Magnesium for Migraines

Did You Know…magnesium may help prevent headaches… and even migraines?

If you or someone you love suffers from migraines, magnesium supplements may bring relief.

Magnesium is often referred to as the Master Mineral, because it’s active in over 300 metabolic processes in the body.  You need magnesium for protein synthesis to take place, as well as most of the body’s vital cellular reactions.  It even plays a role in several components of DNA and RNA synthesis.

As for headaches, research shows that many migraine sufferers have low or deficient levels of magnesium in their bloodstreams, and magnesium concentrations dip even further during a migraine attack.  Some studies also indicate that magnesium deficiency might be at the root of headaches and migraines experienced by women during menstruation.

These associations suggest that eating a magnesium-rich diet and/or supplementing with magnesium may help prevent headaches and migraines from occurring.

How Magnesium Might Help Migraines 

Migraines are debilitating, severe headaches often accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Vision problems (seeing stars)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throbbing pain that can last between 4 and 72 hours

     The first variety of migraine medications developed in the 1980s focused on dealing with migraine pain when it arose, but migraine meds these days are targeted more toward prevention, which magnesium seems to excel at.  Both migraine prevention meds and magnesium act on brain chemicals or blood vessel inflammation that can trigger migraines.

Research suggests that one cause of migraines might be when blood vessels around the brain constrict and then dilate.  Magnesium helps to enhance the function of the smooth muscle that surrounds blood vessels.  Magnesium deficiency, on the other hand, can cause blood vessels to constrict.  By helping to reduce the risk of blood vessels constricting and dilating, magnesium might help prevent migraines and headaches.

Magnesium also impacts other brain structures and chemicals involved in migraines: it acts on serotonin receptors and nitric oxide synthesis and release, as well as on NDA receptors.

What the Science Says 

Two double-blind studies published in the 90s showed that supplementing with magnesium may reduce the frequency of migraines.  For a large double-blind study aimed at prevention, researchers treated migraine patients with 600 milligrams of magnesium for 3 months.

While the placebo group saw a reduction in migraines of just 15.8%, the group supplementing with magnesium experienced a 41.6% reduction in migraines.

Another study demonstrated that a dose of 485 milligrams of magnesium didn’t have the same benefit; however, this may be due less to the dose and more to the type of magnesium used.  In this second trial researchers used magnesium salt, which is poorly absorbed and gave over half the study participants diarrhea.

Increasing Magnesium in Your Body

Eating magnesium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate, etc. is important, but if you frequently get headaches and migraines it might be worthwhile to try incorporating a magnesium supplement.

Experts suggest supplementing with magnesium citrate, the most readily absorbable form, at a dose between 400-500 milligrams.  Start with a smaller dose in two separate sittings, as magnesium has been known to cause diarrhea.  On the flip side, if you’re taking a migraine prescription that causes constipation, magnesium may offset this!

As always, it’s imperative to consult a doctor before adding magnesium to your migraine-prevention regimen.  Even though it’s an essential mineral, magnesium can interact with heart medications, diuretics, some antibiotics, and muscle relaxers.

You can also soak in a bath of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) for direct absorption of magnesium into the skin.