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Migraines: Help!

What are migraine headaches? These are typically described as throbbing, unilateral headaches accompanied by auras, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, sensitivity to sound, smells or noise, worsens with movement, and reduced appetite (Lipski, n.d.). One theory on migraines is that these are not vascular related but are caused by cortical spreading depression (CrushMedSchool, 2014). The neuronal activity in the brain fails to function properly, which leads to ‘exhausted’ neurons. Currently, migraines are still considered to be vascular related, so blood vessels are vasoconstricting and vasodilating in a dysfunctional way, the neurons are ‘overexcited’. Migraine headaches are more prevalent in females than males. According to Migraine Research Foundation (2019), this should be recognized as a women’s health issue. These are often related to the estrogen level changes in women, and these are experienced differently than men.

According to Pizzorno, Murray and Joiner-Bey (p. 661, 2016), researchers have not identified a singular pathophysiologic mechanism for migraines, so the focus is around prevention and treatment. One method for prevention is identifying ‘triggers’, such as, food sensitivities, allergies, food, new smells at home like paint, bright light, skipping meals or low blood sugar, stress, and not getting enough sleep to name some. Another method of prevention and treatment is through magnesium (Xue, You, Su & Wang, 2019).

What role does magnesium have in the body? Well, magnesium has many roles in the body structurally, physiologically and biochemically. It is responsible for the tone of blood vessels and prevention of nerve cells overexcitability (Pizzorno, Murray Joiner-Bey, p. 669, 2016). Low magnesium levels are found in patients who suffer from migraines. So there just may be something to increasing consumption of either magnesium-rich foods or supplementing with magnesium.

The daily recommended value for the average adult is 300-420 mg daily. If you are suffering from migraines, it would not hurt to keep a food journal to track foods that may be possible triggers. You should also note how much magnesium you are getting in your diet, as this could

be an issue too. You may need to use an app like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to help you calculate it.

The best source is through food, such as almonds, leafy greens, cashews, soymilk, cooked black beans, edamame, peanut butter, avocado, potato, oatmeal, bananas, salmon, and raisins to name some. But when one is battling migraines, supplementation is an appropriate step. The most bioavailable forms of magnesium are:

  • Gluconate

  • Citrate

  • Orotate

  • Chelated forms

Magnesium sulfate and oxide are typically not absorbed as well as the above listed forms. A person should start with 200mg of citrate daily in the morning with food. Increasing up to 800mg is acceptable if the bowels can handle the dosage. These doses should be broken up and eaten with food. It is advised to also take 50 mg of B6 (Pizzorno, Murray & Joiner-Bey, 2016).


Magnesium can have some interactions with drugs, so below are a few to review. If you are taking any of the drugs listed below, it is best to take the supplement two hours before taking the medications.

  • Digoxin

  • Nitrofurantoin

  • Antimalarial

  • Bisphosphonates

Magnesium could increase the effects of muscle relaxants that may be provided before surgery. Always list every drug, tea and supplement before going into surgery, interactions are possible.


CrushMedSchool. (2014, May 9). Migraine headache micro-lecture! [Video File]. Retrieved


Dellabella, H. (October, 2019). Updated criteria for headache attributed to transient ischemic attacks [image]. NeurologyAdvisor. Retrieved from

Lipski, E. (n.d.). Nutr 636 Migraine Headaches: Asthma of the Brain [pdf file]. Retrieved from

Pizzorno, J., Murray M., & Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine. (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

Xue, W., You, J., Su, Y., & Wang, Q. (2019). The Effect of Magnesium Deficiency on Neurological Disorders: A Narrative Review Article. Iranian journal of public health48(3), 379–387.

Migraine Research Foundation (2019). Migraine is a women’s health issue. Retrieved from

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