What Supplements Can Prevent Migraines in My Child?

A Closer Look at Nutritional Supplements for Pediatric Migraine Prevention

Anxious student rubbing head
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Migraines occur in about 11 percent of children and this number only increases during adolescence. The  potential emotional toll migraines play on children, in addition to the obvious physical pain that accompanies a migraine attack, makes parents (and doctors) desperate for well-researched migraine therapy in the pediatric population.

Migraine Therapy

Adults have the benefit of considering multiple options when choosing a medication for migraine prevention.

Children, on the other hand, are at a disadvantage. There are simply very few studies that examine migraine therapy, both preventive and abortive, in the pediatric population. This includes the use of nutritional supplements, which adults frequently utilize in their headache management.

Migraine Prevention in Children

So what supplements can children take for migraine prevention? Well, the answer to this is unfortunately poorly-researched. Nevertheless, scientists in a study in Cephalalgia did make a few recommendations based on the research that is available.

The researchers examined thirty studies on six distinct nutritional supplements: butterbur, riboflavin, ginkoglide B, magnesium, coenzyme Q, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

What Did They Recommend?

  • Butterbur (but only Petadolex)
  • Magnesium (but only certain formulations)
  • Coenzyme Q10

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is a perennial shrub found in Europe and certain areas of Asia.

Traditionally, it was used as therapy for pain, fever, spasms, and wound healing. Now, it is a relatively common alternative therapy used for migraine prevention. In fact, the American Academy of Neurology designated the supplement butterbur as a Level A drug ("effective") for migraine prevention in adults with episodic migraine.

It is usually taken twice daily with the main side effect being mild GI upset.

Magnesium deficiency may play a role in migraine pathogenesis, especially in women with menstrual migraines. Specifically, magnesium deficiency has been linked to cortical spreading depression, a phenomenon that scientists believe may play a role in migraine pathology. While magnesium supplementation is easy, the most common, limiting side effect is diarrhea. In addition, individuals with kidney impairment are more prone to magnesium toxicity (muscle weakness and breathing problems).

Coenzyme Q10 plays a role in mitochondrial function. Rarely, side effects, related to the gastrointestinal system, like nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn may occur.

What Did They Not Recommend?

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Ginkoglide B
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oil)

The scientists found insufficient research to support the use of riboflavin or ginkoglide B and felt that research did not support the use of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

A Word from Verywell

Of course you want to be proactive in your child's healthcare. But, remember, while these nutritional supplements or alternative therapies may help prevent migraines in your precious child, do not administer anything without the consent of your child's doctor—especially since the quality of scientific evidence for these supplements is unfortunately not adequate yet.

 Also, please take the recommended pediatric dose, something you may need to clarify with your child's doctor.

Let's hope for more studies on efficacious pediatric migraine therapies for our children's sake (and ours!). As parents, we suffer too when our children do.

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