Migraines are the most common headaches around the world.
More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from migraines. It’s estimated that nearly 20 million people experience a migraine every day. But, the reason for that migraine could be in your diet. A new preliminarily study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that a good amount of children, teens, and young adults who experienced migraines had vitamin D, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10 deficiencies. Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant that is similar to a vitamin and can be found in every cell. It helps produce energy to maintain cell growth.
Suzanne Hagler, MD was the lead author on the study. She presented the finding at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society in June 2016. Hagler and her colleagues studied blood samples of 7,420 patients to check for nutrients and vitamins that have been linked to migraines in the past including, vitamin D, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10 and folate.
Of the nutrients and vitamins screened, the researchers found that many of the participants had low levels of coenzyme Q10, with 51 percent reporter below average levels. Thirty one percent of patients did not have enough vitamin D, and 16 percent of participants had a less than average of riboflavin in their systems. Looking deeper, Hagler and collogues found that women were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 deficiencies, while men were more likely to have vitamin D deficiencies. Many patients with chronic migraines had both coenzyme Q10 and riboflavin deficiencies.1
This study is very preliminary though, and it hasn’t even been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But, it adds a little bit more research and answers to a number of other, smaller studies that looked at the same thing.
In 2012, a study in The Journal of Head and Face Pain examined a number of other studies and found both riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 supplements showed positive benefits in patients with metabolic encephalomyopathies, a generic term for a disease that alters brain function. The same treatment was used for migraines, and lead the researchers to believe that a migraine could be a mitochondrial disorder.2
Another study by the Journal of Research in Medical Studies in 2015 found that vitamin D supplements may be helpful in lowering the amount of headaches and migraines patients have. The researchers examined 65 patients with migraines between the ages of 10-61. The patients were given a high dosage of vitamin D for 10 weeks straight and then were asked to rate the severity, duration, frequency and more of headaches and migraines they experienced. With the positive results, the researchers concluded that more clinical trial need to be done with a larger sample size.3
But, not all research on this topic has been positive. In 2014, BioMed Research International found that there was no evidence for a link between vitamin d deficiency and migraines. The researchers pooled together seven studies and found that a few of the studies with positive results were very small and were not placebo controlled.4 The study concluded that there was not enough reliable scientific support to link vitamin D deficiency and migraines.
A 2015 study in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research reviewed 11 articles on vitamin deficiency and migraines. The researchers concluded that there was enough evidence to say that riboflavin supplements were helpful in preventing migraine symptoms in adults, but they also did not find enough evidence to support vitamin B2 in both adults and children.5
In December 2015, a study in Annals of Neurology showed positive results in using vitamin D to prevent headaches and migraines. The researchers performed a random, double-blind placebo trial on 57 adults with migraines. Over the 12-week study, participants received both simvastatin and vitamin D3. The patients that had both the simvastatin and vitamin D3 had less days with migraines than the control group.6
Even though many studies have shown positive results in terms of the connection between vitamin deficiency and migraines, more research needs to be done. The sample groups have been relatively small, and bigger studies with more participants need to be conducted to show the full extent of the connection.
But if your patients have tried a variety of treatments with no results, this may be a viable option with few risks.
Taking vitamin supplements could help reduce migraines. Coenzyme 10 can be found in meat, nuts, fish and also some vegetables and fruits. The body makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Other remedies to help get rid of migraines include finding a calming environment or event drinking a caffeinated beverage. The Mayo Clinic says that a small amount of caffeine can help get rid of early migraine pain and also enhance the effects of aspirin.7 Also, eating healthy and avoiding foods that trigger migraines can help.
1 Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Many with migraines have vitamin deficiencies, says study. Published June 10, 2016. Accessed July 2016.
2 Markley HG. CoEnzyme Q10 and riboflavin: the mitochondrial connection. Published October 2015. Accessed July 2016.
3 Mottaghi T. Askari G. Khorvash F. Maracy MR. Effect of Vitamin D supplementation on symptoms and C-reactive protein in migraine patients. Published May 2015. Accessed July 2016.
4 Lippi G. Cervellin G. Mattiuzzi C. No evidence for an association of Vitamin D deficiency and migraine: A systematic review of the literature. Published May 8, 2014. Accessed July 2016.
5 Namazi N. Heshmati J. Tarighat-Esfanjani A. Supplementation with Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) for Migraine Prophylaxis in Adults and Children: A review. Published 2015. Accessed July 2016.
6 Buettner C. Nir RR. Bertisch SM. Bernstein C. Schain A. Mittleman MA. Burstein R3. Simvastatin and vitamin D for migraine prevention: A randomized, controlled trial. Published December 2015. Accessed July 2016.
7 Mayo Clinic Staff. Migraines: Simple steps to head off the pain. Published July 8, 2015. Accessed July 2016.