Can Headaches Be Caused by a Nutritional Deficiency?

Whether it's a dull pain or a splitting pain, frequent headaches can frustrate your daily activities. When you try all the normal treatments -- extra sleep, painkillers, another cup of coffee -- and they don't work, look at your diet. Your headache may be caused by lack of nutrition.

Potential deficiency

Headache can be caused by two nutrient deficiencies: magnesium and folic acid, or vitamin b-9. If you can't take 320 to 420 mg of magnesium a day, depending on your gender and age, you may have migraines. This is due to the effect of magnesium on neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction. You can increase magnesium consumption by eating more green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Headache may also be a symptom of megaloblastic anemia. This may be due to a lack of folic acid, although this nutritional deficiency is rare, the National Institutes of Health said. The goal for adults should be 400 micrograms per day, unless you re-conceive or breast-feed, which requires 600 micrograms and 500 micrograms, respectively. Food sources of folic acid include vegetables, fruits and their juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry, meat, eggs, seafood and grains.

Low Carbohydrate? Low-carbohydrate diet may be an effective way to lose weight, but if you reduce too much carbohydrate, you may feel headache. According to a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007, side effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet include headache, constipation, muscle cramps, diarrhea, fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrate a day, weakness and rash. To avoid this, keep your carbohydrate intake above 50 grams per day.

In some cases, headache may be the cause of excessive rather than insufficient intake of certain nutrients. Headache is a symptom of vitamin a, fat-soluble vitamins and mineral zinc poisoning. The highest level of vitamin A is 10,000 international units per day, which is usually achieved when you overtake it in the form of supplements or therapeutic retinoic acid. The upper limit for adult zinc is 40 mg per day. Other causes of headache

Although headache can be attributed to nutritional deficiency, it is not one of the most common causes. According to Dr. Elizabeth Loder, director of headache and pain at Brigham and Women&39; s Hospital Department of Neurology, common causes of headache include hangovers and dehydration, mild tension headaches, headaches caused by excessive fatigue during sleep deprivation, and even headaches caused by exercise. Headache may also be a symptom of more serious illness. If you often have headaches rather than trying to diagnose them yourself, please contact your health care provider.