Migraines hurt. This is a gross understatement for those who are afflicted by these vicious headaches. I thought about migraines when a patient asked if there were any vitamins that could help. She had tried avoiding all migraine triggering foods, wine, aged cheeses, caffeine withdrawal, chocolate, MSG, shell fish and cow’s milk, with no luck. A few medications to help prevent migraines proved unhelpful. I always have a few options that can help with migraines. The best supplement options are magnesium and vitamin B2.
What causes a migraine and why does it hurt so much? The exact cause of migraines is not known, but researchers have a few ideas. One theory involves a three-step process. The first step is referred to as “initiation”; in this step something begins the migraine chain of events. It could be stress, food allergies or other triggers. During the second step, called “prodrome”, the body responds to these triggers by releasing blood vessel constricting substances. This causes a reduced blood flow in certain parts of the brain. It is believed this blood-flow reduction may cause the ‘aura’ that is experienced before a migraine headache attack. The third or “headache” step is where your body responds to this reduced blood flow by causing rapid blood vessel dilation. This increased blood flow might cause the pounding sensation that is felt during a migraine. This is a very simplified version of what is thought to happen. The process of trying to condense an entire theory, which is written in medical science-speak, into real English, makes my head hurt.
What are the symptoms of a migraine? They are not very pleasant. As well as the severe throbbing pain, they may include sensitivity to light and/or noise and nausea and/or vomiting. When should you contact your Doctor about your migraine? There are a few warning signs that should alert you to seek urgent medical attention:
- A very sudden headache “thunderclap”
- A headache after a blow to the head
- A headache with other seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as: numbness, vision changes, slurred speech, unusual confusion or weakness.
- An very different type of headache than is usually experienced
- A headache with symptoms of fever, stiff neck, drowsiness, vomiting and confusion.
The mineral magnesium has also shown to be helpful in reducing the frequency of migraine headaches. Often people who regularly suffer from migraines tend to have lower amounts of magnesium in their bodies. I tend to recommend up to 500mg of magnesium citrate to help prevent migraine headaches. Side effects are rare, but higher doses of magnesium tend to have a laxative-like effect. Other side effects include low blood pressure, thirst, fatigue and muscle weakness. There are some possible drug interactions with magnesium. Ask your Heart Pharmacist if higher doses of magnesium are safe to take with your medications. I feel this option should be seriously considered by anyone who regularly gets migraine headaches. It is thought that low magnesium is a major, unrecognized health concern. Luckily for my patient, taking extra magnesium reduced her frequency of migraines significantly.
Did you have a question for our Heart Pharmacists? Your question might be featured in this article. Head over to HeartPharmacy.com and contact us with your question. Or send your questions to [email protected]