When you are in the throes of a migraine headache, all you can think of is a quiet, dark room. Everything hurts when the debilitating pain of a migraine takes over your life. And if you are a chronic migraine sufferer, you’ll literally try anything and everything to get some relief.
I know how that feels. I have been suffering from chronic migraines for over 12 years now, and I there was a time I had 1-2 episodes EVERY SINGLE DAY.
In 1980s, researchers developed strong drugs to halt migraine pain once it begins. But, if the drugs are not taken within the first hour of migraine headache pain, they don’t help much. There is a variety of pain killers specifically designed to help with a migraine headache, but those drugs have serious side effects, especially if you get hooked to them because you suffer from chronic migraines. Also, people who have heart disease or renal disease cannot take these medications at all.
However, more recently, the approach to taming this lion has made a 360-degree turn. Today, prevention is the focus, as any medication taken once the migraine pain begins doesn’t guarantee 100% success rate. This theory involves disabling a migraine headache before the pain ever begins.
There is a long list of medications used for migraine treatment, especially to prevent a migraine from starting in the first place. The drugs affect brain chemicals or blood vessel inflammation that leads to migraine, and usually treatment is fine-tuned for every individual patient. From anti-seizure drugs to enzyme-blocker drugs, you’ll find a variety of treatment choices available.
The goal is to take fewer drugs, avoid many side effects, and have better control of the beast. For example, you become aware of your pattern of getting a migraine headache, learn what triggers it, and take certain drugs during your own window of vulnerability – that is, the brief window of time you can most benefit from a drug.
Sadly, these drugs also come with side-effects of their own. They could PREVENT a migraine, but not without adversely affecting your body. However, my personal experience has taught me that there is a simple way to decrease the frequency and severity of a migraine headache, and that too without negative side effects. The solution – Vitamin B12 supplements.
Vitamin B12 and Migraine
Today, researchers across the globe 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.
Personally, I was prescribed Vitamin B12 about a year ago for a neurological problem. I have been on the supplement for 13 months now, and believe me; my chronic migraine is truly tamed! From having a minimum of 1 migraine episode to maximum of 2 migraine episodes every single day of my adult life (I started getting migraines when I was 18 years old), today I usually get a migraine only about 5 days of a month, during menstruation or if I have too many meetings lined up in a day which require me to travel around a lot on a hot, sunny day. Even then, I have noticed that the severity has gone down drastically. A simple pain killer with Ibuprofen is all I need, and within 30 minutes I am pain-free.
So what makes Vitamin B12 so special?
Getting to Know Vitamin B12
Vitamin B-12, or Cobalamin, is the largest and most complex vitamin currently known to man. A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long term deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system.
Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria and can only be found naturally in animal products. This is why; most vegetarians and vegans could easily have a Vitamin B12 deficiency. However, synthetic forms are widely available and added to many foods like cereals.
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.
The best thing about Vitamin B12 – it can be consumed in large doses because excess is excreted by the body or stored in the liver for use when supplies are scarce. Stores of B12 can last for up to a year. Therefore, it comes with NO side effects at all!
Theories Connecting Vitamin B12 To Migraine Relief
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.”
Researchers in the Netherlands sought to test B-12 deficiency as a cause of migraines by administering Intranasal Hydroxocobalamin, one of the most effective ways to get a natural form of vitamin B-12 which is inhaled through the nose, to chronic headache and migraine patients. Their findings revelaed:
– Over half the participants saw a 50% or greater decrease in frequency of migraines from the treatment.
– 63% of participants experienced a 30% or greater reduction in frequency of attacks when receiving the treatments.
Foods High In Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 can be consumed in higher doses, especially because the body will excrete out the excess.
However, this Vitamin is only naturally found in animal products, most of which are also high in saturated fats.
Here is a list of foods with a high rate of Vitamin B12 per serving size:
– Shellfish – Mussels, Clams and Oysters
– Liver – Beef, Liverwurst Sausage, Fois Gras, Chicken Liver
– Fish – Mackerel, Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Trout and Sardines
– Crustaceans – Crabs, Crayfish, Lobster and Shrimp
– Fortified Soy Products – Soymilk and Silken Tofu
– Fortified Cereals – All Bran variety (Look for “Fortified With Vitamin B12” on the box)
– Red Meat – Beef, Lamb, Mutton
– Dairy Products – Milk, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese
– Cheese – Mozzarella, Feta, Tilsit, Parmesan and Gietost
– Poultry – Chicken, Turkey, Quail, Duck
– Eggs – Primarily Chicken, but also eggs from Goose, Turkey and Quail
As you can see, most of the above mentioned foods high in Vitamin B12 are high cholesterol foods, and hence should be eaten in moderate amounts and largely avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke.
The good news is that Vitamin B12 supplements are easily available at local pharmacists and are a good way to increase your Vitamin B12 intake. You can take anything between 500mg and 1000mg per day, as advised by your physician.
Please note: Vitamin B12 injections are also available. However, these are not better than the oral pills when it comes to migraine prevention.
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 2009 study published in “Pharmacogenetics and Genomics” found that a combination of folic acid, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 was very effective in reducing Homocysteine, thus reducing migraine disability by 30%, 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. It’s worked like a miracle for me; I’m sure it’ll help many of you who suffer from migraines and haven’t tried this course of treatment yet. However, I strongly recommend that you consult with your physician before using these supplements.
If like me, you too suffer from chronic migraines, here is an article that could help you out: Living A Better Life With Migraine.