If you are anything like me, and most other migraine suffers, you are willing to try just about anything to make the pain go away. One thing that impacts our migraines is the amount of various nutrients we have in our bodies. For example both potassium and magnesium have been linked to migraines. Here we are going to get the scoop on magnesium’s impact on migraines.
Magnesium Deficiency and Migraines
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to heart disease, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps and irritability. Recent studies show that migraines may also be caused by not having enough magnesium. Doctors and other migraine experts believe that adding magnesium to your dietary regimen may help prevent migraines and reduce the amount of time you have a migraine. (Sun-Edelstein and Mauskop, 2009)
Relationship between Magnesium and Migraines
According to recent medical studies, a large number of people do, in fact, experience migraines because they have low levels of magnesium. Magnesium is significant for brain function and for red blood cells.
When you have the correct levels of magnesium in your system, it affects many brain functions including your serotonin receptor function, and nitric oxide synthesis and release. Without proper magnesium, your brain cannot process serotonin properly, and it cannot uptake and use nitric oxide. Both of these chemicals are necessary for mood stabilization, cognitive function, and brain health.
When there is a deficit of nitric oxide, there is a decrease in blood flow to the brain. While experts do not understand completely all the aspects of the causes of migraines, they suspect that lack of nitric oxide is one of them (Sun-Edelstein and Mauskop, 2009; Welch et al., 1992).
Additionally low magnesium makes red blood cells more fragile which results in a decrease in available blood cells. With this decrease oxygen levels are lower and thus the brain is receiving less which can cause headaches, and for those of us that suffer migraines, this turns into a migraine!
Fifty Percent of People with Migraines have Low Magnesium
Migraine researchers Welch and associates (1992) concluded that 50% of the individuals who experience acute migraine attacks have lower levels of magnesium of the ionized type. They conducted a comprehensive review of clinical trials that involved participants who suffered from migraine headaches, with and without aura. They found that when the experiment group members were given infusions of magnesium, they reported instant relief of the headache.
Adding Magnesium for Migraine Prevention
Considering that 50% of individuals with migraines have low magnesium levels, it may be beneficial to discuss with your doctor the possibilities of adding a supplement to your prevention approach. Additionally if you want to know for sure if you have low magnesium levels, then ask your doctor to test you for any nutritional deficits that might exist and be impacting your migraines.
If you are looking to add magnesium to your diet via foods try: almonds, pumpkin seeds, or dry roasted soybeans.
Studies have shown that calcium helps with the absorption of magnesium, so pairing these two together can help the body take in more of the beneficial mineral. Many supplements will cover both in one pill. If you are adding foods instead of supplementing combine foods high in magnesium with a snack high in calcium such as a cheese stick with your almonds.
Other Helpful Supplementing Tips:
• Experts recommend that you take magnesium supplements with food to avoid the unpleasant adverse actions.
• Researchers Welch and colleagues (1992) suggest that people with migraines take a dose of 6 to 10 milligrams of magnesium per day. High doses of 9 and 10 milligrams are necessary for those with more body weight.
• Magnesium can have a laxative side effect, if this occurs you should decrease the amount taken. However, you can try to break the dose down into 3-4 intervals, as this may prevent the laxative effect from the supplement, while allowing it to take full benefit.
• The types of magnesium that experts recommend include: magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, and magnesium citrate. They advise that you avoid magnesium hydroxide, as if this more difficult to break down in the body, and it has no benefit other than a laxative effect.
Over time I have found that many of the things that have helped me manage migraines were due to small changes. You never know what might help, so next time you see your doctor discuss magnesium and in the meantime add some extra almonds to your diet!
Sun-Edelstein, C. & Mauskop, A. (2009). Foods and supplements in the management of migraine headaches. Clinical Journal of Pain, 25(5): 446 – 452. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31819a6f65
Welch KM, Barkley GL, Ramadan NM, & D’Andrea G (1992). NMR spectroscopic and magnetoencephalographic studies in migraine with aura: support for the spreading depression hypothesis; Pathology and Biology, 40(4): 349-54. Retrieved from: http://www.mgwater.com/migraine.shtml