Headaches are no fun and migraine headaches can be debilitating. According to migraine.com 38 million people suffer from migraines, which is about 13% of the population. I suffered from headaches and migraines since I was in my early twenties. They got worse as I started to get older. Eventually I was getting headaches at least three times a week in my forties. Stress and lack of sleep often triggered a migraine.
My physician prescribed migraine medication, but it made me feel loopy and I only took it when a migraine was ‘coming on.’ I wanted to prevent headaches not treat them, so I kept researching headache and migraine prevention and eventually stumbled onto magnesium supplementation. There are many types of magnesium supplements, some are more effective at preventing headaches than others. Knowing the best magnesium for headaches – and which types to avoid, is critical to resolving the issue long term.
What makes magnesium so important for headache prevention?
You will learn on MagnesiumSupplementation.com that magnesium is a multipurpose mineral. If you are low or deficient in magnesium, you may need to supplement for optimal bodily function. Daily magnesium intake has many benefits that can be part of your long term supplementation program.
Magnesium is vital for many body and brain functions. It promotes heart health, stabilizes blood pressure and metabolizes glucose. It’s great for bone health, nerves support and anxiety reduction. Most relevant to preventing headaches, it’s an anti-inflammatory. Research suggests that it may be its anti-inflammatory properties that help in headache prevention.
Magnesium reduces swelling and headaches are often caused by swelling of blood vessels near nerve endings. It is believed that people that are low or deficient in this mineral suffer most from headaches and migraines, in fact research by the American Migraine Foundation has found that people that suffer from migraines are mainly deficient in magnesium.
What foods contain magnesium and is it enough?
There are a wide variety of foods that contain magnesium. The best food sources for magnesium include seeds and nuts such as sunflower seeds and almonds. Leafy green vegetables such as collard greens and Swiss chard are also high in magnesium. Whole grains and beans are also good sources. My favorite source is avocados. I eat 2-3 avocados a week because I love them so much as well as salmon which is also a good source. There is even magnesium in tap water. The question is, can you get enough from food to set yourself up for proper prevention of headaches and migraines? The answer is likely no, and here is why….
If you suffer from headaches and migraines you likely are low or deficient in magnesium. Trying to get the magnesium you would need from food alone is an uphill battle. Your body is likely not getting enough from the amount of food you eat on a healthy and balanced diet. As well, you could be suffering from low absorption or your body may be getting rid of most of the magnesium you get from food as part of the normal excretion process.
According to WebMD, most people don’t get nearly enough magnesium in their diet. After 30 women need 320 milligrams daily and men need about 100 milligrams more. Let’s face it, we live in a world of high consumption of processed foods in lieu of healthy magnesium containing foods. Furthermore, modern day soil lacks the proper mineral levels that are needed for plants to properly furnish us with the daily requirements without eating substantially more food.
Who should supplement?
Almost anyone can benefit from magnesium supplementation. Magnesium is even safe for children and during pregnancy with limitations of course. Magnesium oxide is recommended in a daily dose up to 400 mg during pregnancy by the American Migraine Foundation. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the daily recommended value for children 9-14 is up to 240 mg. Follow the recommendations as set by the NIH or your doctor. Anyone taking calcium, phosphorus, or vitamin D should also supplement as these supplements steal magnesium from the body.
The bottom line is anyone who is low or deficient should supplement. If your body doesn’t get sufficient levels from food or supplementation, it will actually seek out reserves of magnesium in your bones to satisfy your needs as I learned on Dr. Lin’s site. If you are unsure if you are low or deficient have your doctor run an Altura test or ionized magnesium test. There is something called the RBC Magnesium test for $59 at Direct Labs. I’ve read on many doctors’ sites that discuss magnesium testing that serum testing is not a good method for testing, so if your doctor offers that, sway them toward the other tests.
Once you confirm you are low or deficient your doctor many prescribe a specific supplement or suggest a dosage that is right for you. The key to finding the best magnesium for headaches is finding one that is well tolerated and has optimal absorption. You may have to try a few types or brands until you find one that is right for you. While forms such as magnesium chloride might absorb quickly and be ‘bioavailable,’ it might not be right for you which I’ll discuss why further on.
Which is the best magnesium for headaches, and why?
Magnesium supplements come in many forms including but not limited to magnesium aspartate, chloride, citrate, glycinate, lactate, L-threonate, malate, oxide, sulfate, and taurate. Some types are more effective than others for headaches and migraines.
The best magnesium for headaches in my opinion is magnesium glycinate. While you probably haven’t read about it as the number one magnesium for headaches and migraines, it’s making a name for itself, and I really like it for a few reasons. If you are prone to stomach upset I suggest magnesium glycinate. It has a high bioavailability and works very quickly to get deficiency levels up and has relatively low to no stomach upset. Glycine is anti-inflammatory so it makes sense it would work for headaches for reasons mentioned above under ‘why’ magnesium is important for preventing headaches. Magnesium glycine has a whole host of other benefits to the body including stress reducer, sleep enhancer, cancer fighter and stroke prevention, so I feel like I’m getting all kinds of added benefits with this one.
I also like magnesium citrate because it is also highly bioavailable and dissolves well in water. I typically take 400 mg at night, and often switch back and forth between the glycine and the citrate which seems to work well for me. In doses above 400mg, citrate gives me a bit of a tummy ache so start with lower doses and work up to a point where you are comfortable.
While magnesium oxide is not the most bioavailable, some people like it as it tends to be stable for the stomach. It is generally taken in pill form in doses up to 500 mg per day as recommended by the American Migraine Foundation.
Other ways to supplement magnesium that don’t involve swallowing a pill include Epsom Salt baths or topical oils and creams. Several of the magnesium forms mentioned above are available as an oil or cream.
Stay away from this type of magnesium in oral form…
I would recommend staying away magnesium chloride at least in oral form. I experimented with magnesium chloride (ionic magnesium liquid) and while it has a high absorption rate, you may find yourself in the bathroom more than you prefer. If you suffer from constipation it might be a good option. I have come across articles suggesting it is quite good as a topical but have not tried it topcially yet and will update this post once I do. The oil form is recommended by Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. the author of the Magnesium Miracle.
You must be proactive about supplementation for headaches, take charge!
Be proactive about your headaches, understand your symptoms, and research, research, research. Western medicine has a tendency to treat a symptom but does not address the underlying problem. Minerals such as magnesium can address multiple health issues but are rarely recommended by health practitioners. Be proactive with your health, magnesium just might be the mineral you need to say good-bye to headaches and migraines for good. It was for me, and always look for the best magnesium for headaches for you.