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The Magnesium-Migraine Connection

woman with a headache

What does Magnesium do?

Magnesium is an important electrolyte that plays a role in muscle contraction, proper nerve function, and enzyme production in the body. Several research studies have shown the benefits of magnesium supplementation in dealing with migraine headaches. The balance of magnesium in the body can have an impact on neurotransmitter receptors for serotonin. One of the roles of serotonin is to regulate the blood vessel dilation and blood vessel constriction in the brain. The role that blood vessels play in migraines are very important. Magnesium is a key player in synthesis of proteins, enzymes, and other metabolic processes in the body. Research participants reported a 40% reduction in migraines during the study that lasted 12 weeks.

Where can you get it naturally?

Dark leafy vegetables like kale, swiss chard, and spinach are common food sources of magnesium. Nuts and seeds like cashews, flax, pumpkin, almonds, and pecans are also packed with magnesium. Fish like halibut, tuna, and wild salmon are great sources as well. Bananas and avocado are another excellent magnesium source.

How much do you need?

According to one medical reference the optimal adult blood levels of magnesium range between 1.8-2.6 mg/dL, in children the optimal range is 1.7-2.1 mg/dL, in infants the optimal healthy range is 1.5-2.2 mg/dL.¹

Studies have indicated that 70% of the adult population does not have adequate blood levels of magnesium and they are considered deficient. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for men is about 400 mg/day and for women is around 300 mg/day for women. Lifestyle factors and dietary practices can greatly impact the amount of magnesium in your body so talk to a health professional before starting a supplement program. Food sources can be a great alternative to taking magnesium supplements.

It’s important to note that taking calcium supplements or eating foods rich in calcium will help with proper absorption of magnesium. Calcium supplement doses can be taken in a 2:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium. For most people the common side-effect of taking too much is developing diarrhea.

  1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

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