It is estimated that up to 26 million Americans suffer from Migraine headaches and it is considered one of the top reasons for missed work and loss of production. A debilitating Migraine headache can last from 4 to 72 hours and can be accompanied by intense pain, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, vertigo, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. After affects of a migraine can leave the sufferer drained and without energy accompanied by a low grade headache with oversensitivity to light and sound and can last for another 24 hours.
Most Migraine headaches sufferers cannot identify what triggers the headaches and a long and varied list exists that differs with each individual. The same factors do not necessarily trigger a Migraine on a consistent basis either. Statistically, women are more prone to Migraines than men with claims that the decline in estrogen during menstruation is the trigger and the onset can begin immediately to a few days delay.
Considered a vascular headache, Migraines start with the enlargement of the temporal artery which is located between the skin and skull at the temple. This enlargement stretches the nerves that coil around the temporal artery causing these nerves to release chemicals into the system. A snowball effect takes places since these chemicals cause inflammation and pain which further enlarge the temporal artery and stretching the nerves further. A Migraine will often activate the sympathetic nervous system which is reported to react to stress and pain. This increased activity affects the intestines causing vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea and contributes to the sensitivity to light and sound.
Due to the inconsistency of triggering factors and the headaches themselves Migraines have been difficult to treat. Many prescription drugs are available including the controversial and highly expensive use of Botox that is claimed to interrupt the pain pathways but these medications offer treatment and not prevention.
Vitamin B2 and Migraines
With prevention being the goal it appears that Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may prevent Migraines in almost 40% of sufferers. In clinical studies patients taking 400mg of Vitamin B2 daily displayed a 37% decrease in Migraine headaches and a drop in the number of days the headache affected them. The effects of the increased Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) ingestion begin in as little as 30 days and appear to work best after 3 months and benefited those who suffer from moderate Migraines 3 to 4 times a month.
Vitamin B2 is required for proper cell mitochondria function and when a deficiency occurs it is suggested that this may trigger Migraines in many individuals. This low cost alternative may not work for every Migraine sufferer but to knock out 30% to 40% is a big plus.
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Other inroads into preventing this complex interaction of genetic, environmental, and neurological variables include stress release since anger or frustration is being narrowed down as one of the key triggers, again with a delayed action of one to two days. Wheat, sugar, and some grains are also being held responsible for Migraines but more often this appears to affect individuals with specific blood types other than sufferers in general. But, diet is quite possibly playing a major role with many avenues that need to be explored. Another effective therapy may be administering bright light in 30 minute doses every other day, much like treating seasonal disorders, where a clinical reduction in Migraine headaches was reported. This treatment may sound surprising since Migraines sufferers usually avoid light during the onset of a headache. The bright light is claimed to possibly elevate concentrations of several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, in the brain.
With Migraine headaches costing $18 Billion in drugs, emergency room and doctor visits, time off work and loss of productivity, not to mention the loss of quality lifestyle a cure or prevention may only be a Vitamin B2 supplement away.
Thomas Recker is a contributing editor