Can Vitamins & Minerals Cause Headaches?
No one likes to experience the burden of migraines and headaches. They can significantly alter an individual's quality of life which is why it's important to get to the bottom of them.
Headaches can be caused by nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, and vitamin B2 deficiency.
Most people take supplements in order to help them feel better, but can vitamins and minerals also cause headaches?
It's important to remember that vitamins and minerals affect each person differently and they can potentially cause side effects.
The intake of vitamins and supplements usually does not cause headaches, as adverse side effects are typically associated with high doses of vitamins or minerals which can result in toxicity levels.
If you do experience frequent or severe headaches it's time to do some investigating in order to determine what the underlying causes could be.
Migraines are a type of headache that cause severe pain and may include a collection of neurological symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, tingling, numbness, and sensitivity to light.
Let's explore the effects that dietary supplements may have on headaches and migraines below:
Unlike water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A can accumulate in the body and when taken in excess can reach toxicity levels causing potential side effects.
Toxicity is rare from dietary intake of vitamin A and is usually associated with supplemental doses of over 100,000 units. Food sources of preformed vitamin A include cod liver oil, beef liver, chicken liver, eggs, butter, and fortified dairy products.
Hypervitaminosis A, also known as vitamin A toxicity, occurs when you have too much vitamin A in your body. Oral vitamin A toxicity can be acute or chronic. Acute toxicity can come from large doses of vitamin A during a short period of time, while chronic toxicity is associated with long-term use of oral vitamin A.
Side effects of excess intake of vitamin A may include vision changes, bone pain, dry or rough skin, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
Excess vitamin A can trigger increased intracranial pressure and cause headaches to occur. Generally, migraines triggered by vitamin A toxicity will resolve by stopping supplementation of vitamin A depending on the severity.
It is recommended to consult your doctor before supplementing especially if you are pregnant as vitamin A toxicity during pregnancy can cause irreversible effects such as birth defects.
Mega doses of vitamin C, just like any nutrient, can have toxic health effects on the body.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin which means that it is not stored in the body and excreted when consumed in excess.
This is why these vitamins need to be regularly consumed and replenished.
Most often the first signs of reaching excess levels are gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps.
Conversely, vitamin C can help to treat migraines in the case of vitamin C deficiency which is typically more common than toxicity.
Oxidative stress is considered to play a significant role in the development of migraines and vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant vitamin. As a result, this vitamin has been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of headaches (1).
Deficiency of the B vitamins has been associated with chronic headaches. Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, appears to be particularly effective at preventing headaches.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is thought to play a role in certain types of migraines (2). Riboflavin is required for mitochondrial function, the production of red blood cells, and protection against oxidative stress, making it a potential natural treatment for migraine headaches (3)(4)(5).
Those who fail to meet adequate intake of riboflavin may be more susceptible to experiencing headaches.
Vitamin D deficiency is rather common among the general population and can cause a multitude of side effects including frequent infections, fatigue, bone pain, muscle pain, depression, impaired wound healing, bone loss, and headaches.
Research has explored the relationship between vitamin D and migraine headaches, demonstrating that a high proportion of patients suffering from migraines also suffer from low vitamin D levels and that vitamin D supplementation might help to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks (7).
Another study found that a larger number of monthly days associated with headaches was related to vitamin D deficiency among migraine patients (8).
Supplementation with vitamin D may play a role in migraine prevention in the case of deficiency and improve migraine symptoms. It is recommended to assess your vitamin D levels with your doctor in order to verify your status and determine if supplementation is required.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D for adults is 600 international units for males and females, however, dosing is often increased when deficiency is determined.
Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant produced by the body and that declines with age. It has a multitude of health benefits and may even work to reduce and prevent migraines.
CoQ10 is generally recognized as safe with few side effects reported.
It's important to note that the form of coQ10 does affect absorption and efficacy. The ubiquinol form is more easily absorbed than the ubiquinone form and is most preferred.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in response to darkness. It is well known for its role in sleep regulation and helping you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Not only has a lack of sleep been associated with headaches but low melatonin levels have as well.
Melatonin levels have been found to be decreased among cluster headache patients and a lack of melatonin may predispose to nighttime and daytime attacks (12).
A study found that patients suffering from chronic migraines had lower levels of melatonin measured in their urine compared to controls and there was a strong correlation between the concentration of melatonin detected and the occurrence of chronic migraines (13).
Clinical trials have shown that the administration of melatonin supplements at night is effective for migraine prevention and even for the treatment of episodic cluster headaches (14).
Supplementation with melatonin has reported efficacy in reducing frequent headaches while also decreasing the severity and length of migraine attacks (15).
Melatonin has been studied as a short-term preventative treatment at a dosage of 3 mg nightly. Treatment generally lasts for up to 8 weeks among adults.
More studies are needed to assess its effectiveness and safety for longer treatment protocols to help reduce headache symptoms.
While melatonin has few known side effects it can interact with certain medications therefore it is recommended to consult with your doctor before supplementing if you are taking prescription drugs.