Are Migraines Caused by Magnesium Deficiency?
Worldwide, more than one billion people are affected by migraines every year. Although a severe headache is the most common symptom of migraines, they can also cause other adverse effects such as nausea and vomiting, hypersensitivity to everything around you, aura, dizziness, and the list goes on. Often, nutrient deficiencies cause migraines, or at least worsen symptoms.
More than 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and that doesn’t surprise me. There are more than 3500 medical references to magnesium deficiency in the U.S. Unfortunately, this deficiency doesn’t show up on blood tests, because only 1% of magnesium is in the blood. Most of our magnesium is stored in our bones.
Research has shown, however, that supplementation or increased intake of magnesium can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
In this article, we’ll go over some risk factors for magnesium deficiency, signs and symptoms to watch out for, and some mag-rich foods on which you can stock up.
Magnesium Deficiency Risk Factors
Since magnesium levels won’t show up on your blood tests, it’s not likely that you’ve been “diagnosed” with a deficiency. However, magnesium is one of the most powerful minerals on the planet (and it happens to be one of the most relaxing too).
The cause of magnesium deficiency is likely from inadequate intake, especially since we have some serious nutrient deficits in our soil. Some warning signs that you may have or develop magnesium deficiency include the following:
- High levels of chronic stress.
- Regular intake of alcohol and caffeine (more than two servings a day). Alcohol increases your kidney’s excretion of magnesium.
- Daily intake of dark carbonated drinks like soda.
- Medications like diuretics, asthma meds, hormone replacement, and birth control can increase magnesium excretion.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is an elemental mineral that helps with a wide range of health markers, including:
- Blood-glucose regulation
- Protein synthesis
- Nerve function
- Energy production
- Blood pressure
- Skeletal integrity
- Muscle contraction
- Cardiac function
- Immune system function
Low magnesium levels can lead to symptoms like:
- Migraines and headaches
- Hormonal imbalance
- Muscle cramps and spasms
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Heart attack
Sadly, that’s not even a full list of symptoms. They’re just the most common. Every person will react differently to magnesium deficiency, so there’s no telling what symptom will be most prominent in any given individual.
Treating Magnesium Deficiency to Help with Migraines
If you are only mildly deficient in mag, then you can likely improve your levels by adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet. However, severe magnesium deficiency might require additional supplementation as well.
Try adding these foods to your eating plan:
- Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds
- Unrefined rice and quinoa
- Black beans and kidney beans
- Peanut butter or almond butter
- Seaweed, shrimp, salmon, halibut, and trout
There are many other good foods to try. You can find some listed on my mag and migraine article here. However, the best foods for increasing your magnesium levels are green leafy vegetables like spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, and beet greens. Use herbs and different mixtures of these veggies to keep the flavors interesting (basil and thyme are great on salads!).
For supplementation, I recommend either magnesium citrate, glycinate, or chelate to my migraine patients because these forms are easier for most to digest. If you choose to use a supplement, then look for a high-quality 400 mg (minimal) product from a trusted supplier.
It is possible to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine headaches by changing what you eat. Getting more dietary magnesium or using a magnesium supplement can help.
If you do decide to begin using a magnesium supplement, be sure to choose a high-quality option that is naturally sourced from organic plants, not a synthetic product made in a laboratory.