08 July, 2011
If you have recurring headaches, one possible explanation is that you're suffering from one or more vitamin deficiencies. If this is the case, you may be able to reduce the incidence of headaches by taking a daily multivitamin or a specific supplement for the vitamins you're not getting from your diet. Your physician can help you identify vitamin deficiencies through blood tests and explain what the results mean.
According to "Trigger Point Therapy for Headaches & Migraines: Your Self-Treatment Workbook for Pain Relief" by Valerie DeLaune, vitamin C deficiency may contribute to headaches. Vitamin C is responsible for strengthening blood capillaries, which can affect blood flow in the brain, and for synthesizing norepinephrine and serotonin, two essential neurotransmitters. Insufficient levels of these neurotransmitters can affect the way you process stress, which may lead to stress-related headaches. Citrus fruits, broccoli and green leafy vegetables are all good dietary sources of this vitamin.
Like vitamin C, vitamin B6 is also responsible for synthesizing neurotransmitters, potentially affecting the incidence of headaches and the brain's pain receptors, according to DeLaune. Deficiency of this vitamin will also reduce your ability to store and absorb vitamin B12, which can have a significant effect on headaches. Furthermore, B6 is critical to ensuring the function of all other B-complex vitamins, so a B6 deficiency may cause symptoms of any or all B-vitamin deficiencies.
Frequent alcohol consumption and the use of oral contraceptives can reduce your body's B6 levels, and B6 deficiency can result in a sensitivity to the food additive monosodium glutamate, or MSG, resulting in headaches, according to "The Doctor's Guide to Vitamin B6" by Alan Gaby. Poultry, fish and eggs are all potent sources of B6.
DeLaune states that vitamin B12 is essential for sufficient red blood cell production and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Deficiency of this vitamin, therefore, robs all tissues of oxygen, resulting in chronic and worsening pain that includes headaches. In addition to B6, vitamin B12 cannot properly perform its functions without folic acid, another B-complex vitamin. Deficiencies of either B12 or folic acid can be independent of one another, but will manifest with the same symptoms. Good dietary sources of B12 include beef, chicken and fish.
If you're monitoring your vitamin intake and suffering from chronic headaches, you may want to check your intake of vitamin A. According to "The Natural Health Guide to Headache Relief: The Definitive Handbook of Natural Remedies for Treating Every Kind of Headache Pain" by Paula Maas and Deborah Mitchell, vitamin A is fat-soluble and can build up to toxic levels in fat cells. MayoClinic.com identifies the daily recommended dose of vitamin A as 3,000 IU for men and 2,300 IU for women. Maas and Mitchell warn that doses in excess of 60,000 will cause headaches.
- "Trigger Point Therapy for Headaches & Migraines: Your Self-Treatment Workbook for Pain Relief"; Valerie DeLaune; 2008
- "The Doctor's Guide to Vitamin B6"; Alan Gaby; 1984
- "The Natural Health Guide to Headache Relief: the Definitive Handbook of Natural Remedies for Treating Every Kind of Headache Pain"; Paula Maas, Deborah Mitchell; 1997
- Mayo Clinic: Vitamin A -- Dosing
- "Outwitting Headaches: The Eight-Part Program for Total and Lasting Headache Relief"; Mark V. Wiley; 2004
- Daily Vitamins and Minerals image by LynWatanabe.com from Fotolia.com