Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from migraines? If so, you know how debilitating they can be. Migraines can cause severe pain, nausea, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli like bright lights and sounds. They can last for hours or even days, and, all too often, they can disrupt your work, social, and family life.
Doctors and scientists have been trying to pinpoint the root cause of migraines for years. There is still much we don’t know in this area. One promising theory has emerged in recent years: magnesium deficiency. Keep reading to learn more about the connection between migraines and magnesium.
A migraine is a prolonged headache often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound and light. Migraines typically last for a few hours (although they can sometimes last for days), and they can be so severe to the point of causing temporary incapacitation.
Migraines commonly manifest as pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head. However, some migraine sufferers experience pain on both sides of the head.
The Connection Between Migraines And Magnesium
As we mentioned earlier, magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraines. Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in our bodies (as well as in certain foods and supplements). It is essential in many bodily functions, including muscle contraction, nerve function, blood sugar control, blood pressure regulation, and neurotransmitter modulation.
A magnesium deficiency can lead to various complications – and migraines are one of them. According to the American Migraine Foundation, people who experience migraines tend to have lower magnesium levels than those who don’t.
But according to research, magnesium deficiency does not necessarily cause migraines, per se. Instead, the absence of this critical mineral sets the stage for migraines to occur in the presence of other contributing factors. As such, supplementing with magnesium can be instrumental in managing migraines.
How Does Magnesium Help With Migraines?
There are three main ways in which magnesium can help with migraines.
- Magnesium is thought to prevent cortical spreading depression, a type of brainwave activity believed to trigger migraines.
- Secondly, magnesium can help relax the muscles in the head and neck, which helps relieve pain and reduce inflammation (two common migraine symptoms).
- Last but not least, magnesium is thought to work by regulating or blocking certain brain chemicals involved in pain transmission, including glutamate and Substance P.
Magnesium Supplementation For Migraines
For the above reasons, many people who experience migraines take magnesium supplements to manage and reduce their symptoms. And the results have been encouraging: recent studies have found that magnesium supplementation can significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of migraines in some individuals.
As always, it’s essential to consult with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen. While magnesium supplements are generally safe and effective, they can also cause side effects in some people. These side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.
Other Potential Causes Migraines
Magnesium deficiency may be one of the main contributing factors in migraine development, but it’s far from being the only one. Some of the other common migraine triggers include:
- Excessive stress
- Changes in weather or barometric pressure
- Bright or flashing lights
- Loud noises
- Strong smells
- Certain foods and drinks (including aged cheese, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol)
- Skipping meals or fasting
- Hormonal changes in women (due to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause)
- Changes in sleep habits
- Strenuous physical activities
- Traumatic head injuries
- Genetic makeup
The Bottom Line
Magnesium is an essential mineral with many biochemical roles in the body. It is involved in energy production, nutrient metabolism, neurotransmitter release, and more. Given its wide-ranging effects on the body, it’s no surprise that magnesium deficiency has been linked to a variety of mental and physical health problems—including the development of migraines.
And although magnesium supplementation is not the first line of treatment for migraines, it can be an effective solution for some people. If you’re struggling with this painful condition, talk to your doctor about whether magnesium supplements could be right for you.