If you suffer from migraines, you will try almost anything to get some relief. A solution as simple as taking vitamin B-12 would seem like a miracle if it could cure this painful ailment. Although various theories offer speculative solutions for debilitating migraines, researchers are putting much faith in the potential benefits of vitamin B-12. You may be at risk for a vitamin B-12 deficiency if you are a vegetarian, have undergone weight-loss surgery, have celiac or Crohn's disease or are over the age of 50, as the ability to absorb B-12 decreases as you age, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
Migraines are severe headaches generally lasting from four to 72 hours. Although characteristics of migraines differ among sufferers, they often begin with an aura -- dots of light, wavy lines in vision, blind spots or other visual symptoms -- and then gradually develop into a pounding in the head that leads to nausea and/or vomiting. Extreme sensitivity to light and sound are also very common.
Possible Causes of Migraines
Many theories exist on the possible causes of migraines. Scientists suggest that elevated homocysteine -- an amino acid found in the blood -- may disrupt cells in the nerves and blood vessels to produce migraines. Harvard School of Public Health reports that a lack of vitamin B-12 may contribute to increased homocysteine levels. Food allergies may also be the culprit of migraines, with common triggers being nuts, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, alcohol, caffeine, cheeses, nitrates and simple sugars. Vasodilation -- the widening of blood vessels -- in the head has been suspected, as well as low and high blood pressure, hormones and environmental influences. Vitamin B-12 is a vasodilator, according to a study in the July 2007 issue of the "American Journal of Physiology."
Vitamin B-12 contains cobalt, a rare metal that is vital to the proper functioning of the nervous system and red blood cell production. Most people can consume adequate amounts of B-12 through a healthy diet, but some individuals are plagued with conditions that require supplementation due to deficiencies and poor absorption of the vitamin. If you are deficient in vitamin B-12, you may experience a number of problems, including fatigue and increased headache frequency and severity.
Treatment of B12 Deficiency
A common treatment for patients with vitamin B-12 deficiency is intranasal hydroxocobalamin, a natural form of vitamin B-12 inhaled through the nose. Researchers in the Netherlands sought to test B-12 deficiency as a cause of migraines by administering intranasal hydroxocobalamin to chronic headache and migraine patients. Over half the participants saw a 50 percent or greater decrease in frequency of migraines from the treatment. Sixty-three percent of participants experienced a 30 percent or greater reduction in frequency of attacks when receiving the treatments.
The New York Headache Center suggests that vitamin B-12 supplementation should be attempted as a fix for migraines, as it does not have any adverse side effects and is relatively inexpensive to administer. A combination of folic acid, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 were found in a 2009 study published in "Pharmacogenetics & Genomics" to reduce homocysteine, thus reducing migraine disability by 30 percent, as well as headache frequency and severity. Attempting this mix of vitamins may solve your headache crisis without the potentially harmful side effects of pain medicine. However, consult with your physician before using these supplements.
Is This an Emergency?
- Nutra Ingredients USA: B Vitamins May Offer Migraine Relief
- Pharmacogenetics and Genomics: The Effects of Vitamin Supplementation and MTHFR (C677T) Genotype on Homocysteine-Lowering and Migraine Disability
- Acu-Cell Disorders: Migraine Headaches
- New York Headache Center: Vitamin B12
- Harvard School of Public Health: Three of the B Vitamins: Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12
- American Journal of Physiology: High Frequency of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Asymptomatic Individuals Homozygous to MTHFR C677T Mutation is Associated With Endothelial Dysfunction and Homocysteinemia
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful