Magnesium for Migraines: What You Need to Know

Magnesium for Migraines: What You Need to Know

Introduction - What is Magnesium?

In a world of increasingly natural and holistic remedies, magnesium emerges as a mineral of interest, particularly for migraine sufferers. In the human body, magnesium exists in our bones, muscles, and soft tissues as the second most prevalent cation in our cells. It plays a role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions, energy production, protein synthesis, muscle function, and nerve transmission.

Magnesium garners attention for its potential benefits in various health conditions, especially migraine, due to these fundamental physiological functions.

While traditional treatments for migraines include pain-relieving medications and preventive drugs, today migraine researchers and healthcare professionals are investigating the link between magnesium levels and migraine disease. The research below explores whether magnesium supplementation, claimed by the American Migraine Foundation to be a promising remedial agent, could be a viable preventive measure for migraineurs.

Does Magnesium Prevent Migraines?

The relationship between magnesium and migraines has been a subject of scientific investigation for several decades, dating back to the early twentieth century. Recent studies reveal that migraineurs often exhibit genetic variations that hinder the absorption and excretion of magnesium, causing magnesium deficiencies in up to 50% of those suffering from migraine disease.

Research indicates that such magnesium deficiency may influence a phenomenon known as cortical spreading depression (CSD), which scientists believe plays a role in the onset of migraine attacks. CSD involves a sequence of neuronal hyperactivity followed by a period of inhibition, thought to be responsible for triggering the aura phase of migraine attacks. Additionally, magnesium plays an integral role in regulating neurotransmitter release, platelet aggregation, and cerebral blood flow, further corroborating its potential impact on migraines. 

Regarding magnesium's preventive role, several studies suggest that oral or intravenous magnesium may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, particularly in certain migraine types (see below). In 2012 the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology reviewed additional studies on medications used for migraine prevention and assigned magnesium a Level B rating. This indicates that the mineral is likely effective and should be considered for patients requiring migraine preventive therapy. As a result, healthcare professionals have increasingly considered magnesium as an adjunctive therapy for patients seeking migraine preventive strategies.

Benefits: How Does Magnesium Help Migraines?

One research study conducted a trial with approximately 300 female migraineurs to measure the effects of daily oral magnesium or a placebo. The results after three months showed a remarkable reduction in the attack frequency in the magnesium group, with a decrease of 41.6%, compared to a 15.8% reduction in the placebo group. Moreover, the researchers reported a significant decrease in the number of days with migraines, as well as in the duration, intensity, and drug consumption per attack among participants in the magnesium group. 

The potential benefits of magnesium for migraine disease are derived from its ability to influence various mechanisms associated with migraine pathophysiology. Firstly, magnesium's vasodilatory and anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to reducing the intensity and duration of migraine attacks. Additionally, researchers believe magnesium inhibits NMDA glutamate receptors in the nervous system, which could potentially provide relief from migraines.

Based on these findings, individuals experiencing migraine attacks with aura or menstrual migraines might benefit most from magnesium supplementation. Consequently, magnesium supplementation correlates with a reduction in the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Furthermore, it has the potential to reduce the number of days with migraine and the need for symptomatic treatment, making it a viable and effective option for migraine management.

What Foods Should I Eat for Magnesium?

When it comes to increasing your magnesium intake, there are two main approaches: using magnesium supplements or incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Both offer natural, healthy ways to ensure you meet your daily magnesium needs. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium varies based on factors like age, sex, and life stage. On average, adult men typically require around 400-420 mg of magnesium per day, while adult women need about 310-320 mg per day. Pregnant and lactating women have slightly higher magnesium needs, making it important for them to closely monitor their intake. 

To start, consider adding magnesium-rich foods to your meals. To boost your diet, consider supplements alongside an elimination diet to help you identify your unique triggers and threshold. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are excellent sources of magnesium, providing a substantial boost to your intake. Nuts and seeds, like almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds, also pack a magnesium punch. Additionally, legumes like black beans and lentils, as well as whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, are great options to meet your daily magnesium requirements. 

If you opt for magnesium supplements, it's essential to choose the right form for better absorption. Magnesium oxide is commonly in over-the-counter supplements, but it is less bioavailable compared to other forms. Magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate are more readily absorbed by the body and may be preferred options for supplementation. When starting with magnesium supplements, it's crucial to begin with the lowest effective dose. This approach minimizes the risk of adverse effects, which can include mild gastrointestinal discomfort like diarrhea or cramping, especially with higher doses of magnesium. If you experience such side effects, consider splitting the daily dose into two or more smaller doses and taking the supplement with food to alleviate any discomfort.

Doctors Weigh In: Is Magnesium for Migraines Worth It?

The scientific community recognizes the potential of magnesium in migraine adjunctive therapy, particularly for certain subtypes of migraines, such as aura and menstrual migraines. It is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before starting any supplementation regimen, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Today, doctors say oral and intravenous magnesium are widely available, extremely safe, very inexpensive and for patients who are magnesium deficient, highly effective. In fact, one research study claims “empiric treatment with at least oral magnesium is warranted in all migraine sufferers.” When taken correctly, magnesium could be a safe and effective treatment option for people with migraine disease.

In conclusion, magnesium supplementation may offer a promising holistic avenue for migraine prevention and treatment, especially for individuals who experience migraines with aura or menstrual migraines. Although ongoing research aims to further comprehend magnesium's role in migraine pathophysiology, evidence thus far suggests that it may be the next valuable addition to your migraine management toolkit. 

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