Magnesium: Vital in the Treatment of Migraines

For the millions of people who suffer from migraine headaches, an important mineral that you should strongly consider adding to your treatment regimen is Magnesium (Mg). As a society, many of us are profoundly deficient in magnesium. Low levels of this mineral are felt be a significant factor in the development of migraine headaches. While so important, this mineral is not often considered in the treatment plan of migraine headaches; that is unfortunate because magnesium supplementation is crucial in its management.

Magnesium is a mineral found in the cells of your body and is part of the energy mechanism that keeps your cells (including your brain cells) running smoothly. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels is important for optimal brain functioning. Did you know that magnesium is needed for over two hundred chemical reactions in the human body? It is vital to the optimal functioning of the many receptors in the brain that are thought to be instrumental in forming migraines including serotonin and NMDA receptors.

How do you know if your magnesium levels are low? Well, the most common way that Magnesium levels are measured is by a simple blood test. Be aware that the Magnesium level that is measured in the blood may not accurately reflect the levels of Magnesium in the cell. That being said, other tests used to measure Magnesium are more cumbersome and there are questions concerning their reliability.

On routine blood work, most “normal” reference ranges of magnesium are from 1.6-2.6 mg/dL. Note that there is a significant difference between the reference ranges. A Magnesium level at the lower end of this reference range may mean intracellular magnesium. The goal of treatment for migraines is to get the magnesium levels in the blood towards the higher levels of this range.

How much magnesium should you take? In general it is recommended that you take at least 600 – 800 mg of magnesium a day. Great dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, seeds (sunflower and sesame for example), and nuts (almonds and Brazil nuts for example). If you are on a typical Western diet that is low in magnesium, you may need to take a magnesium supplement. If you are having an acute migraine attack, an acute remedy to help you with the migraine is magnesium that is given intravenously (in a liquid solution given via a vein in your arm) called magnesium sulfate. This form of magnesium, however, needs to be prescribed by your healthcare provider and is often administered in an infusion center or short procedure unit in a hospital setting.

Oral forms of magnesium can include Chelated Magnesium. This is a form of magnesium without the heavy metals. Recommended doses include 600-800 mg a day taken in divided doses to maximize absorption. A newer form of magnesium called Magnesium Threonate may actually be ideal for migraine headache sufferers because it is felt to be able to get into the brain compared to other forms of magnesium.

Be aware that for some people taking magnesium orally, it can cause intestinal upset, including diarrhea. The use of a magnesium oil and/or magnesium gel when topically applied to the arms or legs can help normalize your magnesium levels and get you on the road to recovery.

Know that magnesium should not just be used to treat acute migraine attacks; they can and should be used prophylactically to prevent migraines from occurring in the first place. Did you know that migraine headaches can run in families? Increasing the magnesium in your diet and/or supplementing with magnesium can prevent that first headache from ever happening!

The next time you see your healthcare provider, make sure that you know your Magnesium level.

By: Rich Snyder, DO

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