Can You Take Magnesium for Migraines? | The Daily Dose

Can Magnesium Help Migraines?

June 27, 2020 4 min read

Man with a migraine holding his head on the couch

Magnesium is a fundamental mineral in the body that regulates blood pressure and heart rate among other critical functions(1). But did you know a magnesium deficiency can cause headaches and chronic migraines?

People with migrainesoften experience symptoms such as head pain, sensitivity to light and other visual disturbances on a regular basis(2). Studies show consuming a high-quality magnesiumsupplement, such as magnesium oxide, can actually help alleviate migraine pain and even reduce the frequency of migraines.

Magnesium for Migraines

Surveys show that most Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their daily diet. Since magnesium is an essential mineral in the body, not having enough of it can cause chronic symptoms including migraines, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and muscle cramping. In more severe cases, magnesium deficiency can cause hypocalcemia (low levels of calcium in the blood), or hypokalemia, which is low potassium levels in the blood(1).

Low potassium levels can lead to higher blood pressure, hypertension and dehydration which can trigger migraines(2). Magnesium also promotes restful sleep and helps relieve anxiety, two additional factors known to trigger migraines(1).

Types of Magnesium

Magnesium occurs naturally in the body so it can be a safe solution to treat migraines. Still, it’s important to know the various types of magnesium and how they affect the body. Understandingwhich type of magnesium is right for you can offer relief for various symptoms.

  • Magnesium oxideis most effective at preventing migraines, muscle cramps and muscle spasms. It’s important, however, to regulate the dose of this supplement as it has laxative properties that can make it difficult to use.
  • Magnesium sulfateis one of the more common forms of magnesium. It is the main ingredient in bath salts (Epsom salts) which are used as a soak to soothe aching muscles and joints. It can be used as a supplement or administered as an injection in medical settings to prevent certain types of seizures and convulsions due to magnesium deficiency.
  • Magnesium citrateis most commonly recommended for a magnesium deficiency. The citrate variant, like many types of magnesium, can regulate muscle and nerve function. As a side effect, however, it can also lead to dehydration so it’s important to take this supplement in proper doses and drink more fluids while taking it.
  • Magnesium glycinate is more easily absorbed than other magnesium supplements, helps control blood sugar and supports heart health.
  • Magnesium malateimproves the production of energy in cells and can boost energy and alleviate magnesium deficiencies. Commonly, this form of magnesium has been used to reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia and can help detoxify the body of high levels of aluminum, which has been linked to conditions like Alzheimer’s.
  • Magnesium taurate is used to reduce blood pressure, support overall cardiovascular health and help control blood sugar as it improves insulin sensitivity in the body.
  • Magnesium bicarbonate supports bone and heart health and can specifically help with cardiovascular and skeletal health in postmenopausal women.

On average, Americans consume 250 mg of magnesium compared to the 320 mg. recommended amount. Some research shows that taking 300 mg of magnesium twice a day, either alone or in combination with medication, can prevent migraines(1).

Magnesium bisglycinate chelate is one of the most common forms of magnesium on the market due to its high absorption; it promotes restful sleep, reduces stress, anxiety and regulates blood pressure, which can all trigger migraine pain.

Magnesium in Food

Taking magnesium for migraines can be a safe and effective way to treat symptoms but so can improving your diet. Magnesium can be found in various plant and animal foods as well as beverages. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, are great sources of dietary fiber that provide magnesium(1). These common foods have 60-80 mg. of magnesium per serving:

  • 1 ounce of almonds
  • ½ cup of boiled spinach
  • 1 ounce of cashews
  • 1/ cup oil roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup soy milk (plain or vanilla)
  • ½ cup of cooked black beans

Side Effects of Magnesium

Whether you choose to take magnesium for migraines or to incorporate it as part of a healthy diet, it’s important to know which type of magnesium to take and at which dosage. Taking too much of the wrong kind of magnesium for your body can lead to unpleasant side effects like abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. While magnesium is generally considered safe to take for most people, be sure to keep an eye on these symptoms and lower the dosage if you experience these side effects(1).

Pre-existing conditions can also cause migraines, so it’s important to take caution before starting a magnesium supplement as those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and low blood pressure are more likely to experience side effects. Pregnant women should also consult their doctor before taking magnesium(2).

In Summary

Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body that needs to be regulated through diet and supplements, especially for people with chronic migraines. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels can not only help alleviate migraine symptoms but it could prevent migraines overall. Before taking magnesium, it’s important to know which type is right for you based on your symptoms or by consulting your doctor, as magnesium can create unfavorable side effects and potential interactions with other medications(1).

Regina Kaza - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice

Up next: Understanding The Difference Between Headaches and Types of Migraines

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