What Is the Connection between Riboflavin and Migraines?

Jillian O Keeffe
Jillian O Keeffe
Riboflavin does not cause dangerous side effects in most migraine sufferers.
Riboflavin does not cause dangerous side effects in most migraine sufferers.

Riboflavin is an essential requirement of the human body. It is also known as vitamin B2. There is some evidence that riboflavin supplements reduce the number of migraine headaches in chronic sufferers. One possible explanation of the interaction between riboflavin and migraines is that this effect may be due to a defect in cellular energy production that is alleviated by extra riboflavin.

Patients who suffer frequent migraines should consult their physician before taking large doses of riboflavin or other vitamins.
Patients who suffer frequent migraines should consult their physician before taking large doses of riboflavin or other vitamins.

The function of riboflavin is to help produce adenine triphosphate (ATP), which carries energy around the cell. It is also an essential component in cell membranes and in the Krebs cycle, which is an important part of cell metabolism. A possible explanation for the correlation between riboflavin and migraines is that the patient's cells have problems metabolizing energy properly, and the riboflavin helps improve the condition. The vitamin is also necessary for skin, digestive tract, and blood cell health.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that supplementation with riboflavin may be effective in reducing the number of migraines that occur in a patient. A dose of 400 milligrams per day, the NIH proposes, is enough for patients to show an improvement in the condition. The dose may have to be taken for up to three months, however, for the improvements to be noticeable.

Found in many foods, riboflavin is especially high in dairy foods such as milk and yogurt. Broccoli, whole grains, and almonds also contain high levels. According to the NIH, riboflavin is "likely safe" for the majority of people at the recommended daily levels, which are far below the artificial dose used for migraine prevention. The effects of high doses on pregnant and breast-feeding women are not known, so supplementation in these cases is not recommended without the approval of a doctor.

For most people, however, riboflavin does not have any known dangerous side effects. Diarrhea and increased urination were the only side effects noted in the riboflavin and migraines studies. Unusual orange or yellow-colored urine is also a possibility.

Apart from the possible connection between riboflavin and migraines, the vitamin can also prevent cataracts. One the other hand, riboflavin supplementation has not been confirmed by scientists to affect acne, cervical cancer, or Alzheimer's disease. A potential benefit for migraine sufferers who respond well to riboflavin supplements is that the amount of painkillers necessary to control the pain is reduced, and therefore the risk of side effects from those medications is lessened.

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    • Riboflavin does not cause dangerous side effects in most migraine sufferers.
      By: Subbotina Anna
      Riboflavin does not cause dangerous side effects in most migraine sufferers.
    • Patients who suffer frequent migraines should consult their physician before taking large doses of riboflavin or other vitamins.
      By: vbaleha
      Patients who suffer frequent migraines should consult their physician before taking large doses of riboflavin or other vitamins.