Nutritional Supplements for Headache Relief
Nutritional support may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of your headaches. The supplements listed below have been proven to help many headache sufferers find relief without the need for pharmaceutical or over the counter medication. Below is a complete list of my top five recommended supplements Some of these products can be found naturally in the foods you eat, and I have listed those in the description as well.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is derived from the medicinal plant from the Daisy family. This plant is found naturally in the Balkan Mountains of Eastern Europe.
Feverfew works by preventing the constriction of blood vessels and helps to maintain central levels of serotonin. Maintaining a stable serotonin level in the body is key to preventing and reducing headache symptomatology.
This supplement is contraindicated in pregnancy, when lactating, and in children under 2 years of age.
Side effects may include gastrointestinal upset or rash. Withrdrawal symptoms include nervousness, tension, insomnia, and joint stiffness. Always follow label instructions when taking any supplement.
2. 5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-tryptophan)
5-HTP works by increasing serotonin levels. Increasing serotonin levels essentially raises your headache threshold. I describe this phenomenon in more detail here. This product has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of pain, insomnia, and depression. Unfortunately, 5-HTP is not found in food. Your body makes 5-HTP from tryptophan, another amino acid. While tryptophan is in many foods, eating more of these foods doesn't seem to have much effect on 5-HTP levels.
Warning: Do not combine 5-HTP with Imitrex or other SSRI or MAOI antidepressants. Taking more than the recommended dose may lead to serotonin syndrome. The safety of this supplement is unknown for pregnant or lactating women. If you are pregnant or lactating, please consult your healthcare professional before taking this supplement.
3. Omega-3 (EPA & DHA)
Omega-3 fatty acids increases anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body which help support brain, skin, and heart health. A good source of omega-3 fatty acids is a great supplement to improve your overall health and is a supplement I recommend to most of my patients.
It has been noted that long-term use of fish oils at more than 3-4 g/day may cause problems due to elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, or glucose levels. Side effects may include nose bleed or gastrointestinal upset. Always follow the instructions on the label when taking this supplement.
You can get this naturally through eating certain foods. The highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids are found in coldwater fish, such as sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, cod, mackerel, and halibut. These fatty acids are also found in lower concentrations in plant foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and soybeans. If you aren't eating any of these foods on a regular basis, try incorporating them into diet and see if you notice any changes.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works to correct any mitochondrial energy metabolism dysfunction. It has been proven to be effective in reducing and controlling the symptoms of migraine headaches
The supplement may cause mild diarrhea or polyuria (producing a large amount of urine). Always follow the label instructions when taking this supplement.
Riboflavin is found naturally in high concentrations in lamb and beef liver (over 100% of your daily value can be found in as little as 3 ounces!). Dairy items
like milk and yogurt also contain riboflavin. Other foods, such as: mushrooms,
spinach, almonds, salmon, and eggs all contain small amounts of riboflavin.
5. Multivitamin/Mineral (containing magnesium, vitamins B2,B6)
A great multivitamin is a must for anyone looking to better their health. There are many nutritional deficiencies that can cause headaches, which can be fixed with a well rounded multivitamin supplement. Make sure to find a multivitamin with magnesium. Magnesium helps to maintain the tone of your blood vessels, allowing for better control of your headache symptoms.
It needs to be noted that taking more than 350-500 mg of magnesium per day may cause diarrhea in some individuals. Please follow label instructions when taking any supplement.
Also note that I do understand I am recommending the Women's One A Day supplement. I have found that this supplement offers a good amount of each vitamin and mineral given the person taking this follows a normal diet. The One A Day brand offers many different multivitamins to fit your specific needs so feel free to shop around.
1. Souza, T. A. (2001). Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor (2nd ed.). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.
2. 5-htp (5-hydroxytryptophan) https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/5-htp-hydroxytryptophan
3. Products Containing Feverfew https://www.gaiaherbs.com/products/by_ingredient/102/Feverfew