The Secret to Preventing Headaches & Migraines?

It’s no secret that many of us suffer with headaches, and some with migraines. There has been evidence that headache sufferers tend to be deficient in one special mineral. The overworked human tends to also be dehydrated, leading to more frequent occurrences of headaches. However, did you know there are different types of headaches? 

The most common headaches being named - cluster headaches, migraines, migraines with aura, and tension headaches. Usually these kinds of headaches are not associated with underlying conditions. There are also common triggers for such headaches, not limited to: alcohol (especially red wine), certain food additives like nitrates and sulfites, changes in or lack of sleep, skipping meals, and lastly stress [1]. Cluster headaches are headaches that happen in groups, over days, weeks, months, and then disappear for a time. They are painful, usually throbbing or burning sensations are described. Migraines are throbbing pain lasting continuously from hours to days. You may also experience sensitivity of your senses, loss of appetite, nausea, or stomach pain. Tension headaches have been described as a tight band of pain around the head. These types of headaches are usually stress or sleep related. Apart from learning about what type of headache you might have, how do you prevent them?

Headaches are typically initiated by noxious (meaning potentially damaging or painful) stimulation of nerve endings, somewhere in the trigeminovascular system. You can see where this interacts with the brain and blood vessels in the image below. These neurons that are affected release CGRP and substance P - the chemical that signals pain. It's the result of this and some other measures that cause vasodilation of blood vessels surrounding nerve fibres. Serotonin is released to help constrict blood vessels, but this can also cause nausea and vomiting [3]. This is more typical in migraines than headaches.


Let’s talk about our favourite mineral, magnesium! We know from previous blogs that it’s used all over the body in hundreds of pathways each day. We also know individuals who are stressed or chronically ill may not have well built up stores of magnesium to help them combat the effects of stress. Magnesium has been researched for the treatment of migraines and headaches, and found that it’s well-tolerated and safe. It can be effective for acute treatments in each of the headaches mentioned [2]. Using magnesium as soon as you can detect one coming on, or in smaller increments preventatively, reduces the serotonin induced vasoconstriction (i.e. less triggering of nausea or vomiting). If you are particularly prone to severe headaches or migraines you may want to think about oral supplementation of magnesium, but check with your healthcare provider first.

Let’s think about it for the more common headache, the tension or stress headache. Imagine if you saw a pile of work coming or knew that you would be dealing with a hard client today. You could pop some magnesium cream in your bag to rub on your temples throughout the day to prevent such a headache. You could also use it more heavily on your neck if you know you’re prone to tension headaches stemming from tight muscles. Whatever the case, now you know what headaches are, a little bit of how they work, and some tips to prevent them! 

Fun fact - did you know cats can also have migraines and headaches?





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