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Magnesium and Migraines: Understanding the Link

Magnesium and Migraines: Understanding the Link

Magnesium and Migraines: Understanding the Link


Suffering from a headache or, even more distressingly, a migraine is far from pleasant. Dealing with either can be both a physical and psychological trial, undermining the quality of life and daily functionality of many individuals.

Globally, around 1 billion people are affected by chronic migraines, with the United States alone home to approximately 37 million sufferers. The World Health Organization classifies migraines among the top 10 most disabling medical conditions, underscoring their significant impact on individuals’ lives. Migraines can bring excruciating pain and discomfort, interfering with a person's daily activities. Presently, there is no definitive cure for migraines, leading many to seek out various methods, ranging from pharmaceutical to holistic, in a bid to prevent or mitigate the often debilitating symptoms. For those who experience frequent migraine attacks, it is essential to have a preventive treatment regimen in place, which may include over-the-counter pain relief, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

Understanding the root causes of migraines could be vital to unlocking more effective treatments. While the exact origins of migraines are still being researched, evidence suggests that a more profound knowledge of their underpinnings could pave the way for novel, non-pharmacological approaches to managing this condition. Let's delve deeper into the evidence and explore the possibility of using relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing, as well as biofeedback, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes as a solution that doesn’t rely on medication, offering hope for those who prefer or require alternative options.

Understanding Migraines

Migraines are a distinct and severe category of headache disorders, marked by pulsating and throbbing pain, typically on just one side of your head. The intensity of this pain is not just debilitating; it is often accompanied by other distressing symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and an extreme sensitivity to both light and sound. The pain is usually felt on one side of the head, specifically the side where the migraine occurs. The longevity of a migraine episode can vary dramatically, persisting for anything from a few hours to an agonizing several days.

The underlying causes of migraines remain elusive, intertwined in a complex web of genetic predispositions, environmental triggers, and neurologic changes. It is theorized that migraines arise from alterations in brain chemistry, especially concerning the fluctuation of specific neurotransmitters, which play pivotal roles in the communication between brain cells. Furthermore, the process of the blood vessels in the brain alternately widening and narrowing—known as vasodilation and vasoconstriction, respectively—is also believed to be a significant contributing factor in migraine onset, including weather changes and other common migraine triggers. This multifactorial basis of migraines points to the intricate nature of this condition, highlighting the need for continued research to unravel its complexities fully. This can look like the following:


Migraines tend to have an inherited component, often observed to run in families. Consequently, people with close family members afflicted by migraines may be at a higher risk of developing this condition themselves.

Neurological Factors

At a neurological level, migraines are characterized by abnormal brain activity. This can manifest as certain neurotransmitters like serotonin fluctuations, crucial for neural communication. Such changes can significantly affect the brain's pain processing function, leading to the onset of typical migraine symptoms.


External and internal factors, often known as "triggers," can initiate a migraine episode in those predisposed to this condition. These triggers can be highly diverse, varying from person to person. Some of the most common triggers include:

Hormonal Fluctuations

A strong connection exists between migraines and hormonal changes, particularly those occurring during a woman's menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopausal phase.


Certain foods and beverages, for example, chocolate, cheese, caffeine, and alcohol, are known to induce migraines in specific individuals.

Environmental Variables

Bright lights, loud noises, strong odors, or significant changes in weather or altitude might provoke migraines.


Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and tension often act as potent triggers for migraines.

Sleep Disturbances

Disruptions to regular sleep patterns or poor-quality sleep can contribute to migraines.

Vascular alterations

Historically, migraines were extensively associated with changes in the blood vessels within the brain, specifically, a sequence of vasodilation (blood vessel widening) followed by vasoconstriction (blood vessel narrowing). However, contemporary research hints that while vascular changes form part of the migraine cascade, they are not the only elements to consider in this intricate process. Additionally, certain medications, such as calcium channel blockers, are effective in treating migraines and high blood pressure by stabilizing blood vessel walls and reducing migraine pain.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Factors

Migraines are connected with abnormal activities within the CNS, encompassing the brain stem and its interactions with a crucial pain interpreter, the trigeminal nerve. Such abnormal CNS activity can trigger the release of substances that incite inflammation and consequently amplify pain signals, reinforcing the migraine's pain cycle.

The Nutritional Angle: A Closer Look at Magnesium

A commonly overlooked cause of migraines, often dismissed due to their severe nature, is nutritional deficiencies. The link between nutrient levels and migraines is nuanced and individual-specific, with some weaknesses identified as potential triggers or factors that may exacerbate migraine episodes. Although targeting nutrient deficiencies might not be a standalone solution for managing migraines—given the condition's complexity and its roots in genetics, environment, and neurology—ensuring sufficient intake of critical nutrients could be beneficial. Adequate nutrition not only supports overall health and well-being but may also positively impact the frequency and intensity of migraines.

