July 16, 2014

Headaches II: Supplement Discussion

Headaches Part II: In my last post, I discussed foods that help and foods that hurt in regards to headaches. Several of my friends and family experience daily headaches, negatively affecting quality of life. These folks see many specialists and get prescribed treatments and medications.  Some are left being told there's nothing they can do.  If this is the case, why not try some dietary changes or a simple supplement?  If your treating physician is open to it, what do you have to lose?

There is an interesting synopsis written by the American Headache society that briefly discusses some helpful supplements. Check it out here.  During my research, I repeatedly saw melatonin, CoQ10, riboflavin, magnesium, butterbur and feverfew indicated for headaches and migraines.  Some of these might sound familiar to you because they are quite common; our brain makes melatonin naturally for sleep, CoQ10 is another compound our bodies make that is often taken for cardiovascular support, riboflavin is just a B vitamin....let me discuss each briefly here and as always, before considering any of these, talk to your doc to see if it is safe and appropriate! 

Melatonin is a natural compound produced by the pineal gland in your brain that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle and also works as an antioxidant. Some studies have shown lower than normal melatonin levels during migraine attacks and 2-3 mg of melatonin supplementation has proven successful in reducing migraine symptoms.  One clinical study showed that melatonin supplementation trended toward a two-thirds reduction in number of migraine attacks.  

Butterbur (also called petadolex):
A plant commonly used in Europe, butterbur may reduce the frequency (by nearly half!), intensity and duration of a migraine headache.  This plant has relaxing effects on the circulation system (vasodilatatory). Some studies use 75 mg twice per day to achieve the desired affect.  I noticed many migraine combo supplements that incorporate butterbur into them.  

CoQ10 is another antioxidant that has been used to prevent migraine attack frequency and duration.  This compound is involved in cellular energy production and is depleted quickly by organs (like the brain!) with a high metabolic rate.  Moderate dosing (100-300mg daily) has been used in studies but keep in mind that this research doesn't offer much help once an adult has been suffering with established headaches - it looks more efficacious in young people.  CoQ10 is used for many conditions and most people tolerate it with no problem at all.


Just another B vitamin (B2 specifically), riboflavin has been shown to prevent migraines in doses as low as 400mg daily.  Similar to CoQ10, this vitamin is active in cellular metabolism and may help energy production.  Again, this is a very common supplement proving impressive promise in reducing headache frequency and duration. 

Magnesium impacts many important processes involved in the development of a classic migraine attack. Many studies show that migraine sufferers exhibit low magnesium levels, especially so during an attack.  Supplementing with magnesium citrate could help reduce the frequency of migraines - studies show that magnesium citrate at 400-600mg can be helpful. 

An anti-inflammatory flower, this extract has been used for hundreds of years for headaches and reducing fevers.  There are no great studies that I know of showing it's efficacy, but you'll
see it show up in "headache" products. Keep in mind that feverfew supplements (like to many other products) have questionable quantities in some products so look for a company that you trust that pays for third party certification.  This may be a more expensive product.  

Your doctor can help decide if supplements are right for you. Present them with research if they are hesitant or work with an herbalist or dietitian who is an expert in the area.  Instead of single-dosing a bunch of stuff, I also found some good headache combos.  Check out products by Life Extension or Pure Encapsulations.   

*Whoa!  I'm not a doctor, I'm a dietitian.  The info above is not intended to take the place of a doctors advice.  If you have headaches, you need to get them checked out by a specialist for safety.  The advice here is not intended to treat or take the place of working with an MD.  Always check with your doctor before you experiment with any of my information - it is for informational purposes only on this site.

No comments:

Post a Comment