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B-Vitamins for Migraines

February 9, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

New research out of Australia combines the use of cutting edge technology with old-school nutrition. Today’s headline comes from the Genomic Research Center (GRC) of Griffith University. The GRC’s purpose is to identify genes that are involved in diseases and other health conditions. Based on their findings, they attempt to find ways of modifying disease risk and, possibly, even combating various health threats ranging from high blood pressure to cancer.

An example of how genetics can be applied to integrative medicine can be found in some newly released material presented by Lyn Griffiths, the head of the GRC. Previous research by the GRC had discovered an association between a specific gene (known as MTHFR) and migraine headaches. They noted that migraine sufferers who had this gene also had a higher level of an amino acid called homocysteine in their blood. You may recall that I recently covered the possible role of homocysteine in heart disease and depression.

Homocysteine & B-VitaminsIt’s well known in both the alternative and conventional medical communities that certain b-vitamins such as vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid can help to lower homocysteine levels. Based on this knowledge, Dr. Griffiths enrolled 50 chronic migraine sufferers in a supervised trial where they were given b-vitamins for a period of 6 months.

Dr. Griffiths summarized the findings of the trial in the following manner, “Results showed a drastic improvement in headache frequency, pain severity and associated disability for those treated.” She also noted that homocysteine levels decreased in the study volunteers and that a larger and longer study would be undertaken as a result of this successful, but preliminary trial.

This new research comes on the heals of other positive findings regarding b-vitamins and migraines. For instance, another recent study found that folic acid could help improve migraine symptoms in children. There’s also some evidence that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.

Types of Headaches

This is good news indeed because migraines are notoriously difficult to manage successfully. It’s also a well known fact that many of the prescription medications used to treat migraines can bring about significant side effects. B-vitamins on the other hand have been shown to be very safe and are much less expensive.

If you suffer from migraines or if you know someone who does, please consider the research I presented today. There are many nutritional supplements (and even prescription medications) that can help to manage elevated homocysteine levels. One thing to keep in mind is that b-vitamins are water soluble and do not stay in your system very long. Therefore, many holistic doctors recommended spreading the dosage over the course of a day (2-3 times daily). This will provide for a more continuous supply of these much needed nutrients.

Be well!

JP

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6 Comments to “B-Vitamins for Migraines”

  1. Ana Says:

    Thanks for publishing this information. What dosages of the vitamins do you recommend?

  2. JP Says:

    Hi, Ana.

    The dosages used in the clinical studies vary. IMO, one approach worth considering is to take a high-potency b-complex and possibly adding some additional riboflavin.

    The first study linked to below mentions a homocysteine lowering drug/supplement that emphasized folic acid and vitamins B6 & B12.

    Also, please search my site for other columns about natural headache relief. There are several other alternatives besides b-vitamins.

    http://journals.lww.com/jpharmacogenetics/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2009&issue=06000&article=00005&type=abstract

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-1331.2004.00813.x/abstract;jsessionid=4CABF7038D274E3A324AD35276372262.d02t03

    http://cep.sagepub.com/content/30/12/1426.long

    Be well!

    JP

  3. jessie Says:

    i am 12 and was diagnosed with migraines at age 7, but when i get a migraine it isn’t only one side of the head. its usually my whole forehead, but the two halves feel different but equally painful. is that normal?

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Jesse.

    I’m not an expert in migraines. But, based on what I’ve read, pain patterns vary to some degree among migraine sufferers. If your doctor and parents are unaware of your specific symptoms, please make sure to let them know. Any change in your condition or symptoms is important to note.

    http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/migraines.printerview.html

    Be well!

    JP

  5. evy Says:

    are you familiar with the different types of b’s and the way they work (i.e. methylcobalamin being readily available to the body vs. cyanocobalamin that needs to be converted)?

    :)

  6. JP Says:

    Hi Evy,

    Yes, I am familiar. This variety of B vitamins is frequently referred to as the “active” or coenzyme form. In some instances, it appears that these bioavailable forms of said vitamins are more effective because they do not require conversion in order to be utilized by the body.

    Be well!

    JP

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