Migraines can take over our daily lives and leave us reeling from the pain, and you’ve probably tried several things to treat them. What about treating them before they even happen? There are many ways to prevent migraines, but many scientists believe that magnesium may be the key to blocking signals in the brain that lead to migraines.
We sat down with Dr. Sara Crystal, MD, Cove Medical Director & Neurologist, to discuss why magnesium is so important for migraine prevention.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many functions in the body. It regulates bone, muscle and nerve function, as well as the cardiovascular system.
So what exactly is the correlation between magnesium and migraines?
About 50% of migraine sufferers are deficient in magnesium. Black patients, in particular, tend to be more magnesium deficient than other patients. A 2021 study found a correlation between low magnesium intake, whether through diet or supplements, and migraine.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that a magnesium deficiency is the cause of your migraines, but it does show its importance.
“Magnesium has been shown to be effective in preventing migraine in several studies, and is therefore recommended for migraine prevention, sometimes in conjunction with prescription medications,” Dr. Crystal says.
IV magnesium has also been found to be effective at aborting acute attacks. In one study, people presenting to the emergency department with migraine were randomized to receive either IV magnesium, or typical IV treatments. Magnesium was more effective and provided longer-lasting relief.
“In our headache center, we often use IV magnesium, for both preventive and acute treatment of long-lasting migraine episodes,” Dr. Crystal adds.
Are you magnesium deficient?
If you are wondering if you are magnesium deficient, there a few ways you can tell. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps and weakness, cold extremities, and PMS.
Genetic factors, absorption issues, stress, alcohol, and diets low in magnesium-rich foods may also contribute to magnesium deficiency.
If you spot any of these symptoms, it is important to notify your doctor so that he or she can run a blood test or check your calcium and potassium levels.
If a magnesium deficiency goes untreated, you are at risk of developing symptoms such as numbness and tingling, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.
Fortunately, you can increase your magnesium intake through diet and/or supplements.
If you are heading to the grocery store, try stocking up on these magnesium-packed foods:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (cooked spinach, Swiss chard)
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts)
- Whole grains (brown rice)
- Fortified cereals
- Dairy products
Need to get your magnesium in supplement form? You will need to decide between chelated and non-chelated forms.
“The chelated forms are better absorbed, but are typically more expensive. Magnesium glycinate, gluconate and aspartate are examples of chelated forms, but some people do fine with magnesium oxide, citrate and chloride, which are non-chelated,” Dr, Crystal says.
The recommended dose for migraine prevention is 400 mg daily. However, if you are concerned about gastrointestinal side effects, Dr. Cyrstal recommends starting with 200 mg daily.
If you absorb oral magnesium well, you may benefit from regular IV infusions of magnesium.
Is magnesium right for you?
Magnesium is safe for most people, but if you are concerned about how it may affect you, ask your doctor if there is any reason for you to avoid magnesium, based on your medical conditions and/or medications.
Diarrhea is a side effect of magnesium, particularly with the less easily absorbed forms, including magnesium oxide.
You should also avoid magnesium if you have kidney disease, unless it is approved by your doctor.
Magnesium may be just what you need to prevent those migraines from taking over your life and even if you don’t have migraines, magnesium can be beneficial.
“Magnesium can help people with high blood pressure, osteoporosis and diabetes. Studies have demonstrated that people with (genetically) higher levels of magnesium are at lower risk for certain types of stroke,” Dr. Crystal says.