Vitamin Deficiency and the Link with Migraines
Migraine attacks can last from two hours to as long as three days. They can cause considerable pain and discomfort although all migraines are different. There may be common symptoms such as throbbing and searing pain; nausea, chills or sweating; there may be sensitivity to light, sound or smell; there may be vomiting; or there may be an aura. Every day some twenty million people worldwide will suffer from a migraine attack.
Some of the causes of migraines
1. Vascular Constriction in the Brain. Blood vessel constriction and a decrease in blood flow may often be a cause. This constriction is usually followed by dilation and stretching of blood vessels, which in turn activates the neurons responsible for pain.
2. Changes in Serotonin It is believed that migraine pain can be caused by swollen and inflamed blood vessels, including those in the brain.
3. A Neurological Disorder Related to Nerve Cell Activity Migraine attacks can be because of a neurological disorder which is linked to nerve cell activity moving through the brain and causing pain.
4. Excessive Increase of Blood Flow in the Brain Research has indicated that headaches can be preceded by an increase of up to 300% although once the migraine attack is in full swing, circulation can become regular.
New research has linked vitamin deficiency with migraines
A recent study has found that vitamins B6, B12 - and folic acid supplements - can lead to a reduction in migraines over the course of six months. Research has found that increased levels of homocysteine can lead to a certain gene mutation or dysfunction making some people more prone to migraines. Homocysteine can be reduced with the help of vitamins B6 and B12.
The appropriate dose of these vitamins depends on your genotype. Among other health benefits, Folic acid is good for blood health, regulating and increasing the production of red blood cells to prevent anemia. Folic acid also stabilizes and regulates blood pressure levels by relaxing the blood vessels so as to reduce the risks of both high and low blood pressure. It also improves brain development and functioning.
Folic acid is found in 4 of the main food groups:
- Meat – liver, chicken giblets, kidney and egg yolk.
- Legumes – dried beans, lentils, split peas, soya products, almonds and other nuts.
- Starches – wholegrain breads, wheat flour, potatoes and sweet potato.
- Fruit and Vegetables – spinach, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, banana, oranges and peaches.
What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid in the body but the level of homocysteine in the plasma is increasingly being recognised as a risk factor for disease - and seen as a predictor of potential health problems such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
The complex metabolism of homocysteine within the body is highly dependent on vitamin derived co-factors so any deficiencies in vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin B6 can lead to raised homocysteine levels.
Other factors thought to raise levels are poor diet, a less than ideal lifestyle (especially smoking and high coffee and alcohol intake), some prescription drugs (such as proton pump inhibitors), diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and poor thyroid function.
Other symptoms of migraines
Migraine is a complex neurological condition with a wide range of symptoms, the most common and classic of which is normally a throbbing, intensely painful headache. But more and more neurological symptoms (whether or not they are accompanied by head pain) are also being attributed to migraine.
Such symptoms include vertigo, eye problems, changes to bowel habits and restless legs, a common condition that causes an overwhelming urge to fidget and keep moving the legs – especially when trying to sleep.
These symptoms are known as aura, and when they occur without a headache, it is known as a ‘silent migraine’. If you suffer from migraines, it could well be worth checking on whether you suffer from a vitamin deficiency.
Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Headache-Hope-Through-Research. (Accessed, Feb 13, 2021).
Migraine information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Migraine-Information-Page. (Accessed, Feb 13, 2021)
Bajwa ZH, et al. Acute treatment of migraine in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. (Accessed, Feb 13, 2021)
ABC's of headache trigger management. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/abcs-of-headache-trigger-management/. (Accessed, Feb 13, 2021)