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Does Vitamin B2 Prevent Migraines?

Dr. Carolyn Bernstein, an attending neurologist and headache specialist at the Arnold Pain Management Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, talks about vitamin B2 and other natural ways to prevent migraines.

Q. What does the research say about the role of vitamin B2 in preventing migraines?

A. Based on the research that's been done so far, it does look like taking a vitamin B2 supplement may help decrease both the frequency of the headaches and their severity for some patients. In addition, it's safe, you can take it when you're pregnant, and it can't doesn't cause toxicity. I think more research about outcomes is needed, but overall, there are few downsides to taking vitamin B2 (also called riboflavin) in a reasonable amount.

Q. What is the recommended dosage?

A. I recommend 400 mg/day. There is no data to support the idea that taking more than this is helpful.

Q. What foods contain vitamin B2?

A. In addition to supplements, vitamin B2 is found naturally in green leafy vegetables, liver, legumes, eggs, milk, cheese, dairy products and fortified breads and cereals.

Q. What about Coenzyme Q10 and Magnesium? Can they prevent migraines as well?

A. Both Coenzyme Q10 and Magnesium can be helpful in preventing migraines, and magnesium has been shown to help reduce menstrual migraines for some patients. If you decide to take any of these vitamins or minerals, I suggest you use a headache diary to track your headaches for three months to see if they work for you.

Q. Who should consider these natural remedies?

A. These vitamins and minerals are recommended for people who can't tolerate the preventative medications due to side effects, etc. or prefer not to take prescription medication. And if you decide to take a natural supplement, you can still take triptans to stop a headache in progress.

Q. Are there any drawbacks or side effects?

A. It's hard to say, since everyone tolerates things differently. For instance, some people get diarrhea if they take too much magnesium.

Q. Finally, what is your opinion on some of the herbal treatments, like feverfew and butterbur?

A. I think more research is needed, but a lot of people do seem to respond to these when taken preventatively, and they are safe for many people to use. They are certainly worth considering; I would just caution people to follow the directions and only take the recommended dosage. And, if you decide to take any herbal supplement, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted October 2009

Contact Information

Arnold Pain Management Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
One Brookline Place, Suite 105
Brookline, MA 02445
617-278-8000
617-278-8065