Vitamins spilling out of an open bottle

What to Expect When You Take Vitamins for Migraines

Did you ever truly listen to the list of side effects in some of these pharmaceutical commercials. "May cause headache, diarrhea, liver damage, or in some cases, sudden death." What?

The list of side effects for some medications can be terrifying at best. Sometimes they list risks that are greater than the reason you're taking medication in the first place.

My proactive approach to health

That is why I do my best to be as proactive with managing my health through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies. This is not to suggest that I don't take medicine. When I'm in the throes of a full blow migraine - get me my medication ASAP.

But I do actively explore natural approaches to be proactive in minimizing my risk for getting a migraine. Vitamins and supplements have played a big role in that plan for me.

Supplements I've tried

I was fortunate to have a neurologist that actually brought these supplements to my attention after I expressed a strong interest as proactive and natural an approach as possible.

Feverfew: an herbal plant native to Asia whose leaves are dried and used for medicinal purposes.

Butterbur: a plant extract from a shrub native to Europe, Asia and parts of North America and used for natural remedies.

Omega 3s: Fatty acids found in certain fish such as salmon and plant sources such as chia seeds. The two most crucial fatty acids are EPA and DHA, and ALA is plant-based.

Magnesium: a mineral that is essential for so many functions in our body and brain. There are many different types of magnesium as well as many ways to take it - capsule, powder, gel, etc...

I took all of these supplements when I was in a bad cycle of migraines and they brought me great relief. But the experience was different from that of taking prescription drugs.

Lessons learned

Here's what I’ve learned from taking vitamins and supplements:

Inform your doctor

Doctors are most often trained exclusively in pharmaceutical medicine, but some are more diverse with vitamins, supplements, and other holistic treatments. Regardless of their belief in your approach to integrating the best of both worlds, always inform them of any and all supplements that you’re taking. It’s important to have it in your record should there be any contraindications with current or future treatment plans.

Quality matters 

When prescribed medication, you go to the pharmacy and your insurance either covers the brand name or the generic. There's not a lot of options outside of that you have to decide upon. However, when purchasing supplements, there's a wide range of selections. You can purchase them at your local grocery store, pharmacy, online and many other places.

Quality matters. There are unfortunately a lot of supplements on the shelves that don't actually have the active ingredients that they claim to have. This New York Times article explains further: Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem to Be.

This should not discourage us from taking supplements. In my experience, they still work and are great natural resources that can be just as effective with fewer side effects on the body. However, it does mean that we need to be purchasing supplements from a trusted source/brand. Try not to just follow the best sale. And this is coming from the girl who lives on coupons and sales. But supplements may not be the best time to bargain hunt.

Do your research, find a quality brand, and if/when possible order directly from the manufacturer versus amazon. There's a chance that the inventory of supplements sold on Amazon has been sitting for a while and could have been compromised or close to its expiration date.

Give it time 

Once I’ve chosen a quality supplement, I like to give it about 30 days before I determine if it’s working for me or not. Supplements work very differently in the body than prescription drugs do. They need time to work. Some will work faster than others. I know when taking fish oil, for example, I need about a solid month before I feel the full benefits. But when I do take them, the migraines are significantly reduced.

Don’t stop 

Once you start taking supplements and feeling the benefits of them it’s easy to forget that they’re the piece of the puzzle that reduced your risk of migraines and before you know it you stop taking them. You may not feel the negative effects of stopping them right away because they’re working in your body for a short bit even after you stop taking them. However, you may revert back to how you felt before taking them. So, if you find something that works, stick with it.

Deciding how you want to manage your health is always a personal decision and one that’s best made with the support of your medical care team. But always remember, knowledge is power, so educate yourself and trust your gut.


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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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