Migraine treatment and prevention is particularly difficult because the exact cause of migraines is not known. One popular theory suggests that vascular constriction blocks blood flow to the brain, leading to headache; another theory says that a drop in serotonin levels affects the interaction between the trigeminal nerve and the brainstem, resulting in pain. There may be some truth to both these theories. While we await confirmation of migraine causes, the 11% of the American population suffering migraines continues to search for effective treatment and prevention.
Magnesium supplementation has caught the eye of many researchers as a potential preventative method for people with migraines. Inexpensive and relatively safe, this nutrient could help people manage their headaches naturally.
This mineral is responsible for hundreds of jobs in the human body, most notably keeping bones strong, maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating blood sugar and pressure levels, energy metabolism and maintaining muscle and nerve function.
There are a few studies available that suggest magnesium supplementation is an effective method for migraine prevention. One found that those who took magnesium for 12 weeks exhibited a 41.6% reduction in frequency of attacks compared to 15.8% in the placebo group. The total number of days with migraine and the amount of medication patients needed to manage attack symptoms decreased significantly in the magnesium group. More on this study can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8792038.
Women are about 3 times more likely to experience migraines than men. Hormone fluctuations may be involved in migraine onset, meaning women are particularly susceptible around the time of their periods. Also, the level of magnesium in the body drops during menstruation. Supplementation could be beneficial particularly for women who experience menstrual migraines. Added bonus: Magnesium may help reduce menstrual cramps.
It is a common misconception that anything obtainable over-the-counter is 100% safe. Magnesium comes with less risk than prescription anti-depressants and other types of migraine medication, but it is not without risk. The most common side effects of magnesium supplementation are diarrhea and upset stomach. Overdose is rare, but can cause severely lowered blood pressure and heart rate, even leading to death.
On top of side effects and overdose, there are a number of drugs that magnesium may interact with. You should consult with your doctor before taking magnesium. For detailed information on risks and interactions, see http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/magnesium-000313.htm.
Magnesium supplementation may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Consider natural treatments for pain and other health conditions before opting for more expensive and risky therapies.