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What Deficiency Causes Migraines?

author image Maura Wolf
Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, non-traditional families, companion animals and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist since 2000, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting, aging and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in clinical psychology, from New College.
What Deficiency Causes Migraines?
A woman at her desk holding her head in pain. Photo Credit Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock/Getty Images

Migraine is a neurological disease, causing episodic migraine attacks, which are different from common non-migraine headaches. Doctors and scientists do not fully understand the causes and triggers of these primary headaches, but migraines are probably genetically based, and the propensity for this condition is inherited, according to a February 2011 article by Dr. Mark Green, director of the Mount Sinai Center for Headache & Pain Medicine in New York. Various triggers and causes of migraines have been posited. These include vitamin, mineral and nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, external stimuli, stress and hormonal fluctuations.


A magnesium deficiency resulting in low levels of magnesium in the brain causes the brain to become irritated and may trigger migraine attacks. Migraines may be the result of changes in the blood vessels and the blood or oxygen flow in the scalp and brain. These vascular changes are triggered by biochemicals, such as serotonin, which circulates in your blood, and by stress-related muscle contractions. If you have a magnesium deficiency, the serotonin flows too quickly, constricts your blood vessels and releases pain-producing chemicals, according to Dr. Burton M. Altura in a November 2002 at the Magnesium Online Library. Acceptable magnesium levels not only prevent the release of pain-producing substances but may also reduce or stop their effects, says Altura.


Magnesium and calcium interact with each other. Your magnesium levels may be in balance, but if your calcium levels are deficient, you may still be at risk for migraines. If your blood has overly high calcium levels, your body may excrete the extra calcium. This can trigger a loss of magnesium, which is expelled along with the calcium, leaving you with a magnesium deficiency, according to Karen Kubena in an article, "Making the Magnesium-Migraine Link."

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities, and a vitamin D deficiency may contribute to migraine attacks, according to Dr. Steve D. Wheeler in a 2006 article published on the American Headache Society's website. Women with migraines who are tested and found to be deficient in vitamin D may find that the occurrence and severity of their migraine attacks are reduced when they start a regimen of taking vitamin D daily, according to an article by Dr. Cynthia Buxton of Natural Healthcare Northwest. Once your health practitioner has tested your vitamin D levels, ask if you need to take vitamin D-3 supplements in addition to the vitamin D you absorb from your diet and exposure to sunlight.

B Vitamins

Individuals afflicted with migraine headaches may have lower than necessary serotonin levels. The brain needs vitamin B-6 to synthesize neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which is essential for communication between nerve cells. Vitamin B-6 supplements have not yet been proven to relieve migraine symptoms, according to a Office of Dietary Supplements fact sheet published by the National Institutes of Health. Migraine sufferers may be able to decrease the duration and frequency of migraine headaches by taking vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, supplements. Ideally, your nutrient needs will be satisfied by the foods you eat. Before taking any supplements or starting a new diet, consult with your health practitioner.

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