Supplements of vitamins B2, B6, B12, and folic acid may reduce the frequency, severity and disability of migraines, considered the most severe type of headache.
A series of studies have taken a look at the effect of B vitamins on migraines, with very positive results.
In a recent study, daily vitamin supplements of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 were associated with a reduction of migraine disability from 60% to 30% after six months. Reductions in the frequency of the headache and the severity of the pain were also observed in people in the B vitamin group. None of these changes or reductions was found in the placebo group.
About 12-15% of the population, or 28 million people, suffer from migraines, affecting twice as many women as men. The headaches are sometimes preceded by flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms or legs, or anxiety. Sufferers generally experience a pounding sensation in one side of the head and many undergo nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and noise. The symptoms are often severe and debilitating, lasting anywhere between four and 72 hours.
Migraines have long been suspected to have a genetic link since sufferers often had close relatives that also suffered from the condition. And in fact, previous studies did identify a gene that reportedly makes people susceptible to migraine attacks with auras. This gene has also been linked to a higher risk for stroke, and it is known that people who suffer from migraines are at greater risk of having a stroke.
A mutation or dysfunction in the gene leads to higher levels of the amino acid homocysteine, Homocysteine has already been linked to an increased risk of stroke and other coronary diseases. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid have been shown to decrease homocysteine levels, which is why they may have protective cardiovascular benefits, especially against strokes.
In this study, the participants on the vitamin supplements had a reduction of 39% in homocysteine levels, a result not seen in the placebo group.
"These results provided compelling evidence that lowering plasma homocysteine levels via folic acid coupled with B6 and B12 vitamin supplementation improved health-related productivity and therefore quality of life for these patients," wrote the researchers.
This study backed up earlier research that indicated folic acid supplementation could stop the onset of migraines, with researchers also attributing those results to the vitamin's effect on homocysteine.
A previous study showed that taking a high dose of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) every day may help prevent migraines, but possibly for a different reason. Vitamin B2 is required for cells to efficiently use energy. When it is not available, the energy "powerhouses" of the cell, the mitochondria, cannot function properly -- and in some patients, this may trigger migraine.
Patients on vitamin B2 had 37% fewer migraines with a dose of 400 mg of B2 daily for three months. The effect of vitamin B2 was most pronounced on attack frequency and the number of days with migraine headache, but had only a marginal improvement in decreasing the severity of migraines. The effect of riboflavin began after 1 month but was maximal after 3 months. Riboflavin may work best for those who have moderate migraine headaches a few times a month.
Magnesium, Coenzyme Q10, feverfew and butterbur have also been shown to benefit migraine sufferers.
With this body of research to go on, migraine sufferers may look to B vitamins as an alternative for coping with the condition. God has provided an abundance of sources for some B vitamins, such as folate, while others, such as B2/riboflavin, are harder to incorporate into a daily diet.
To ensure optimal levels of vitamins B2, B6, B12 and folic acid, a complete nutritional supplement should be a part of your daily regimen. Our Basic Nutrient Support contains the full spectrum of B vitamins (as well as magnesium and Coenzyme Q10) in its comprehensive formula of more than 60 nutrients.