The holidays are bearing down on us, and for many of us, that means tension and headaches! If you are part of the 11% of the population that suffer migraines, you understand a serious headache! In the United States, almost 18% of women and 6% of men had at least one migraine attack in the last year. Migraine attacks are prevalent in our family, so we’ve spent a fair amount of time considering causes and prevention.

Prescription medications used to treat migraines and its excruciating episodes are often accompanied by unpleasant symptoms and side effects. Recent studies have looked at the efficacy of magnesium on reducing migraines naturally.

First off, what is Magnesium? Magnesium is an important mineral for healthy bones, with about 60% of magnesium in the body found associated with bone growth. It activates over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, translating to thousands of biochemical reactions happening on a constant basis. Magnesium is crucial to nerve transmission, muscle contraction, energy production, and metabolism.

Migraine sufferers have been shown to have low systemic magnesium levels in serum, red blood cells, saliva, cerebro-spinal fluid and brain tissue, compared to non-sufferers[1]. Up to 50% of people with migraines and 40% of people with cluster headaches are deficient. Poor diet, alcohol, stress, and chronic illness can also deplete magnesium levels.

Let’s get past the science talk, and break down what that means to you, the migraine sufferer! Magnesium may help you, without the side-effects of prescription medication. Oral magnesium significantly reduces the frequency and intensity of migraines and headaches[2]. The most common side effects reported by users were diarrhea (18%) and stomach irritation (5%)[3].

How do you know if you are low on magnesium? Other signs include cold hands and feet, a general feeling of cold, muscle cramps in lower extremities, and constant tension in your muscles.

Generally, we start patients on 500 mg of magnesium malate & chelate, with often dramatic results. Depending on your current levels and absorption rate, it may take a month of daily intake before headaches improve. Magnesium may interfere with some antibiotics and prescription drugs, so be sure to discuss with your doctor.

Aside from migraines, magnesium has been shown to help with anxiety, fatigue and low energy. Magnesium might just be your best friend as you enjoy friends, family and holiday festivities this season!

Cheers to your health!

Dale Heide

[1] Wang F, et al. Oral magnesium oxide prophylaxis of frequent migrainous headache in children: a randomized, doubleblind, placebo-controlled trial. Headache 2003; 43:601-610.

[2] Effects of Intravenous and Oral Magnesium on Reducing Migraine: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pain Physician. 2016 Jan;19(1):E97-112.

[3] Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.