Magnesium and migraines have recently been revealed as closely related, and this may mean that there is a simple, inexpensive and effective home treatment for migraine sufferers. Don’t expect your neighborhood neurologist to tell you this, but those who are more open minded about treatment will.
Numerous studies have been conducted (see a list of a few at the end of this article), and in all they present strong evidence that increased magnesium intake (even with supplements) can be very effective in reducing or curing migraines. Even the USDA has climbed on the bandwagon, and suggested increased daily intake of food high in magnesium or, if needed, magnesium supplements. The USDA reports says:
Epidemiological findings and supplementation trials show that people’s magnesium status is associated with the severity and frequency of migraine headaches… controlled human studies at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center (GFHNRC) and elsewhere are being done to conclusively show that inadequate magnesium intake can result in these maladies.
I added the bolded phrase. Whatever the cause, inadequate magnesium has been correlated with migraines. We already know that migraines cause stress, and that stress can reduce the magnesium levels in the human body, but several studies go beyond this to show that additional magnesium in food or via supplements can be the solution for many migraine sufferers. The same report goes on to say “magnesium supplementation reduces the number and duration of migraines, including menstrual migraines, in some people.” It further suggests that “too little magnesium can worsen the suffering from migraine headaches.”
There is strong evidence that magnesium helps stabilize the blood vessels, preventing capillary and muscle spasms.
One double-blind study revealed regular use of magnesium helps to prevent migraine headaches. The subject group of patients with recurrent migraines were given either 600 mg of magnesium each day or a placebo. The magnesium group’s migraines were reduced by 41.6%, compared to a reduction of 15.8% in the placebo group. Other double-blind studies have shown similar results. One study found no benefit, but has since been criticized on many significant points, including using an excessively strict definition of what constitutes a benefit.
The patients group at migraines.org relates the following with regards to dosage and types of magnesium to use. Note that magnesium rich water is suggested, and more information is available about those at our magnesium water page.
A Canadian approach suggested that physicians advise migraine patients to consume at least 6 mg magnesium per day for each kilogram of body weight. An even higher intake of 10 mg/day per Kg of body weight may be desirable provided that it does not trigger a laxative effect. Breaking the dosage into three or four parts taken at different times of day helps prevent laxative effect. Magnesium hydroxide is NOT recommended because of poor bioavailability and because they know of no instance of it having any beneficial use other than as a laxative. Other Magnesium compounds appear to be better, including Magnesium oxide, Magnesium sulphate, and Magnesium citrate. Natural magnesium in water (magnesium carbonate dissolved in CO2-rich water) is 30% more bio-available than Magnesium in food or pill, and offers much greater cardio-protection.
As the evidence adds up, we are still left without absolute proof of magnesium’s efficacy with migraines. Yet, magnesium and migraines are strongly linked, and there is plenty to suggest that increased magnesium could not only prevent migraines, but lessen the severity of the migraines that do occur. Couple this with the minimal risk associated with increasing magnesium (unless you have kidney problems) and it would seem a no-brainer to give this a try. But remember to avoid chocolate as a magnesium source, as chocolate may be part of the cause of your migraines.
As additional ways to help prevent migraines, a calcium boost before bedtime, eating more smaller meals rather than a few huge meals, drink plenty of water, and consume a bit of cayenne pepper each day (apparently helps raise your pain threshold).
Again, some of the studies on magnesium and migraines are listed below:
* Pfaffenrath V, Diener H, Fischer M, et al. The efficacy and safety of Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) in migraine prophylaxis-a double-blind, multicentre, randomized placebo-controlled dose-response study. Cephalalgia. 2002;22:523-532.
* Peikert A, Wilimzig C, Kohne-Volland R. Prophylaxis of migraine with oral magnesium: results from a prospective, multi-center, placebo-controlled and double-blind randomized study. Cephalalgia. 1996;16:257-263.
* Taubert K. Magnesium in migraine. Results of a multicenter pilot study [in German; English abstract]. Fortschr Med. 1994;112:328-330.
* Facchinetti F, Sances G, Borella P, et al. Magnesium prophylaxis of menstrual migraine: effects on intracellular magnesium. Headache. 1991;31:298-301.
* Pfaffenrath V, Wessely P, Meyer C, et al. Magnesium in the prophylaxis of migraine—a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Cephalalgia. 1996;16:436-440.
* Titus F, Davalos A, Alom J, et al. 5-hydroxytryptophan versus methysergide in the prophylaxis of migraine: randomized clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 1986;25:327-329.
* Bono G, Criscuoli M, Martignoni E, et al. Serotonin precursors in migraine prophylaxis. Adv Neurol. 1982;33:357-363.
* Maissen CP, Ludin HP. Comparison of the effect of 5-hydroxytryptophan and propranolol in the interval treatment of migraine [translated from German]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1991;121:1585-1590.
* Santucci M, Cortelli P, Rossi PG, et al. L-5-hydroxytryptophan versus placebo in childhood migraine prophylaxis: a double-blind crossover study. Cephalalgia. 1986;6:155-157.