Magnesium and Migraines

Magnesium and migraines supplementsMagnesium 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.
* Gaby AR. Research review.         Nutr Healing. March 1997.
* 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.
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Best Sources of Magnesium

Oat Bran or Wheat Bran for Breakfast

Bran and FruitNow this is how we start the day, especially if you already eat cereal. While raw oat bran offers about 225 mg of magnesium per 100 grams (and 256 calories), raw wheat bran offers near 350 mg of magnesium at half the calories. You are well on your way here, but there are a couple things to remember. These weights are dry weight. The addition of water will help you to eat more, but most water has very little magnesium content.  They’ll still be fairly high in magnesium, but no magnesium super food.
The other thing to remember is not to overdo it. Too much bran can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. Take it slowly, and drink lots of water. The more bran you eat, the more water you need. If you stop yourself up with too much raw bran, it can inhibit your body’s absorption of other minerals. If you are wondering how to eat raw bran without feeling like a horse, try mixing with milk or even soymilk. A dd some sweetening in the form of honey or raisins, or others fruits. Add some cinnamon for a little tang.
The nice thing about raw bran for breakfast is that you are almost certain to cover your magnesium needs for the rest of the day by just eating normally.

Pumpkin Seeds

One Pumkin Seed - One Mg MagnesiumPumpkin seeds are in a category of their own so far as magnesium rich foods go. At 535 mg per 100 gram serving, you are covered for the whole day. The advantage of pumpkin seeds is that they are very suitable to snacking. Wherever you are, at any time of day, you can pop a few pumpkin seeds in your mouth and get roughly a milligram of magnesium per seed. Can’t go too wrong here, except watch the calories (over 500 per 100 grams).

Chocolate

Chocolate for delicious magnesiumThe estimates of magnesium in chocolate range 100 mg to over 500 mg per 100 grams of chocolate servings. Milk chocolate or other highly diluted chocolates are well below even the 100 mg figure, and not worth considering for their magnesium value. Yet, it’s all here at the top of the list because most of us love to eat chocolate – so here’s an excuse, sort of. The thing to remember is that raw cocoa beans would be your absolute best source for magnesium, though they are certainly not to everyone’s taste, and not all that easy to find. To make them easier to eat, even enjoyable, try grinding the whole beans in a food processor, and sprinkling them on yogurt or ice cream. Or mix them with a drink in a juicer. Or add them to tea. If even this is more than you want to deal with, just take some cocoa powder and make an extra strong hot chocolate, or eat sweetened dark chocolate (at least 89% cocoa content). For more information about chocolate check out our posts about the benefits of chocolate and health chocolate scams.

Almonds and Other Nuts or Seeds

Almonds each have 3 mg of magnesium Almonds, with cashews running a close second, are excellent sources of magnesium. 100 grams of almonds pack in roughly 180 mg of magnesium, while 100 grams of cashews have almost 170 mg. Broken down, this means one almond is equivalent to 3 mg of magnesium. In fact, if we look at it that way, brazil nuts are super sources, with about 7 mg of magnesium in each nut (about 145 mg per 100 grams of brazil nuts). Pine nuts and just about all other nuts are also good sources of magnesium. Raw nuts, of course, are best (when they can be eaten).

Spinach

Spinach is rich in magnesiumSpinach. No surprise here- we’ve always known it was healthy. A mere 100 grams of spinach is very easy to eat, very low in calories, and very high in magnesium as well as other great nutrients. Before turning up your nose at this food, try some treats such as spinach salad with bacon dressing, or creamy spinach soup. See our spinach recipes page for more. And read one to see a great partner for spinach.

Halibut

While many fish are good sources of magnesium, halibut is the king of magnesium rich foods…er, seafoods. Halinut, spinach and garlic cream sauce magnesium super mealA mere 3.5 oz. (100 gram) serving delivers a solid 107 mg of magnesium. Now halibut doesn’t have much taste, which is either a good or bad thing, depending on how much you like fish. Which is why it needs to be cooked with flourish. And there’s no better partner that our friend above – spinach. If you have doubts about the deliciousness that this powerhouse high magnesium meal can bring you, just look at this picture of halibut with spinach and garlic cream sauce. What a wonderful way to cure a magnesium deficiency!

Beans – Black or White

Beans with spinach provide a very high magnesium mealBeans, glorious beans…

Both white beans and black beans pack anywhere between 110-135 mg of magnesium rich goodness to each cup of boiled beans. That means bean soup!

White beans are high in potassium (but low in sodium), iron, manganese and soluble fiber as well. Soluble fiber is what helps your body rid itself of cholesterol. White beans also contain protease inhibitors, which are know to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Black beans are rich in protein, iron and vitamin B. Black beans also help reduce cholesterol, help maintain balanced blood sugar levels and (of course) prevent constipation. All of these factors help to lessen to incidence of heart disease, diabetes and many gastrointestinal disorders. Black beans are also rich in phytochemicals, which are substances found only in plant foods that are know to help fight cancer.

They also couldn’t be easier to eat, as there are a myriad of black bean recipes and white bean recipes. These are among the easiest ways to take in magnesium rich foods and to keep your body fit.

(Click Here for a Full List of Magnesium Rich Foods)

The full FDA list of magnesium content in foods is available from the FDA website.
Otherwise, go to our own list of magnesium rich foods to see some of the best.

A Note on Magnesium Rich Foods Lists

Kombu is magnesium rich, but dangerous in quantity (if you can eat that much)

Toxic amounts of this health food are needed to impact magnesium levels.

Magnesium rich foods lists often include things like herbs, cocoa powder and kombu kelp (a tough and chewy seaweed). Great, except they are measuring magnesium per 100 gram (about 3.5 ounces) serving. Now go and try to down 100 grams of coriander. That would be more than a cup, if dry, and a heck of a lot even fresh. Or how about a cup of cocoa powder (not hot cocoa with milk, just the powder)? Don’t even think about the kombu. You’ll be chewing all day, and get an overdose of iodine long before you replenish your magnesium levels. So go ahead to the other lists, and view their advice – usually written by some overworked woman at a content sweatshop in Mumbai.

(Full List of Magnesium Rich Foods)

You see how useless these unedited lists can be? I assume you are here to learn about which foods high in magnesium can help you avoid magnesium deficiency. And by that, I mean foods that you can enough of as a normal person to get the benefits of their magnesium content. Well, here’s a list of magnesium rich foods that you can actually use, and actually consume without some sort of superhuman and dangerous effort. Let’s get started….