By Crystal H. Shelton, Senior Scientific Researcher
The last thing you need standing in the way of you and your workout is an annoying headache! Headaches are a very common ailment and most everyone experiences one at some time in their life. It is estimated that 45 million Americans suffer from headaches, and over 60% of those specifically suffer from migraines. Among the other classifications (tension and cluster headaches), migraines are the second most common and are typically much more intense and painful. While many use prescription medication to help with their symptoms, there exists a nutritional alternative that has also been studied and shown to be beneficial.
The mineral magnesium is getting a lot of attention for its numerous health benefits, most recently being called “the new calcium”. As a supporter in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, magnesium is a necessary nutrient that many do not get from their diet. Its varied roles include positive effects on muscle cramps and promoting optimal nerve function. Additionally, magnesium serves as an important component of bone, promotes the normal regulation of blood pressure and also helps facilitate normal platelet activity. It may be this role in blood vessel health that helps explain its effects in providing relief of headaches.
Headaches and migraines can be caused by many factors, including stress, neurological imbalances, food allergies and the list goes on. Optimal and strong blood vessels are ideal and promote normal blood flow. When these things are compromised by blood vessel constriction, blood flow is reduced. Magnesium works to stabilize the walls of blood vessels promoting normal blood flow. Additionally, platelet aggregation has been shown to be altered in migraine patients suggesting that it plays a role in migraines. When platelets aggregate, they release serotonin and other active chemicals which can cause the blood vessels to constrict. Magnesium works to decrease platelet aggregation, which reduces the formation of these inflammatory mediators which are a factor in migraine production. Clinical studies shown oral magnesium helps reduce migraine frequency, while also lowering the duration and intensity of the attacks.
Low brain levels of magnesium are strongly correlated to headaches. Evidence suggests up to 50 percent of migraine patients have decreased levels of magnesium during a migraine attack. Magnesium is also an important mineral for promoting healthy sleep quality. It has been noted that regular sleeping patterns are also very important to migraine sufferers.
While magnesium’s health benefits are far-reaching, its roles on blood vessel health and platelet aggregation make it a noteworthy candidate for the control of headaches and migraines. With a magnesium deficiency being so common in many migraine sufferers, it makes sense to make sure this mineral is at sufficient levels in the body. Make sure you are getting your magnesium and keep your exercise routine on track!