I was having a bit of a look at my writings over the past few months to figure out where I should be taking us on this journey. The thing that stood out to me was the number of times I used negative verbs like stop, avoid, remove and limit, in contrast to helpful verbs like consume, eat or binge. It’s been a big blog of “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”. Well, other than the whole series on chocolate.
I’ve decided to make a change towards positivity. Not what we shouldn’t be doing, but what we can be doing to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. They say that to change a mindset you need to do something for at least 5 weeks. So here we go, a change to positivity and things we need to do more of.
Let’s start with foods we can eat more of. Migraineur’s have been shown to suffer from nutrient deficiencies that cause migraines. The best way to overcome a nutrient deficiency is to eat more of the nutrient. Now that’s more like it.
It has been known since the early 1990’s that migraine sufferers have reduced levels of serum and tissue magnesium compared to those who suffer from tension headaches and no headache controls. Subsequent studies gave 600 mg per day magnesium supplements to the three groups found a significant decrease, up to 40%, in migraine frequency. There was no effect on tension headaches or no headache controls. Since then, under the care of a physician, magnesium supplements are part of the protocol for treating migraines.
I want to emphasise here that only under the care of a physician should you take magnesium supplements. The question I have for you as a migraineur is;
Are you getting your recommended daily allowance of 320 mg for women and 420 mgs for men of magnesium?
I’m going to hazard a guess here; probably not. Most of the foods we eat have between 10-20 mg of magnesium per serving. So to hit the target we need to be eating 20-30 servings of food per day. Seriously that’s a lot of food. I know I said we’d be talking about things we can do more of, but that amount of food intake is not healthy.
Instead if we focus on eating a few foods every day that are high in magnesium we can get to the target amount faster. Spoiler alert, foods high in magnesium are yummy. Nuts, 100% cocoa, dried seaweed, sun dried tomatoes, fish and dried fruit to name a few (Figure 1).
So I’m trying something new here by presenting information graphically. Don’t run off, I’m going to walk you through this:
- On the left side, the y-axis, there’s a list of foods high in magnesium.
- On the bottom axis, x-axis, is the amount of magnesium in mg per 100 gm of food. This is the standard way of reporting the amount, but that didn’t make sense to me because I don’t eat food in 100 mg allotments. So, next to a bar representing the amount of magnesium I’ve written the amount you would have to consume to get that much magnesium.
- If the amount you need to consume is unrealistic, like 2 cups of dried herbs, I’ve marked the amount that is in a serving size that we would use in cooking, such as 1 teaspoon (tsp) for dried herbs.
- There are two lines going through the middle of the graph to indicate the target intake for women and men as recommended by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
What I see is that:
- Dried seaweed (dark green bar) is the best source, but the typical serving size is small. Roasted seaweed does make a great snack, those little packets are 5 gm. It is high in bound glutamates and can satisfy savoury cravings while providing a magnesium hit.
- Cocoa (brown bar) is another great source of magnesium and depending upon how strong you make your Migraineur’s Hot Chocolate, you could drink ¼ of your target intake every day while satisfying those chocolate cravings. Remember that it’s not the cocoa that triggers migraines, it’s all the additives.
- One of the best ways to get a quick hit of magnesium is to eat a handful (about ¼ cup) of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds (yellow bar). Other nuts are good, but these are great.
- Dried herbs (light green bar) are a great source of magnesium, so use them liberally in everything you make.
- Go ahead and toss some sun-dried tomatoes (red bar) on a sandwich, in a salad or your pasta sauce, as they will boost the magnesium content of the dish.
- A 200 gm (8 oz) precooked serving of salmon will get you most of the way to your target (blue bar).
I think the best news is that it’s really easy to get to one half the intake target (purple bar) just by eating some Migraineur’s Muesli for breakfast followed with a Migraineur’s Hot Chocolate for morning or afternoon tea.
These calculations were made assuming you use 2 tablespoons of Migraineur’s Hot Chocolate mix and eat muesli like Stuart. He puts about ⅓ cup of Migraineur’s Muesli on about 1 cup of wheat flakes. Stuart likes his Migraineur’s Muesli made with ½ cup pepitas, ½ cup almonds, ½ cup preservative free dried apricots and ½ cup preservative free dried cherries; which results in about 200 mg magnesium per cup. I realise that some folks like to eat more muesli for breakfast than ⅓ cup, so I’ll let you do the math. Please note that the amount of magnesium goes down significantly if you don’t use pepitas.
Here are some simple lifestyle choices you can make to increase the amount of magnesium in your diet:
- Eat more pure chocolate. Here are some recipes for sweet and savoury dishes made with pure cocoa or chocolate.
- Eat more fish, especially salmon and cod. Who doesn’t love some fish and chips?
- Go for flavour and spice up your dishes with dried seaweed, herbs and sun-dried tomatoes.
Enjoy my friends.
As always, whenever making lifestyle changes be sure and consult your healthcare team. Under no circumstances should you stop or start taking medication or supplements without their consent.