just-one-thing-magnesium3Image via Flickr

This month, Dr. Sarah tackles migraine headaches, and offers up a natural way to mitigate against their effects. Apparently, magnesium really matters, and foods naturally rich in this key mineral can actually help prevent and treat migraines.  Once again, it seems the key to good health is good food! – ed.


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is found mostly in bones, but also in our organs and cells, including muscle tissue. Magnesium plays many important roles in the body such as helping to relax your nerves and muscles, build strong bones, lower blood pressure, and balance blood sugar levels. (Who wouldn’t want these, even without migraines! -ed.)


Research has shown that migraine sufferers are more likely to have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency can result from a genetic inability to absorb magnesium, excessive magnesium excretion through the kidneys during times of stress, and a diet low in magnesium. Signs of magnesium deficiency include: muscle tension and spasms, headaches and migraines, high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and constipation.

Magnesium is useful in the prevention and treatment of headaches and migraines. Magnesium helps to reduce migraine pain by targeting nerve inflammation, relaxing muscle and blood vessel spasms, and promoting serotonin release (our feel good brain chemical). Studies also have found that magnesium consumption results in decreased frequency, reduced symptoms, and a decrease in the consumption of analgesics for acute migraines. (For those who seriously suffer, this seems like something you might want to know! ed.)


The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is between 350 to 400 mg, but migraine sufferers may benefit from more. Try incorporating these magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet to boost your intake and avoid over-cooking to prevent magnesium loss:

  • Spinach (1 cup, cooked): 156mg
  • Swiss chard (1 cup, cooked): 150mg
  • Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup): 190mg
  • Soybeans (1 cup, cooked): 148mg
  • Sesame seeds (1/4 cup): 126mg

In some cases, certain individuals may require doses of magnesium that are higher than those achieved through diet, so if you’re wondering if you might be deficient in magnesium, ask your doctor to test your RBC (red blood cell) magnesium levels.  (Repeat: it’s best not to guess. – ed.) 

For more information on natural headache and migraine relief, attend my upcoming seminar April 17th at 6:30 pm at the Ottawa Integrative Health Centre.


  • Martin, S. “Prevalence of migraine headaches in Canada“, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2004; 164(10): 1481a.
  • Mauskop, A. Varughene, J.,  “Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium”, Journal of Neural Transmission. 2012; 119(5):575-9.
  • World’s healthiest foods: www.whfoods.com

Reading & Resources:



Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur is a Naturopathic Doctor with a passion for nutrition, health and natural medicine. Sarah educates and empowers individuals to become active participants in their journey to healthier living, and is currently accepting new patients at the Ottawa Integrative Health Centre.  Sarah strives to lead by example by living a balanced life that includes healthful cooking, reading, running, and yoga.  Learn more about Sarah at truehealthND.com.


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