The Magnesium Connection and why my migraines came back
Those of you that know me through social media know that I am a chronic migraineur who controls their migraines through a mixture of prophylactic medication, diet, and exercise. But migraine is a fickle beast, and what works one month, doesn’t always work the next. Plus, we change as we get older, and body changes have an affect on our migraines.
Artwork by Jenny Yu
You guessed it, I’m getting to the dreaded age of menopause. That means hot flushes. And like so many migraineurs, I can’t take HRT. In fact, I have to be extremely careful with any supplements. I can’t even take multi-vitamins as they will spark off an attack. Up until now, I got round this by eating nuts daily. But the hot flushes were getting so bad, that I was overheating every 20-30 minutes day and night. I was having poor sleep, was thirsty all the time, and generally worn out from the lack of nutrients.
My Endocrinologist, who has supervised my diet, recommended Red Clover. I took it for a few days but it made me dizzy, and I was terrified of setting off my migraines, so I decided to drink a glass of soya milk each day instead. I kept it to the same time of day, knowing how my body likes routine, and waited for any telltale signs of the rumblings of an attack, but none came. In fact, I seemed to get more energy. My brain seemed to go through a period of mania (see previous blog posts on the hyper-brain activity) and increased energy. I did a marketing course and started this blog. I was simply brimming with ideas. But what goes up must come down, and the inevitable crash into migraines and depression followed.
That wasn’t the only thing that happened during that time; the depletion of nutrients through the constant sweating was taking its toll too. I’d noticed over a period of months, every now and again, I was getting this weird feeling in my legs, where I felt wobbly and could fall over any minute. It happened a few times. Then one evening, after a period of writing, I went to get up, didn’t realise my foot was dead, and put my full weight on it with my toes left behind. The result was a loud crack, a bad fall and torn ligaments. The doctor gave me tests and found I was severely vitamin D deficient. I was given a supplement and told to take four a day. OMG! how would I ever tolerate one let alone four? Well, to cut a long story short, I got to three, then ended up having to drop down to one. I thought I was okay, but then I got a migraine. I was moving house and put it down to the stress of that. But it lasted for three days, and I hadn’t had one for that long in ages. Then, only a few days went past and i got another one, and another one, and so it went on. The result was I had to stop the vitamin D and the soya milk. But i’d messed everything up. My migraines that had been controlled really well for a couple of years with my Amitriptyline and my Propranolol, were back with a vengeance, and aggravated by the slightest thing. In short, I’d become hypersensitive again.
Artwork by Alexandra Levasseur.
I’ve now had to double my dose of propranolol, and for the last few days, so far so good. The thing is, I know that I need vitamin D. After some time reading a few books and surfing the net, the magnesium connection to migraine came up again and again. It seems there is something else to try.
Have any of you had any success taking magnesium? Drop me a line if you have.
Here are some of the facts about magnesium and migraine:
Studies have shown that migraineurs have low brain magnesium during migraine attacks. They also often suffer from a magnesium deficiency. This deficiency may play a vital role in menstrual migraine.
Magnesium in the form of oral supplements has been affective in the prevention of migraine – getting good results for those with migraine with aura and menstrual migraine. Tests have shown high doses of over 600mg for 3-4 months is most affective.
Abnormal constriction and dilation of blood vessels are the main source of migraine pain and magnesium and calcium is thought to aid in the relaxation of the walls of these blood vessels. In fact magnesium has a calming affect on the whole central nervous system. Knowing what we know now about migraine being a genetic disease of the central nervous system, then it makes sense that magnesium could be a valuable tool in keeping them at bay.
How much should I take?
Men – 30+ years of age 420mg, 19-30 400mg
Women – 30+ 320mg 19-30 310mg
There seem to be relatively few side effects. The main one being diarrhoea (If it’s not absorbed it goes to the colon) Nausea, weakness, feeling of warmth, flushing, low blood pressure, reduced heart rate, double vision and slurred speech are usually a result of taking too much.
How to use it successfully
You need to find a product that agrees with you. Cheap low-quality supplements are poorly absorbed. It doesn’t come in a pure form, it has to be bound to something else.
or with amino acids
Magnesium Chelate (a combination on amino acids and proteins)
It seems that you have to find the one that works for you without upsetting your stomach too much. It does come in a liquid form if you have difficulty with pills, and will be absorbed more quickly. From what I can gather, the Magnesium Glycinate capsule is the most affective and easiest to absorb.
A point to note: Magnesium needs to be taken with Calcium at a ratio of approximately 1:1 – 2:1. Calcium contracts muscles, Magnesium relaxes them. Don’t forget to make allowances if you have a lot of calcium rich or fortified foods. In fact for optimum health, we should be getting a good mix of vitamins A, D, and K2.
A variety of fruits and vegetables daily
Calcium 700mg daily can easily come from our diet – a glass of milk and 2oz Brie (rich in K2) = 380mg calcium, which means it’s easy to get too much.
Magnesium 700mg = 300mg from a good diet and 400mg from a supplement like Magnesium Glycinate, Citrate or Threonate. Vary the type, take with meals 2-3 times a day.
Vitamin A Eat Liver or Liver pate` once a week. This nutrient is important in removing excess calcium but you shouldn’t over do it. I can definitely put up with liver pate` once a week.
Vitamin D is the hard one for me. As I explained above, my migraines don’t like this supplement, so I’m going to try to get a little sun when I can, and take a supplement every now and again, instead of trying to take it daily. It’s not ideal, but I’m trying to give my body what it needs without setting off an attack. I’ll let you know how i get on.
Vitamin K2 best taken in the form MK-4 5mg comes in liquid form at 1mg a drop. Take a few times a week.
So that’s the shopping list.
Foods rich in Magnesium?
peanuts, brown rice, almonds, blackstrap molasses hazel nuts, kiwi fruit, bananas, broccoli, tofu, spinach
soy beans, swiss chard, avocado, tomato paste, peanut butter, sweet potato, chocolate, pumpkin seeds,
cocoa powder, succotash black-eyed peas, cooked artichoke, whole grain cereals, cooked okra, chick peas, beet, greens, split peas, acorn squash, lentils, baked potato, beans, fresh apricots, dried apricots, raisins, yogurt, milk.
There are quite a few migraine trigger foods in there, so you need to be selective. But it is necessary to point out, that even if you ate a ton of the foods above, the chances are you’d still be deficient, as the food nowadays just doesn’t have the magnesium in it that it should because of intensive farming and use of herbicides.
Consult your doctor before embarking on the use of supplements – particularly if like me, you are on other medication. For instance, magnesium lowers blood pressure. I am on a large amount of propranolol which lowers my blood pressure. I don’t want to go keeling over, so i will have to check.
Remember, trial and error, go easy, listen to your body and see how you go. It will be great to do this together so we can compare notes at the end of it.
There are other older herbal remedies that i’ll look at in my next post. Until then, eat well, sleep well and stay migraine free.