I was blown away by The Migraine World Summit (MWS) broadcast a few weeks ago. Thousands watched and learned how to help themselves from the information shared by the impressive speakers. I was hooked right from the start as the organizer and “face” of the Summit, Carl, an Australian with chronic migraines, masterfully brought the information to us via an interviewing format. Carl asked the questions we all want answered. There is so much I want to share with you as this Summit should be a “must-see” for everyone with frequent or chronic migraines. The link for the MWS is at the bottom of this page.
So, where to start? Since my degree is in clinical nutrition and it’s my thing, I’ll start with the presentation that gave the most useful info on dietary supplements. There was so much valuable info in this specific talk that I’m just going to focus on magnesium in this piece.
The expert giving us the info was Dr. Alexander Mauskop, Director & Founder of the New York Headache Center. Board Certified in Neurology with Subspecialty Certification in Headache Medicine.
Mauskop started with his favorite topic regarding migraines and supplements, magnesium. He has a great deal of expertise in this area and shared the “whys and hows” that can help us all. Mauskop talked about studies showing low magnesium in the brains of migraineurs and those with cluster headache. And, he suggested that it’s possible for some people with migraines, perhaps the whole body is low in magnesium.
The potential causes for low magnesium:
- Stress alters magnesium metabolism. Potentially, we use more magnesium during stressful times and/or end up losing more by peeing more out than we would when not stressed.
- Genetics – there may be a gene effecting how much magnesium we absorb and how much we end up flushing down the toilet
- Lower intake – many who eat a healthy diet don’t eat enough rich sources of magnesium.
- Those who struggle to feel well often are less concerned with healthy choices. Additionally, many of us avoid categories of foods high in magnesium because they trigger migraines (i.e. nuts)
- GI disorders – many migraineurs have colitis and IBS and may not absorb magnesium as well as other important nutrients..
- Diabetes and other disorders are associated with low magnesium and affect some of us
Dr. Mauskop discussed the symptoms of low magnesium:
- Muscle cramps
- Cold hands and feet
- Mental fog
- Depression and irritability
So, what is so important about magnesium? This important nutrient is involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in body. It’s needed to form neurotransmitters and to properly metabolize glutamate and other substances. Glutamate is a substance that gets a lot of attention in migraine research as some believe it has an important role for us.
One interesting study Mauskop discussed studies showed that people who didn’t get relief from the popular triptan, Imitrex/sumatriptan had low magnesium levels. When their magnesium levels were increased they found relief from this frequently prescribed and effective migraine medication.
In Mauskop’s own study on magnesium infusions, he showed very interesting and promising results. Of those people that came to his office and received infusions of magnesium for migraines, the people who got relief tended to be those who were deficient in red blood cell magnesium. Those that weren’t deficient didn’t get relief.
Studies with oral magnesium had good results but the red blood cell levels of magnesium before weren’t measured before or after the study. Based on the info from Mauskop, you have to wonder if those who had the best results with magnesium were those who were deficient and had the most to gain from repleating their bodies.
So, how does Mauskop suggest we supplement with oral magnesium? He suggests taking chelated forms as they tend to be absorbed better and do not cause GI symptoms. The form he recommends most often is magnesium glycinate. According to Mauskop, people with migraines should take the supplement with food and start with 400 mg. Once you are satisfied that it is not causing GI side effects, double the dose. He recommends tripling the dose if you can tolerate it. He stated that it’s extremely, extremely difficult to become overdosed unless you have severe kidney problems, so the higher doses should be safe for most people with migraines.
I have taken magnesium glycinate with no problems, but I prefer magnesium threonate as it supposedly crosses the blood brain barrier better than other forms. It’s not easy to find so I order it from Designs for Health.com.
So, how would you know if you were deficient in magnesium? Serum magnesium is not a good indicator as 98% of magnesium is inside cells or in bone. Serum magnesium can be normal or a little high but red blood cell (RBC) magnesium is borderline or low. Ask your doctor to test your RBC magnesium if you are curious.
How long until you see results from supplementing with magnesium glycinate? Results in a day are unusual for oral supplementation. You may need several weeks depending on your current nutritional status and metabolism
Stay tuned for more summaries of the Migraine World Summit that can directly help you. https://www.migraineworldsummit.com/