Vitamin B6 for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction
Vitamin B6 is a vitamin that helps the immune system produce antibodies that are needed to fight diseases. It dissolves in water and the body doesn’t store any leftover amounts of Vitamin B6, it leaves the body through the urine. Because of this, people need a constant supply of Vitamin B6 in their diet.
Vitamin B6 helps the body break down protein, so people who eat large amounts of protein need more of this vitamin.
Food Containing Vitamin B6
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Baked potatoes with skin
- Whole grains
- Peanut Butter
- Fortified breads
- Tuna Fish
Migraine headache vitamin treatment: Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 contains three major chemicals: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine. Pyridoxine is necessary for the body use the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals are thought to play a part in how migraine attacks occur. Too little of this vitamin can lead to depression, irritability and confusion as well as sores on the tongue and mouth. It is also necessary for the nervous system to function correctly. Low levels of Vitamin B6 may have other effects on the brain which might lead to migraine attacks.
How Vitamin B6 works to help migraine sufferers
Vitamin B6 is needed so the body can properly use serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are necessary for normal nerve cell communication. Researchers have found lower levels of serotonin in people with migraine headaches. Therefore taking Vitamin B6 may help the body better use these crucial chemicals and it is thought be a key vitamin for migraine aura and a natural remedy for migraines.
Studies on Vitamin B6 and Migraines
A 2009 study of 52 migraine suffers who have migraine with aura examined the effectiveness of a combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid. For six months, each day patients either received the vitamins (2 mg of folic acid, 25 mg of vitamin B6 and 400 micrograms of B12) or an inactive placebo. Those taking the vitamins had less severe migraines attacks and fewer attacks. The vitamin group also reported that the disability related to their migraines fell from 60 percent to 30 percent, compared to no change in those who took the placebo. The vitamins also did a much better job of reducing the levels of homocysteine. Many people with migraines have been found to have high levels of the amino acid homcysteine.
Formulations of Vitamin B6 available
Side effects and other precautions
High doses of Vitamin B6, particularly more than 500 mg per day, may be associated with more side effects.
Too much Vitamin B6 can cause numbness and damage to the nerves in the arms and legs, which usually goes away when the person stops taking Vitamin B6 supplements.
Other side effects include:
- Skin reactions
- Allergic reactions
- Sensitivity to light
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Increased liver function tests
- Odd sensations on the skin such as numbness, tingling, pricking or burning
- Nerve damage
- Breast soreness or enlargement
- Decreased levels of folic acid
- Seizures after large doses
- Low muscle tone
- Respiratory distress, sudden breathlessness in infants
Who should nottake vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 and interactions with medications
Several drugs interfere with the body’s metabolism of Vitamin B6. Therefore, you most speak to your doctor about any medications you take before beginning to take Vitamin B6 supplements or any supplement or over-the-counter remedy.
Some of the drugs that interfere with Vitamin B6 include:
- Phenytoin (an antiepileptic drug)
- Theophylline (a drug for respiratory diseases)
- Phenobarbitone (a barbiturate mainly used for its antiepileptic properties)
- Desoxypyridoxine, an effective antimetabolite
- Isoniazid (a tuberculostatic drug)
- Hydralazine (an antihypertensive)
- Cycloserine (an antibiotic)
- Penicillamine (used in treatment of Wilson’s disease)
Also, Vitamin B6 reduces the effect of levodopa (L-DOPA) — a naturally occurring amino acid used to treat Parkinson’s disease — by accelerating its metabolism.
As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.