As common as they are, migraines are not well understood by both experts and ordinary people. Nearly 15% of the world population have migraines, with women having double the risk of experiencing them.
Although we’re well aware that certain foods can trigger migraines in some people, scientists do not agree regarding a specific dietary supplement that could help reduce one’s risk of a migraine. An exciting new finding in this realm of research has been discovered recently. The study claims that vitamin B1 can reduce the risk of migraines.
Nutrition and migraines
First things first, let’s establish that migraines are not the same as headaches. Although a major pounding or throbbing headache is often a symptom of a migraine, it’s not always present. Migraines are a chronic neurological disease that causes light and sound sensitivity, numbness, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, visual disturbances, and even speech impairments.
Thus, saying that headaches and migraines are the same is a massive understatement. Clear other migraine misconceptions here - The Biggest Migraine Myths You Should Be Aware Of.
Researchers have been trying to link specific nutrients to a decreased risk of migraines for decades. Previous studies have claimed that a diet high in vitamin D, omega-3 fats, and vitamin B2 might reduce one’s likelihood of getting migraines. It is for this reason that physicians sometimes recommend vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and not vitamin B1, to prevent migraines in people who get them often.
In a surprising turn of events, it was not vitamin B2 but its cousin, thiamine (vitamin B1) that lowered the risk of migraines in a large study published recently in the Headache journal. The research drew data from a survey that included 13,439 people and found that vitamin B1 cut the frequency of migraines by 7%, especially in women. The same study found no association between vitamin B2 and migraines.
How can Vitamin B1 reduce migraines?
Although this was the first large study to confirm the link between migraine prevention and vitamin B1, there was some previous research hinting at this connection. A 2016 case report revealed that vomiting caused by migraine can lead to vitamin B1 deficiency and more migraines. According to this case study, vitamin B1 supplements could be used to break this migraine cycle.
It’s also important to note that vitamin B1 deficiency often causes symptoms similar to those of migraine:
- Nausea and vomiting
- No appetite
- Skin numbness
- Pins and needles sensation in the hands and face
Scientists say that it’s a bit too early to recommend vitamin B1 as a prevention strategy for migraine at this point. We still need other studies to confirm these findings. That said, those who experience migraines are encouraged to pay more attention to the amount of vitamin B1 in their foods or check their thiamine levels on the next routine health check.
Some of the best sources of thiamin include:
- Whole grains
- Beef, pork, fish, and liver
- Spinach and kale.
Finally, note that Vitamin B1 is present in countless foods, so the vast majority of people probably don’t need to take supplements to reach their daily levels of this vitamin. Talk to your doctor to assess your levels of vitamins or any other migraine treatments.