomes.

To Sum It Up

Each of these supplements has shown benefits in reducing the frequency, severity, or duration of migraines, offering a more natural approach to this challenging condition. Magnesium plays a key role in nerve function, Riboflavin supports brain health, CoQ10 aids in energy production, while Feverfew and Butterbur have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Ginger offer anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea benefits, Vitamin D is crucial for overall health, and Melatonin helps regulate sleep cycles. Remember, managing migraines often requires a multifaceted approach, and these supplements could be a valuable part of your strategy.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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