By most accounts some 25 million Americans suffer from migraines. Physicians don’t seem to know exactly what causes migraines, and they don’t know how to prevent them. They have some theories. One of those theories is that vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly the vitamin riboflavin (vitamin B2) and the mineral magnesium, may contribute to, or cause, some migraines.
There are two things that you can do to help reduce the number and severity of the migraines you get: Determine what triggers your migraines and avoid those triggers and increase your intake of magnesium and riboflavin.
Different things tend to give people migraines. These are generally referred to as “triggers.” Triggers can include:
- The weather
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Lack of sleep
- Lunchmeats and other foods high in nitrates and nitrites
- Perfumes or other strong smells
- Hormonal changes (like the monthly hormonal changes women go through and pre-menopause hormonal changes)
This is just a short list. The important thing is that you figure out whether or not there is a particular trigger (or triggers) for your migraines. You can do this by keeping a migraine diary (what you ate, did or experienced prior to the onset of your migraines). If you figure out there is something specific that triggers a migraine (and it can be multiple things), you can try to avoid the trigger(s) and reduce the number of migraines you experience.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in your body. Most of the magnesium in your body is stored in your bones. Magnesium is used by the body for a number of functions, including helping muscles to relax (including the heart), supporting the immune system, and keeping bones strong, to name just a few. Several studies have shown that many migraine sufferers given magnesium obtain partial or total relief for their migraines. The theory on why this works is that migraines are a result of the blood vessels in the brain constricting. Magnesium helps muscles, like the tiny ones in your blood vessels, relax and so having sufficient magnesium helps the blood vessels in your brain relax.
Some foods high in magnesium include:
- Green vegetables, particularly spinach
- Beans and peas
- Nuts, particularly almonds, cashews and peanuts
- Whole unrefined grains (unrefined grains include the germ and bran where most of the magnesium in the grain is found; refining removes the germ and the bran)
- Baked potatoes, with the skin on
- Milk chocolate
- Long-grain, brown rice
A number of things will cause the body to become depleted of magnesium, including too much calcium (calcium needs magnesium in order to assimilate into the body, and if too much calcium is consumed, the body will pull magnesium out), stress, alcohol, certain prescription drugs, diabetes, hypothyroidism and excessive perspiration.
Riboflavin is one of the B vitamins (B2). Riboflavin helps with the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It is necessary for red blood cell formation, regulating human growth, respiration and the production of antibodies. It is also necessary for healthy skin, hair and nails. Some studies have shown that riboflavin can reduce the number and duration of migraines. Some foods high in riboflavin include:
- Cottage cheese
- Meat and fish
You can get supplements that will provide you with additional magnesium and riboflavin. However, some supplements have magnesium in a form that is not easily absorbed by the body, and it is possible to get too much magnesium. By using diet to get enough riboflavin and magnesium, as opposed to supplements, you are less likely to get so much of either.
As with anything related to your health, you should consult a physician to make sure your headaches are, in fact, migraines and not something of a more serious nature.