supplements

Magnesium is a vital mineral that performs a variety of functions in the body. Is magnesium also helpful in the prevention or treatment of migraines?

What does magnesium do?

Magnesium is an essential mineral found in many foods, some supplements, and a few medications.  It catalyzes over 300 different biochemical reactions in the body; these reactions contribute to making proteins, muscle and nerve function, regulating blood sugar and pressure, and more.1  

Since it contributes to so many different functions, it is important to get enough magnesium in the diet.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adult men and women get 420 and 320 milligrams of magnesium each day, respectively.1  Some good dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.1

Magnesium deficiency can be associated with a variety of adverse effects, and two interesting effects include the release of certain neurotransmitters and platelet hyperaggregation, which are associated with the development of migraines.1,2  

Is magnesium good for migraines?

There is some speculation that getting enough or even excess magnesium may help reduce the risk and severity of migraine headaches. A lot of research has been done on this topic, and the research seems largely inconclusive as to whether magnesium is good for migraines. 

On one hand, some sources suggest that those who suffer from migraines, on average, may have lower baseline magnesium levels than those who do not.1,3  One older study of migraine patients found that they had slightly lower levels of magnesium during a migraine than on average.3,4   However, magnesium status is comparatively difficult to detect given the lack of accurate, standardized testing methods for magnesium levels, and some participants showed significantly different magnesium levels between tests.5  

Essentially, the results of these studies were fairly inconsistent, and more research is needed to determine whether there is an association on a population level. 

The pathogenesis of migraines is not fully understood, and the effectiveness of different treatments can vary significantly between individuals.6  Many treatment plans for migraine include prescription medications, which can carry a small risk of side effects for some patients.  Some people may prefer non-pharmaceutical therapies for a variety of reasons, and magnesium may seem more appealing to these individuals as it is an essential mineral rather than a prescription medication.

However, it is important to note that the amount of supplemental magnesium recommended for migraine prevention often exceeds the Tolerable Upper Intake for supplemental magnesium.1  Although excess magnesium is usually eliminated by the kidneys in healthy individuals, regularly consuming excess supplemental magnesium may result in unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping.1  As a result, this should only be done under the recommendation and supervision of a doctor or qualified medical professional.

Ultimately, the current research seems largely inconclusive, and more research is needed to determine whether magnesium is good for preventing or treating migraines.  More research is also needed to investigate the pathogenesis of migraines as well as improve available treatments.  

This article is not medical advice, and it is not intended to diagnose, recommend, or prescribe anything for any condition.  Consult your doctor or qualified medical professional for your unique health needs. 

References

  1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (2021, August 11). Magnesium – Fact sheet for health professionals. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 2022, February 9, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#h18
  2. Sun-Edelstein, C., Mauskop, A. (2009). Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine. Expert Rev Neurother 9:369-79. Doi: 10.1586/14737175.9.3.369
  3. Yabion, L.A., Mauskop, A. (2011). Magnesium in headache. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. University of Adelaide Press. Accessed 2022, February 13, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507271/   
  4. Gallai, V., Sarchielli, P., Coata, G. (1992, March 3). Serum and salivary magnesium levels in migraine. Results in a group of juvenile patients. Headache 32(3): 132-135. Doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.1992.hed3203132.x.
  5. Workinger, J.L., Doyle, R.P., Bortz, J. (2018 September). Challenges in the Diagnosis of Magnesium Status. Nutrients 10(0: 1202. Doi: 10.3390/nu10091202
  6. Digre, K.B. (2018, December 10). The American Headache Society Position Statement on Integrating New Migraine Treatments into Clinical Practice. American Headache Society; AHS Consensus Statement. Accessed 2022, February 13, from https://headachejournal.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/head.13456

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