Thursday, September 24, 2020

Nutrients That Treat Migraines


For those of you who suffer with migraines, I’ve got some exciting news for you. As a neurologist who takes care of migraine sufferers on a daily basis, I was certainly pleased to see the results of a recently reported study.

Migraine, which affects approximately 20 million people in this country, can be extremely disabling. For those of you who are not headache sufferers, you should count your lucky stars. There are many patients who suffer with headaches, literally on a daily basis. Although there are many drugs available, to both protect against and eliminate migraines, unfortunately they can be associated with side effects.

Beneficial nutrients to combat headache and migraines

This blog post will focus on the benefits of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and other nutrients for optimal neurological function. Pick up any medical school-level biochemistry book and you will learn that CoQ10, magnesium and the B vitamins are essential for optimal cellular energy production, via the Krebs cycle. This chemical cycle produces the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from glucose molecules.

The Krebs cycle occurs within the mitochondria, the power plants of the cells, which enable the cells to survive and function properly. It appears that many diseases may be caused by the failure of the cellular mitochondria. As a result, the cells do not receive adequate ATP, the essential fuel for energy, from the Krebs cycle and mitochondria. Numerous studies have shown that a lack of antioxidants and other critical nutrients leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart failure and many others. Now for the evidence.


In the journal Cephalalgia, from approximately two years ago, researchers from my alma mater (Jefferson Medical College) reported on an open label trial using CoQ10.

Thirty-two patients were enrolled in this study. All patients were given 150 mg daily of CoQ10. At the baseline of the study, on average, patients suffered with over 7 days of headaches per month. By the end of the 3-month study, the average patient had less than 3 days of headaches per month, which was highly statistically significant.

What was interesting in the study was that the longer the patients took the CoQ10, the more effective the response. The reduction in migraine frequency after one month was only 13%, but by the end of the 3 months, it was up to 55%. The authors of the studies concluded that a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study was necessary.

Last week at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in San Francisco, researchers out of Zurich, Switzerland reported on such a study. Forty-two patients were enrolled in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, and on average, they suffered with almost 4½ migraine attacks per month. Half of the patients were randomly assigned to receive CoQ10 100 mg three times daily, with the other group receiving placebo.

Approximately half of those patients that took CoQ10 had a 50% response rate during the 3-month trial, while only 14% of those patients taking placebo noted any improvement. The number of overall migraine attacks per month decreased from 4.4 to 3.2. There was no change in the placebo group. In addition, patients taking CoQ10 not only had fewer days of headache, but also fewer days of nausea. The nutrient was extremely well-tolerated.

Other Helpful Nutrients

There are other nutrients that can also be beneficial for migraine. It has been shown in clinical studies that patients with migraine generally have an overall reduction in total body stores of magnesium. Intravenous magnesium has actually been used successfully to abort acute migraine attacks.

Another interesting nutrient that appears to help headaches is called 5-HTP. This is a precursor of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain, and low levels are clearly associated with pain and depression. Not only has 5-HTP been shown to have some benefit for migraines, but it can also assist in weight loss by curbing appetite and improving mood, and it actually produces improved sleep. The B vitamins are also important, especially riboflavin. There was actually a study in the journal Neurology indicating that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) was an effective migraine prophylactic (protects from disease).

For general migraine protection, I plan to recommend to my patients 200 mg of CoQ10 twice daily. Magnesium, typically 400-600 mg daily, has been a recommendation of mine for the last few years. I have many success stories with patients taking magnesium as protection against migraine. I find it especially useful in pregnant migraine sufferers, where treatment options are extremely limited.

For 5-HTP, I would recommend 100 or 200 mg at bedtime. Additionally, I recommend to my migraine sufferers a good, general antioxidant multi-nutrient product.


Supplements that contain 10 times the CoQ10 that the typical diet provides, are recommended for migraine headache patients. Recommended are both softgels and capsules, which utilize the 100% pharmaceutical grade, all-natural trans form of CoQ10 from Japan.

The softgels do provide enhanced absorption with the utilization of rice bran oil and additional antioxidants, including natural vitamin E and natural beta-carotene.

For the last couple of years, I have been regularly recommending CoQ10 to my patients with Parkinson’s disease. A previous clinical trial demonstrated effectiveness for this nutrient at 300, 600 and 1,200 mg per day for Parkinson’s disease, with the highest dose being the most effective. I look forward to now telling my patients about the benefits of CoQ10 for migraine.

References & Further Reading:

Writes in the lane of nutrition and natural treatment.

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