Oral Magnesium May Reduce Frequency & Severity of Migraines
Children suffering from migraine headaches may experience fewer and less severe headaches by taking oral magnesium, according to a new study in Headache (2003;43:601–10). This is the first study in children to suggest oral magnesium can effectively treat this often debilitating condition.
Migraine headaches affect 3 to 13% of all children in the United States and are one of the most common neurological conditions in children. Symptoms of migraines in children are similar to those experienced by adults, except most children will complain that the headache affects both sides of the head, whereas they are usually one-sided in adults. The frequency of migraines can vary from a few times a year to several times a week. The cause is unknown. The most commonly prescribed medications to prevent migraines include propranolol (Inderal®), amitriptyline (Elavil®), and divalproex sodium (Depakote®). Although these medications are effective to some degree, they often produce adverse side effects. Magnesium appears to be a safer approach to migraine prevention.
In the new study, 86 children between the ages of 3 and 17 years who suffer from migraine headaches were randomly assigned to receive magnesium or placebo for 16 weeks. Magnesium was given in the form of magnesium oxide; the amount of elemental magnesium used was 9 mg per kilogram of body weight per day. Diaries were kept that documented the number of days with headaches, the severity of the headaches, and other symptoms associated with migraines including loss of appetite and sensitivity to light and sound.
Headache frequency and severity were significantly reduced in the children taking magnesium, compared with those who took a placebo. Appetite and sensitivity to light and sound were improved in the magnesium group, while these symptoms worsened in those taking placebo. Almost 20% of the children taking magnesium experienced diarrhea, a common side effect of taking large amounts of magnesium, while undergoing treatment. However, it is not known whether smaller amounts of magnesium would have been effective for those who experienced side effects. No other side effects were reported by those taking magnesium.
Studies have demonstrated that people with migraines have low concentrations of magnesium in serum, red blood cells, saliva, and spinal fluid compared with those who do not have migraines. Other studies clearly show that intravenous magnesium can relieve acute migraines in adults, but previous studies using oral magnesium have been conflicting. Nonetheless, magnesium is inexpensive and safe and may be worth trying before taking prescription medications.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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