Here are some nutrients that have been studied for migraines:


Magnesium is vital in numerous physiological processes, including neurotransmitter function and blood vessel regulation. Several studies point towards an association between magnesium deficiencies and migraines, with some suggesting that the mineral might play a preventive role against migraines for some individuals. This has led to the investigational use of magnesium supplements as potential ward-offs for these disabling headaches, as well as other preventive medications such as antidepressants, albeit more studies are required to establish the direct impact of magnesium on migraine prevention conclusively.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Research also suggests an intriguing connection between migraines and deficiencies of Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2. Various studies have showcased the potential of Riboflavin supplementation to reduce both the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks, as seen in multiple clinical trials. The vitamin is believed to have a pivotal role in energy production at the cellular level, which could underpin its effectiveness in migraine management. Vitamin deficiency, including riboflavin, has been linked to migraine headaches, and supplementing with these nutrients, specifically B vitamins, may help ease symptoms. It is essential to speak to a healthcare professional to determine if supplementing with riboflavin may benefit an individual's migraine management.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

In the realm of antioxidants, Coenzyme Q10, which contributes to energy production within cells, has captured the attention of researchers. Preliminary studies hint at the potential of CoQ10 supplementation in reducing the frequency of migraines, though additional research is necessary to confirm these findings and define its effectiveness.

Vitamin D

The 'sunlight vitamin,' Vitamin D, is also under investigation for its relationship with migraines. The hormone-like vitamin, crucial for bone health and immune function, has been linked to migraines in some studies, suggesting that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is essential for overall health and might also be beneficial for fighting migraines. Precision in this area, however, requires further intensive research to draw firm conclusions. One way to increase your vitamin D intake is by adding Vitamin D-rich foods like cheese, egg yolks, fish like salmon and tuna, beef liver, soy milk, and orange juice. Alternatively, you may also take vitamin D supplements to support your nerve health further.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Known for their potent anti-inflammatory benefits, Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils and flaxseeds have aroused interest in studying migraine prevention. Indications from certain studies suggest these essential fatty acids might deliver a positive impact on migraines, potentially reducing their frequency. Recent studies have shown that the FDA has approved omega-3 fatty acid injections to treat episodic cluster headaches. Still, as with others, more detailed research is needed to uncover and validate these findings' extend fully.

Spotlight on Magnesium

Magnesium is a critical nutrient worth highlighting for its broad supportive role in health, particularly its potential benefits in migraine prevention.

One notable study demonstrated the effectiveness of magnesium oxide in preventing migraine attacks, comparing it to valproate sodium, a commonly prescribed migraine medication. Conducted as a double-blind, randomized, controlled crossover trial over 24 weeks, the study split participants into two groups: one receiving 500 mg of magnesium oxide daily and the other receiving 400 mg of valproate sodium in two doses daily for 8 weeks. The objective was to assess reductions in the frequency and intensity of migraines and the duration of headache hours each month compared to baseline. Ultimately, the findings suggested that magnesium oxide, at a dosage of 500 mg, was as effective in reducing migraine occurrences as valproate sodium but without significant side effects. This highlights the potential for magnesium as a natural and safe alternative to traditional drug administration for migraine relief.

Furthermore, research examining the effect of daily magnesium supplements on menstrual-related migraines found a notable correlation. This study investigated the hypothesis that magnesium deficiency plays a crucial role in such migraines, evaluating the serum-ionized calcium/ionized magnesium ratio as a potential factor. The findings corroborated earlier suggestions, highlighting a significant incidence of ionized magnesium deficiency and an elevated calcium/magnesium ratio during menstrual migraines, reinforcing the idea of magnesium deficiency contributing to the condition's development.

Another significant piece of literature underscores the importance of magnesium as a migraine treatment, especially for those deficient in this mineral. Magnesium participates in several essential biological functions, including ATP production, neuronal regulation, and maintaining blood vessel tone. It acts mainly in producing and storing high-energy phosphates, blocking N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, and inhibiting the flow of neuronal calcium. This mechanism is crucial as it may prevent the initiation and continuation of central sensitization after pain stimuli—critical during migraine attacks linked to NMDA receptor activation. Magnesium's role extends to moderating intracellular inflammatory processes, controlling neurotransmitter release, platelet activity, and vasoconstriction. Magnesium is vital for balancing energy in the brain and other organs due to its pivotal functions inside and outside cells. Its deficiency has been identified as a trigger for migraine episodes, emphasizing the importance of maintaining adequate magnesium levels for those prone to migraines.

