"I use the term victim when I refer to chronic headache sufferers, because it's a very wicked syndrome," says Burton M. Altura, M.D., professor of physiology and medicine at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn.
They're simply not treating the cause," says Dr. Altura
In fact, Dr. Altura
says that one of his
magnesium studies was rejected by a prominent medical journal at the suggestion of a top headache researcher. (Shortly thereafter, the study was published by another journal.) But the weight of evidence for magnesium's use in the treatment of migraines is building.
Too much serotonin can cause blood flow to slow; too little can cause blood to move through too rapidly, explains Dr. Altura
While mainstream researchers have long known that changes in serotonin and catecholamine levels cause migraine pain, stopping these changes has been a hit-or-miss proposition, says Dr. Altura
An aspirin, for example, temporarily inhibits the effects of serotonin but does nothing to prevent a migraine from coming back, he
the first to prove that loss of magnesium from the brain is behind the problem.
Without enough magnesium, serotonin flows unchecked, constricting blood vessels and releasing other pain-producing chemicals such as substance P and prostaglandins, he
Normal magnesium levels not only prevent the release of these pain-producing substances but also stop their effects, says Dr. Altura
According to his
records, Dr. Altura
says that about 50 to 60 percent of his
migraine patients have low magnesium levels.
But once they begin treatment, he
says, they often experience immediate relief.
"We can say that 85 to 90 percent of these patients are successfully treated, and that's pretty miraculous," says Dr. Altura
So can getting more than your share of magnesium every day prevent migraines?
says it's still unclear.
"I'd like to be able to answer that question.
I can't at this point, but my guess is that it would," he
In fact, says Dr. Altura
, people who have low magnesium and elevated calcium levels are among those who are most successfully treated with magnesium.