Migraine Prevention: B Vitamins
B vitamins are successful at preventing migraines.
B vitamins are vital, but there are risks to this complex problem.
Six reasons B vitamins kill migraines:
1. B vitamins are part of a process called methylation, which prevents the buildup of homocysteine (study link).
Homocysteine levels are elevated in migraine sufferers (study link).
2. In a 2009 study, vitamin B6, B9, and B12 successfully reduced homocysteine levels in migraine sufferers by 39 percent.
Migraine disability was cut in half within six months (study link).
4. Elevated homocysteine levels have been found in both hypothyroidism and cardiovascular disease sufferers (study link).
5. B vitamins are “perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione,” according to Dr. Mark Hyman (article link).
6. A gene mutation (MTHFR) found in many migraine sufferers reduces the ability to convert folate (vitamin B9) into methylfolate.
The MTHFR gene mutation passed down from one parent reduces the ability to process folate by 40 percent.
If the gene is passed down from both parents, there is a 70 percent loss of function (study link).
Migraines are hereditary. If one parent sufferers from migraines, his or her child is 40 percent more likely to develop migraines and that number jumps to as high as 90 percent if both parents have migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation (Research link).
B vitamins are part of a large system called methylation that creates energy and hormones. It is also responsible for controlling all major migraine triggers, such as stress, glutamate, inflammation, hypothyroidism, biogenic amines, and toxins. This is a complex system that is connected like gears in a machine. I discuss methylation in a video and article here.
When one part of the system goes faster, the rest speeds up. This means that any type of stress will use B vitamins.
Likewise, becoming deficient in B vitamins impairs your body’s ability to detoxify all migraine triggers.
B vitamins and methylation control oxidative stress, which is associated with nearly all migraine triggers (study link).
Don’t take cheap vitamins!
The cheap synthetic version of folate is called folic acid.
Folate and Folic acid are often labeled as the same thing, but they are not.
Folic acid requires additional processing in the body to become folate. High levels of folic acid may even block methylfolate—the processed folate your brain likes—from reaching the brain (Study link, article).
Avoid all cheap supplements because there is a good chance that they are completely fake (NYT article).
The B vitamins you need:
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B9 (methylfolate) (Do not take folic acid)
Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) (Do not take cheap cyanocobalamin)
These four vitamins are part of methylation and necessary for migraine prevention. Methylfolate (B9) and methylcobalamin (B12) are premium versions of B vitamins that are the most important for migraine prevention. They are critical together.
According to Dr. Benjamin Lynch, a leading MTHFR gene expert, taking one without the other can even be dangerous.
He recommends lozenges from SeekingHealth that are quickly digested. (Seeking Health “active B12 with L-5-MTHF” containing 800mcg of methylfolate and 1000mcg of B12 (Amazon link).
Dr. Lynch recommends that your doctor tests your methylfolate levels, so you know how much to take.
If you don’t do this, he recommends starting off at half a tablet per day and increasing the dosage by half a tablet every seven days until you feel great.
He also recommends vitamin B3 (Niacin 50 mg) if you have any side effects (Amazon link). Vitamin B3 is nature’s counter balance to folate.
Dr. Lynch makes it clear that there is no set protocol for methylfolate and methylcobalamin.
Your genetics, lifestyle, and health conditions play a role in how supplements will affect you.
In a case study, Dr. Lynch shows that excessive amounts of vitamin B3 can be harmful when not balanced with methylfolate and methylcobalamin. However, small doses of vitamin B3 (50 mg) can also be beneficial. It’s a balancing act (case study).
Lynch points out that people with elevated glutamate may need to first stabilize glutamate levels before any type of folate is helpful. Vitamin B3 helps eliminate glutamate before it becomes toxic and causes excitotoxicity (study link). Migraines are associated with toxic levels of glutamate and excitotoxicity (study 1, 2).
Vitamin B3 also raises serotonin, which reduces migraines (study link).
Vitamin B3 has even been successful at improving mitochondrial function, suggesting that it will reduce oxidative stress and migraines (study link).
A number of studies suggest that vitamin B3 could be a powerful treatment for stopping migraines, but no conclusive studies have been performed (study link).
Without conclusive studies, we won’t know for sure how well vitamin B3 will work.
Supplementation for B vitamins is done through trial and error.
SeekingHealth also makes a B complex vitamin that contains premium versions of all your essential B vitamins: B2, B3, B6, B9, B12.
This is a well-rounded option (Amazon link).
Here are some natural sources of B vitamins:
Vitamin B2: mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, meats, seaweed, beet greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, almonds, and asparagus.
Vitamin B3: tuna, chicken, mushrooms, salmon, lamb, beef, asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, sardines, carrots, collard greens, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and eggplant.
Vitamin B6: avocados, meats, fish, nuts, lentils, spinach, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, and squash (source).
Vitamin B9: dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, beets, beans, peas, lentils, lettuce, avocados, nuts, seafood, liver poultry, meats, and numerous other fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B12: fish, meats, and poultry.
Vitamin deficiencies are common in migraine sufferers. Migraineurs often have gut problems that will impair absorption of B vitamins. While whole foods are safer, some migraineurs may need to supplement B vitamins.
- All B vitamins are critical for migraine prevention.
- Don’t take cheap forms of B vitamins that may do more harm than good.
- Methylfolate and methylcobalamin may be the most important B vitamins for migraine prevention.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) has the potential to stop migraines, but research is limited.
- B vitamins are a balancing act and you may need to try varying doses.
- B vitamins affect everyone differently and in some cases are dangerous. Speak with your doctor to make sure they are right for you.
- To learn more about methylation and the MTHFR gene, visit Dr. Benjamin Lynch at MTHFR.net