Magnesium & Riboflavin for Headaches

Taking magnesium and riboflavin supplements may bring pain relief to those who suffer from migraines. It may also help those who suffer from a rare but extremely painful type of headache, known as a cluster headache. Magnesium is essential for maintaining health and is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is one of the eight B vitamins that help the body convert carbohydrates into the glucose or "fuel" used to create energy.

  1. Types of Headaches

    • The main types of headaches can be put into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches include tension headaches associated with muscular contractions, vascular headaches (migraines) and cluster headaches, which have no known underlying medical condition as a cause. Secondary headaches generally occur as a result of other medical conditions. Secondary headaches include traction headaches, which are caused by organic diseases involving structures within the head, and inflammatory headaches, which are caused by infectious diseases such as sinus infections.


    • During a migraine headache, changes in the blood flow within the brain take place. First the blood vessels in the brain begin to constrict or narrow, which can create visual disturbances, weakness, numbness, slurred speech, a tingling sensation in one area or similar symptoms. As the episode progresses, the blood vessels begin to dilate or become larger, which leads to increased blood flow in the brain and the onset of a severe headache. Taking magnesium and riboflavin for headaches may decrease the occurrence of blood flow changes.


    • There appears to be a hereditary tendency for migraine headaches. More than 50 percent of migraine sufferers have a family member also afflicted with these incapacitating headaches. A number of triggers can set off a migraine attack: alcohol consumption, certain foods like chocolate or dairy products, hormone fluctuations (menstrual cycle), caffeine, crying and stress, sleep deprivation, strong odors, hunger and smoking. The University of California, Berkeley offers a list of general triggers and food triggers for migraine attacks. (See the link under Resources for this article.)


    • Magnesium is crucial to more than 300 biochemical reactions going on in the body, including regulating blood sugar levels, promoting normal blood pressure and aiding with protein synthesis and energy conversion. Magnesium also helps stabilize blood vessel walls, which may at least partially account for its role in treating migraine headaches. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, many migraine sufferers have a magnesium deficiency or levels that are lower than those who do not suffer from migraines. Three of the major culprits in migraine attacks--alcohol, menstruation and stress--also deplete magnesium levels in the blood. Food sources of magnesium include seafood, whole grains, soy products, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, wheat germ, milk and bananas, although bananas can trigger migraines in some people.


    • Riboflavin's role in treating migraine headaches is less clear. The B complex vitamins--riboflavin is one--help the body break down fats and proteins. They are necessary for maintaining a healthy liver, skin, hair and eyes, and they help the nervous system function properly. Riboflavin is an antioxidant, which works to neutralize free radicals in the body, thereby reducing or preventing the damage they cause. Two symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include eye fatigue and light sensitivity, which are also triggers for and symptoms of migraine headaches. Food sources for riboflavin include liver, legumes, eggs, fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, milk, cheese and other dairy products.


    • More studies need to be done on riboflavin as a migraine treatment, but indications are that it is an effective and inexpensive way to decrease the frequency of migraine attacks when taken in a high dose of 400 mg daily. It has been proposed that riboflavin increases low brain energy production in migraine sufferers. The urine may become slightly orange when riboflavin supplements are taken. Magnesium has been shown to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks when sufferers took 200 to 600 mg of magnesium daily. Side effects from magnesium supplements may include diarrhea and lower blood pressure. It is advisable to consult with your physician before starting any supplement regimen.

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