Just about every pharmacy and supermarket is stocked with all manner of nutritional supplements that aim to improve health by adding vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, and amino acids to your diet. Have you ever wondered if something on those shelves might make migraine easier to live with? And if so: What supplements should I take for migraines?
Migraine Dietary Supplements To Know About
Magnesium. People living with migraine are often deficient in a mineral called magnesium. Are you frequently cold when others aren’t? Do you have poor circulation in the hands and feet? Bad PMS cramps? These could be indicators that you need more magnesium in your diet. The biggest downside of magnesium, however, is that some of its seven forms can result in diarrhea. Varieties that tend to be gentlest on the stomach are magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium-L-threonate.
Vitamin B2. The vitamin Riboflavin, also known as B2, is an energy booster. It impacts the mitochondria, or energy factories, in each of our cells. Evidence also suggests a relationship between improper functioning of mitochondria and migraine, which is why headache researchers have taken keen interest in vitamin B2.
Melatonin. Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you wake up in the morning sensing that your sleep wasn’t refreshing? Sleep and migraine are closely related. In fact, getting good quality sleep is the single most impactful lifestyle change to improve health with migraine. Melatonin is a popular natural sleep aid commonly used for insomnia and improving sleep.
Additional supplements that people with migraine may consider adding to their diets include:
- Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant also known as CoQ10, which cells need for growth and maintenance
- Butterbur, a plant extract that comes from the leaves and roots of the plant petasites hybridus, and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties
- Note: When butterbur is processed incorrectly it presents major safety concerns in the form of liver toxicity. Butterbur is only safe to take when it is free of harmful levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
- Feverfew, a plant extract from the daisy family with a long history of use for its anti-inflammatory properties. Its name comes from the Latin word febrifugia, meaning “fever reducer,” and was used by the ancient Greeks.
Your Migraine Dietary Supplement Checklist
Consult Your Doctor. Because supplements are available without a prescription, you might be tempted to go it alone. But some may have dangerous interactions with prescription or OTC drugs you may be taking. Healthcare professionals can determine which supplement is right for your medical profile and recommend appropriate dosages. For example, some supplements may not be appropriate during pregnancy or when breastfeeding; some have low absorption levels and thus act as a laxative; and some herbs can become toxic at certain levels.
Research the Manufacturer. In the US, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and so have not been through the rigorous and expensive clinical trials that would verify their effectiveness, purity, and marketing claims. Though companies are expected to guarantee their products’ safety and that claims made on the label are accurate and truthful, they do not have to prove that their products are effective. The FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplements only after a product reaches the market.
Buy From a Reputable Source. Quality control is essential to ensure ingredients are pure and match the label. Better products are often independently verified by a third-party to ensure that what is in each pill is what is claimed on the label. If in doubt, ask your health care provider for recommendations.
Know the Best Way to Ingest the Supplement. For best absorption, some supplements need to be taken with food or fats, or divided into multiple daily doses.
Avoid Blended Supplements. Some supplements are blends of vitamins, minerals, or botanicals. However, buyer beware: All of the established medical research thus far has studied only the role of individual supplements for people living with migraine, whereas the research on blended supplements is very limited.
For more answers: The National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements is a great resource with information and tips on topics such as how to evaluate sources of healthcare information and a list of independent third-party organizations that quality test products.
Currently, the biggest concerns with migraine dietary supplements are around issues of purity, efficacy, and contamination, due to the lack of rigorous industry standards. However, these concerns can be addressed by finding quality products from reputable manufacturers is important. Remember, before you start taking dietary supplements, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor to determine your plan.
To start the process of finding a supplement that’s right for you, take our short quiz about your migraine experience.