How the B vitamins can help prevent and relieve your migraines.
Do you have frequent migraines and your doctor hasn’t been able to find any serious underlying medical problems? Then it might make sense to determine your homocysteine level in the blood and check your supply of B vitamins.
What is migraine?
Migraine is a neurological disorder accompanied by severe headaches that can significantly affect daily life. One in five women suffers from migraines on a regular basis. In comparison, only one in 15 men is affected.
Although the exact cause of migraines is not yet fully understood, studies have shown that certain nutrients, particularly B vitamins, can help reduce the occurrence of migraines and relieve symptoms. In this article, we will explore how B vitamins work, what food sources are rich in these vitamins, and how the amino acid homocysteine plays a role.
The role of B vitamins in migraine prevention.
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that perform a variety of important functions in the body. They play a crucial role in energy metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis and cell health. Several B vitamins have been shown to be useful in preventing and relieving migraines. Here are the main B vitamins associated with migraines:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Vitamin B2 is involved in energy production in cells and acts as an antioxidant. Studies have shown that higher intakes of vitamin B2 may be associated with a reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 is involved in the formation of important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and GABA. These neurotransmitters play a role in regulating mood and pain perception. Adequate intake of vitamin B6 can help reduce migraine attacks.
- Folate (vitamin B9): Folate is important for DNA synthesis and the formation of new cells. A deficiency in folate can lead to elevated homocysteine levels, which have been linked to an increased risk of migraine.
The importance of homocysteine
Homocysteine is an amino acid. Amino acids are building blocks for proteins, which are very important for our body. Normally, homocysteine is converted into another amino acid called methionine. If methionine metabolism is disturbed or if we don’t get enough of certain vitamins, the B vitamins, homocysteine can rise.
High homocysteine levels have been associated with an increased risk of migraine. Homocysteine is thought to damage blood vessels and promote inflammation, which may contribute to the development of migraines.
However, homocysteine levels are generally higher in men than in women and increase with age. However, certain groups of women are also at particular risk for elevated homocysteine levels. These include:
- Women who take hormonal contraceptives: Hormonal contraceptives can affect the metabolism of B vitamins and lead to an increase in homocysteine levels.
- Pregnant women: During pregnancy, the need for B vitamins increases to support the growth of the fetus. A deficiency of B vitamins can lead to increased homocysteine levels and then to a higher risk of migraine.
- Women with genetic variations: Some genetic variants, such as MTHFR, can affect the breakdown of homocysteine and lead to elevated levels.
Food sources rich in B vitamins
To obtain adequate amounts of B vitamins, it is important to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods. Here are some food sources rich in B vitamins:
- Vitamin B2: dairy products, liver, almonds, eggs, spinach.
- Vitamin B6: chicken, fish, potatoes, bananas, sunflower seeds.
- Folate: Green leafy vegetables, legumes, avocados, oranges, liver.
It should be noted, however, that individual intakes of B vitamins may vary and in some cases supplements may be required to meet needs. A vitamin B complex with all eight B vitamins is more recommended than single nutrients because the B vitamins work better as a team.
By the way, a B-complex gives you extra energy and hormone regulation, which can also have a positive effect on performance.
B vitamins play an important role in the prevention and relief of migraine. Vitamin B2, B6 and folate have proven to be particularly effective. By reducing homocysteine, an amino acid associated with migraines, B vitamins may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Women who take hormonal contraceptives, are pregnant or have genetic changes should pay special attention to their B vitamin intake.
“Serum Homocysteine, Pyridoxine, Folate, and Vitamin B12 Levels in Migraine: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Liampas, Ioannis et al, Headache vol. 60.8 (2020): 1508-1534.
“Vitamin supplementation as possible prophylactic treatment against migraine with aura and menstrual migraine.” Shaik, Munvar Miya, and Siew Hua Gan, BioMed research international vol. 2015 (2015): 469529.