The Magnesium and Headache Connection

Do you suffer from tension-type or migraine headaches? If so, has your doctor recommended magnesium supplementation as a primary way to prevent your
headaches? If not, you should be aware that many studies suggest a relationship
between magnesium deficiency and mild to moderate tension and migraine headaches.
The Magnesium Factor
Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a powerhouse in the body. Magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzyme reactions that range from energy production to detoxification, bone formation to muscle contraction, DNA synthesis, to the formation of neurotransmitters and hormones. The body contains around 25 grams of magnesium, most contained in the bones and muscles. Since most magnesium is stored in the body, regular blood testing is not an accurate way to measure intracellular (inside the cell) levels.
Are You Deficient?
Research has shown that approximately 50% of people do not consume enough magnesium.
Many people become depleted in magnesium due to:
Medications (e.g., PPI drugs for GERD; diuretics for high blood pressure)
Depleted levels in crops
Refined foods
Overconsumption of alcohol and caffeine
Malabsorption conditions (Crohn’s Disease)
Excess calcium supplementation
Diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease
High levels of physical activity
High aluminum intake (cookware, medications, baking powder) depletes magnesium
Pregnancy
High stress
Research has shown that most Americans need an extra 300 mg of magnesium daily to prevent chronic diseases. Good food sources include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, black beans, and brown rice.
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium [1]
Age
Male
Female
Pregnancy
Lactation
Birth to 6 months
30 mg*
30 mg*
7–12 months
75 mg*
75 mg*
1–3 years
80 mg
80 mg
4–8 years
130 mg
130 mg
9–13 years
240 mg
240 mg
14–18 years
410 mg
360 mg
400 mg
360 mg
19–30 years
400 mg
310 mg
350 mg
310 mg
31–50 years
420 mg
320 mg
360 mg
320 mg
51+ years
420 mg
320 mg
*Adequate Intake (AI)
Prevent Headaches With Magnesium
When one is deficient in magnesium, it leads to biochemical changes that can cause headaches. For example, magnesium prevents the overactivity of neurons (nerve cells), reduces inflammation signaling, and normalizes dilation of the arteries.
Several studies have been published examining magnesium supplementation and the prevention of migraines in adults and children. For example, one study of adult migraines found that 600 mg of magnesium supplementation reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by 41.6% compared to those receiving placebo which had a 15.8% improvement. A review of five randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials for adult migraines found that 600 mg daily was well tolerated and effective.
The Right Dose
Depending on their diet and other risk factors, most patients supplement 400 mg to 600 mg daily of magnesium. There are different forms of supplemental magnesium available. I often recommend magnesium bisglycinate since it is well absorbed and less likely to cause digestive upset. It is important to know that too much magnesium can cause loose stool or diarrhea. If one has kidney disease, magnesium supplementation should only be used under a doctor’s supervision.
References
DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis [published correction appears in Open Heart. 2018 Apr 5;5(1):e000668corr1]. Open Heart. 2018;5(1):e000668. Published 2018 Jan 13. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668
Maier JA, Pickering G, Giacomoni E, Cazzaniga A, Pellegrino P. Headaches and Magnesium: Mechanisms, Bioavailability, Therapeutic Efficacy and Potential Advantage of Magnesium Pidolate. Nutrients. 2020;12(9):2660. Published 2020 Aug 31. doi:10.3390/nu12092660
Office of dietary supplements – magnesium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/. Accessed January 6, 2022.
About Dr. Stengler
Dr. Mark Stengler NMD is a bestselling author and in private practice in Encinitas, California. His weekly newsletter Dr. Stengler’s Health Breakthroughs is available at www.americasnaturaldoctor.com