Migraine in women is usually connected to their menstruation cycle. Its occurance decreases with natural menopause. On the other hand, if we look at the nutrient deficiencies, we need to pay a closer attention to iron. In case of migraine attacks it plays an important role. Iron is needed to synthesize neurotransmitter dopamine, the levels of which are lowered during migraine attacks, what makes migraine sufferers even more sensitive to pain. And iron is also lost during menstruation that contributes to the (temporary) iron deficiency. Moreover, it is a well known fact that people with iron deficiency suffer from migraine more often than people without. The combination of these facts was a basis for a recent American study. The study analyzed information from 7.880 adults above 20 years old in the period of 5 years to find out whether iron deficiency might be a cause of migraine or severe headache and whether enough iron body stores (measured by ferritin) might be a possible protection from migraine attacks.

The researchers found that dietary iron intake has different effects on migraine in women of different ages. Women aged 20–50 years who ate less dietary iron than recommended (RDA) suffered more from severe headache or migraine.

The different effect was observed in women above 50 years old. Higher serum ferritin levels seem to have a protective effect against migraine. The researchers assume that this difference is due to age-related menstrual changes.

The study didn’t forget about men. It found that there was no significant link between dietary iron and levels of serum ferritin, and severe headache or migraine.

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Tatsiana Haponava, PhD

a certified nutrition coach, educator and researcher with a PhD degree

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