Vitamin E deficiency, migraines & ‘Visual disturbances’

How I discovered I needed Vitamin E

Gall bladder problems and Cholecystectomy

Six months after I gave birth to my baby Alexia, I became very jaundiced. I had some pain under my right ribs and felt unwell after eating some meals, but it was when my stools turned white and my urine was almost black, that I knew I had a problem!

I was attending a conference when my pain first became quite severe, and I had to leave the conference without giving my talk. At the conference, one of the doctors sitting near me in the lecture theatre told me that I had postnatal cholecystitis, but unfortunately it took some weeks for the doctors I visited as a patient to realize that I had gall bladder issues and not hepatitis! Gall bladder disease is quite common after a pregnancy and the rate is greatly increased with long term use of the contraceptive pill.

The gallbladder is important for the digestion of fats and oils

In the weeks after the operation

Unfortunately, even once in hospital, I continued to suffer from ‘medical diagnostic errors’ and ended up having a major hemorrhage after the first operation that led to several blood transfusions, collapsed lungs then a second operation and six weeks in hospital overall. But after all that I felt very well until I started noticing some odd ‘visual disturbances’.

Fat soluble vitamins and the role of the Gallbladder

My post-operative hemorrhage was almost certainly due to a deficiency of Vitamin K (another fat soluble vitamin involved in blood clotting) – unfortunately for me I had already told the doctors prior to the operation that I seemed to have slow clotting but again my information was ignored.

After I’d been home for some time and was otherwise feeling well, I noticed that whenever I went into a certain shopping mall, I would develop an uncomfortable, dizzy feeling. This feeling would come on in other places that were brightly lit so I decided to research what it might be? Fortunately, I found information in a book on nutrients and vitamins that led me to try taking natural Vitamin E, which completely resolved my symptoms. Interestingly, I found that when I finished the first bottle of tablets and was then sold synthetic Vitamin E that that product did not work! I purchased natural vitamin E again and have been taking this now (symptom free) for over 40 years.

Chatting at lunch last week!

I was chatting with a couple of friends last week when I leant that one of them had recently had her gall bladder removed. So, I mentioned to her that she might need to supplement her fat-soluble vitamins and described my own experience with vitamin E and ‘dizziness’. She was immediately excited as she had already started to experience similar symptoms and here, unexpectantly was her answer.

But the other friend who was with us then spoke about how similar-sounding visual disturbances preceded her migraines and I was immediately intrigued as to whether Vitamin D supplements might reduce migraines.

Vitamin E and Migraine Headaches

The medical literature suggests that migraines have many different causes and that deficiencies in several different vitamins, including those of the ‘B group’ may play a role. However, in females who suffer from migraines that relate to the menstrual cycle, Vitamin E can offer complete relief of the headaches. Vitamin E also offers relief to people who suffer from migraines ‘with auras’ but may not help those with other migraines. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that this little discussed vitamin plays key roles in neurological function: not only is Vitamin E deficiency associated with progressive neuropathy in children, recent research shows that it can play a role in neurological deterioration in aging.

It’s ‘early days’ for this research but some benefits are seen with Vitamin E supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease although not in Parkinson’s.

Low fat diets and Vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E is readily available in many foods including vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, whole grains, milk, and many vegetables but especially spinach, red peppers and avocados. Because of its availability, we might expect that deficiencies would be rare.

However, just as with a poorly functioning gall bladder, diets that are too low in fat will not enable sufficient absorption of Vitamin E.

Action: Check out any odd visual and/or other neurological symptoms

If you have odd neurological symptoms, you might need to see your doctor quickly and you could have something serious. Nevertheless, I would suggest that if you develop some mild symptoms, you consider your diet: do you have sufficient intake of fat and/or oil? Are you are able to digest fats and oils without getting uncomfortable abdominal symptoms? If you do have problems eating fats and oils, you might need to see a gastroenterologist, or you could try to get relief with Ox Bile!

Nevertheless, if you do have difficulty consuming fats and oils, your neurological symptoms are likely to be caused by low absorption of Vitamin E and you are likely to find that a quality supplement will reduce your symptoms.

Published by Dr Judy

I am a PhD Geneticist and have spent many decades working in research related to reproduction and cancer. Both are affected by lifestyle, especially ageing and so I am passionate about teaching people how to change their lifestyles to optimise their health.

One thought on “Vitamin E deficiency, migraines & ‘Visual disturbances’

  1. About to begin using the Vit E supplement!( What is “natural “ Vit E?)
    Your suggestions Re. Migraine are of great interest. I will try to follow this advice as Migraines continue to affect me in many different forms over 45 years.
    THANK YOU DR FORD.

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