Identifying Magnesium Deficiency

Detecting a magnesium deficiency can be a subtle yet crucial process for maintaining optimal health, especially given the mineral's multifaceted role in bodily functions and its potential impact on conditions such as migraines.  Here are some common causes of magnesium deficiency:

Inadequate Dietary Intake

The cornerstone of magnesium adequacy is a balanced diet rich in this mineral. However, a reliance on processed foods, typically stripped of vital nutrients like magnesium, leads to insufficient intake for many. Emphasizing a diet that integrates magnesium-packed items such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes is critical for maintaining adequate magnesium levels.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Digestive health plays a pivotal role in nutrient absorption. Disorders disrupting the gastrointestinal tract, encompassing celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, can significantly hamper the body's ability to assimilate magnesium, thereby raising the risk of a deficiency.

Chronic Alcohol Use

An often-overlooked repercussion of chronic alcohol use is its detrimental effect on magnesium levels. Alcohol not only hastens the excretion of magnesium via urine but also potentially hinders its intestinal absorption, a double jeopardy that can precipitate a shortfall.

Medication Interactions

Various pharmaceuticals, including common diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, and certain antibiotics, can either inhibit magnesium uptake or expedite its loss from the body, warranting careful monitoring of magnesium status among individuals on long-term medication regimens.


Advancing age can intrinsically reduce magnesium absorption and is frequently accompanied by dietary changes that may further limit magnesium intake, positioning older adults at a heightened vulnerability for deficiency.

Chronic Health Conditions

Illnesses like diabetes and chronic kidney disease inherently predispose to magnesium depletion. Diabetes, through its effect on urinary output, and kidney disease, through altered excretory functions, can both exacerbate losses of body magnesium.

Diabetes Management

In individuals with poorly controlled diabetes, excessive urinary output is a common issue, which in turn can lead to significant losses of magnesium, undermining the body's reserves.

Malabsorption Syndromes 

Conditions that undermine the body's nutrient absorption capabilities or surgeries that remove portions of the digestive tract carve a direct pathway to magnesium deficiency, as the body's ability to procure magnesium from food becomes compromised.

Imbalanced Calcium Intake

Calcium and magnesium must exist in harmony within the body. An excessive calcium intake, especially without corresponding magnesium intake, can disrupt the delicate balance, impeding magnesium absorption and potentially precipitating a deficiency.

Chronic Stress

The stress response elicits a cascade of hormonal changes, some of which can enhance the excretion of magnesium. Persistent stress may thus erode the body's magnesium stores, highlighting the need for stress management in maintaining mineral equilibrium.

Agricultural Practices

Modern agricultural practices weigh heavily on soil health, often producing nutrient-depleted produce. Overfarming, failure to re-mineralize soils, and the usage of pesticides that impair nutrient uptake collectively diminish the nutritional value of our crops, compromising dietary sources of magnesium.


In conclusion, the journey towards understanding and managing migraines is complex and multifaceted, bridging genetics, neurological factors, and lifestyle triggers. Among these, the role of nutritional deficiencies, particularly in magnesium, emerges as a critical area for further exploration and potential intervention. The research underscores the importance of addressing these deficiencies, with magnesium supplementation showing promise as a viable, medication-free approach to mitigating the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. This insight highlights the significance of a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients and encourages a broader perspective on preventive strategies against migraines. It underscores the need for personalized approaches in managing this debilitating condition, focusing on holistic well-being that spans dietary, environmental, and lifestyle considerations. As we unravel the complexities of migraines, the emphasis on nutrient supplementation, especially magnesium, offers hope for millions suffering worldwide, pointing towards more natural, accessible, and potentially effective management strategies.

You might ask: How can we determine whether we are dealing with a magnesium deficiency? Moreover, if we discover such a deficiency, how can we obtain the magnesium supplements necessary to counteract it? The answer lies in executing a sophisticated diagnostic test called Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA). This unique test, which requires only a single tablespoon of your hair, can effectively reveal potential nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in your body, including magnesium. Having the capability to uncover such information vastly empowers you to take control of your health. Once armed with this knowledge, you can easily acquire magnesium supplements widely available in the market. Interested in exploring this effective diagnostic tool? Schedule your HTMA test with us and embark on a journey toward optimal health.

We've got you covered for those interested in exploring the benefits of magnesium supplementation. Discover our top-recommended product, Upgraded Magnesium. This specially formulated supplement meets your needs and supports your journey towards improved well-being.

Barbara Madimenos

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner

Integrative Nutrition Coach

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