This Incredible Mineral Could Cut Your Migraines in Half

magnesium headaches blog flow
There's very few treatments for migraine that can boast the results magnesium has to offer. More than that, it is inexpensive, readily available and has relatively few side effects. Magnesium is certainly something for anyone living with migraine to understand.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in a huge number of processes in our body (over 300). Some of the processes most relevant to migraine include (1-3):

  • Regulation of nerve and muscle function
  • Regulation of energy production
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Regulation of blood glucose levels


How does magnesium affect migraines?

  • It is a key part of the production of energy in our brain. When energy production breaks down it can result in ‘cortical spreading depression. This is thought to be a possible cause for the onset of a migraine attack.
  • It regulates the production and function of serotonin. Serotonin dysfunction can lead to sensitization of brain regions that are involved in migraine attacks.
  • It reduces muscle spasms. Musculoskeletal dysfunction in the upper neck can lead to sensitization of areas of the brain involved in migraine attacks. Check out our blog post on how the upper neck can create migraines for more information.


What evidence is there for the use of magnesium as a treatment for migraine?

A 2017 systematic review found five studies measuring the effect of magnesium to prevent migraines.

  • One out of two class I trials showed a significant reduction in migraine attacks compared to placebo.
  • Two out of three class III trials showed significant reduction in severity and frequency of migraines (9).

The American Headache Academy suggested that taking magnesium is ‘probably effective’ for the prevention of migraines. They suggested that as the studies used high amounts of magnesium, people should be closely monitored and seek guidance from a health professional (12).

People with migraines have been shown to have lower magnesium levels in their blood serum and body tissues compared to those who do not suffer from migraines.


Where can I get my magnesium from?

Food Sources

Generally speaking, foods that contain dietary fibre are good sources of magnesium. Some of the highest sources of magnesium include dark, leafy vegetables as well as nuts and seeds.

Spinach is an excellent source of magnesium

Only 30-40% of the magnesium we take gets absorbed by our body. Unfortunately some refinement practices with grains can reduce the amount of magnesium in certain food products.

Dietary Supplements

If you’re looking to get more magnesium the use of supplements can be very effective. Not all supplements are created equal and some are absorbed better than others. If you look at the label on the packaging you will see the magnesium presented with another chemical compound. This compound is what helps the body absorb the magnesium.

Magnesium is better absorbed when taken in a liquid soluble form (4-8). These include magnesium with:

  • Asparate
  • Citrate
  • Lactate
  • Chloride

Magnesium can also be taken as a spray or dissolved in a bath. There is limited evidence for its effectiveness, but it does provide an excellent alternative for those struggling with gut absorption.

This may be especially effective if trying to relax tight muscles in the upper neck via direct absorption.


Are there any possible side effects?

If you’re taking magnesium as a supplement, it is possible to suffer side effects. The most common are abdominal cramping and diarrhea (1). The upper limit of magnesium to take per day is 350mg (1). 

If you’re aiming to get all your magnesium from dietary sources any excess magnesium will be removed by the kidneys (12).


Do I have to be careful taking magnesium with medications?

Magnesium can interact with certain drug types. Anyone taking these drugs should consult a doctor before taking magnesium to discuss the levels they take:

  1. Bisphosphonates – used to treat osteoporosis.
  2. Antibiotics – treat bacterial infection.
  3. Diuretics – commonly used for high blood pressure.
  4. Proton pump inhibitors – reduce the amount of stomach acid.
  5. Muscle relaxants


Final Thoughts

Magnesium is a natural, easily sourced and well-tolerated evidence-supported method for preventing migraine attacks or at least reducing their intensity and frequency. It has its effects via various processes. Whilst increasing dietary magnesium is safe, some care should be taken before taking magnesium supplements. Magnesium supplementation should be approached with a skeptical, systematic approach. Taking it for a 4-6 week period of time will be enough to determine if it will help with your migraines.

At Flow Osteopathy we are dedicated to supporting our local community of Whitehorse the surrounding suburbs of Nunawading, Ringwood, Heathmont, Mitcham, Blackburn, Forest Hill, Donvale, Box Hill .

If you suffer from headaches and migraine, please click through for more information on our evidence based treatment.

  1. Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
  2. Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, Cragg GM, Levine M, Moss J, White JD, eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:527-37.
  3. Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, Mass: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:159-75.
  4. Ranade VV, Somberg JC. Bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of magnesium after administration of magnesium salts to humans. Am J Ther 2001;8:345-57. [PubMed abstract]
  5. Firoz M, Graber M. Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations. Magnes Res 2001;14:257-62. [PubMed abstract]
  6. Mühlbauer B, Schwenk M, Coram WM, Antonin KH, Etienne P, Bieck PR, Douglas FL. Magnesium-L-aspartate-HCl and magnesium-oxide: bioavailability in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1991;40:437-8. [PubMed abstract]
  7. Lindberg JS, Zobitz MM, Poindexter JR, Pak CY. Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. J Am Coll Nutr 1990;9:48-55. [PubMed abstract]
  8. Walker AF, Marakis G, Christie S, Byng M. Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomized, double-blind study. Mag Res 2003;16:183-91. [PubMed abstract]
  9. Magnesium in Migaine Prophylaxis – Is There An Evidence Based Rationale? A Systematic Review. Headache. 2018 Feb;58(2):199-209
  10. Sun-Edelstein C, Mauskop A. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine. Expert Rev Neurother 2009;9:369–79 [PubMed abstract]
  11. Schürks M, Diener H-C, Goadsby P. Update on the prophylaxis of migraine. Cur Treat Options Neurol 2008;10:20–9. [PubMed abstract]
  12. Holland S, Silberstein SD, Freitag F, Dodick DW, Argoff C, Ashman E. Evidence-based guideline update: NSAIDs and other complementary treatments for episodic migraine prevention in adults. Neurology 2012;78:1346-53. [PubMed abstract]
  13. Musso CG Magnesium metabolism in health and disease. Int Urol Nephrol 2009;41:357-62. [PubMed abstract]
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