One in 4 women and one in 12 men in the UK suffer from migraine, according to the NHS. But migraine is more than a severe headache. It is a chronic neurological condition that causes intense pain usually on one side of the head, and is accompanied by other debilitating symptoms such as vomiting, nausea and extreme sensitivity to light. A single migraine attack could persist for 2 hours to 3 days.
There are two types of migraine: with aura and without aura. A migraine with aura often starts with visual problems, dizziness, and stiffness of neck and limbs. This is usually followed by extreme headache. About a third of people have this, according to the NHS. The second type, or the one without aura, is also called common migraine which skips the visual problems and begins with dull pain that gets more painful. It comes with nausea and vomiting that persist for hours, and worse, days.
People experience varying severities of migraine. Some have attacks frequently (several times per week) whilst others only have it occasionally. It is possible for a migraine attack to occur after several years. Furthermore, there are people who experience migraine after being exposed to triggers like stress, polluted air, fluorescent lighting, strobe-like intermittent lighting, hormonal changes, and certain foods.
Currently, there is no cure for migraine. Often, sufferers are prescribed with painkillers to get over the debilitating symptoms. Nevertheless, nature has a way to help people overcome migraine. In a recent study conducted by Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey, researchers found that magnesium can have a preventive effect for people who have migraine without aura (the most painful type of migraine). 40 common migraine sufferers ages 22-55 were recruited to join the double-blind randomised placebo trial. 30 participants took 600 mg magnesium citrate (a well absorbed form of magnesium) whilst 10 were given placebo drugs. The study lasted for a period of three months. During the post-treatment analysis, the researchers found that those who had magnesium supplementation had fewer migraine attacks, and had less severe and less intense symptoms than those who took the placebo.
Magnesium – the Master Mineral
Many people are aware about the health benefits of vitamin C, calcium, iron and some other minerals but only a few understand the importance of magnesium to their health. Basically, magnesium is a ‘master mineral’ that is involved in over 300 cellular metabolic processes. It is vital in maintaining nerve and muscle function, in keeping our heart beating steadily, and in building a strong immune system. According to the National Institutes for Health, magnesium also helps in normalising blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Plenty of clinical studies have focused on the benefits of magnesium in several health problems, including asthma, fibromyalgia and premenstrual syndrome, according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre. Other studies suggest that it also benefits people with heart disease and diabetes.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. But since our body does not produce magnesium on its own, it has to get it from food sources. When we eat magnesium-rich foods, the mineral is absorbed by our intestine and the excess is excreted through urination. Deficiency in magnesium could lead to varying symptoms, such as headache, increased heart rate, weight gain, high blood pressure, and imbalanced blood sugar levels. Adult women are advised to consume 310 mg of magnesium a day whilst adult men are advised to take 400 mg per day.
Some of the best sources of magnesium are almonds, cashews, soybeans, spinach, peanut, oatmeal, avocado, raisins, and halibut.
Tips for getting enough magnesium
Eat more greens. Green vegetables are a great source of magnesium because the chlorophyll – the nutrient that gives them the colour green is packed with magnesium.
Avoid refined foods. Processing and refining eliminate most of the magnesium and other nutrients found in grains. Reach for whole grain products instead.
Use tap water. Tap water is a great source of magnesium.
Get your daily five. Meeting your 5-7 daily servings of fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure that you’re getting your magnesium requirements. As much as possible, eat them raw. Steaming, boiling or blanching foods can reduce their magnesium content by up to 65 per cent.