Everybody gets a headache occasionally, but for chronic migraine sufferers, the headaches can occur frequently and be totally disabling. Drugs for migraines simply do not work very well, leaving people with chronic migraines ready to try just about anything. Including botulism.
Now blessed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for migraines, botulinum toxin is approved for doctors to administer to migraine sufferers who have 15 or more days of headache per month. The multiple injections are given into the neck muscles and must be repeated each 12 weeks.
Not everyone believes the shots of toxin are a good idea however, including the American Academy of Neurology, which in 2008 concluded that despite the popularity of using botulinum toxin for headache treatment, it is ineffective for migraine headaches and unlikely to help tension headaches either.
The black box warning (the most serious warning) required by the FDA for botulinum toxin is a wee bit alarming, because it says the toxin can spread from the injection site and cause swallowing and breathing difficulties that are life-threatening. Other side effects? The most commonly cited reactions are neck pain and – you guessed it – headache.
Chronic headache sufferers may be surprised to learn that there is help available that requires neither a prescription nor any warning that using it may kill you. This is a substance that can minimize or eliminate headaches for the majority of people, and the only side effect is loose stools or diarrhea (but only if too much is taken at once). Not only that, the same substance can significantly reduce pain from fibromyalgia, lower blood pressure, reduce multiple sclerosis relapses, reduce anxiety and depression, relax and repair heart muscle, lower the risk of cognitive decline, and promote tooth and bone health all at the same time.
If this were a drug it would probably be one of the most widely prescribed and profitable drugs of all time. Luckily for us, it is not a drug, it is completely nontoxic, widely available, and inexpensive. It is the mineral magnesium.
You probably have not heard much about the many miraculous benefits of magnesium, but this is largely due to the apparent unwritten rule among the FDA and pharmaceutical companies: If something cannot be patented, there can be no massive profits, and without profits there is no reason to study a substance, much less produce and promote it. And in those cases where a completely natural and vital nutrient works exceptionally well and competes with drug products, stories seem to circulate periodically in the media about how ingesting a lot of the nutrient is not only useless, but probably dangerous.
Magnesium is the miracle mineral that does so much and costs so little. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the majority of adults in the U.S. are deficient in magnesium. And the USDA scientists’ calculations are made using official required daily allowance figures considered ridiculously low by nutrition-conscious clinical doctors, so the actual problem far exceeds the USDA estimates.
“Even a mild deficiency of magnesium can cause increased sensitivity to noise, nervousness, irritability, mental depression, confusion, twitching, trembling, apprehension, and insomnia,” writes Dr. Mark Sircus, author of the book, Magnesium – The Ultimate Heart Medicine.
No wonder some clinicians describe ADHD symptoms as virtually identical to the symptoms of chronic magnesium deficiency. The symptoms of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease are also linked to magnesium deficiency, because magnesium is vital to the production of dopamine.
Foods that provide magnesium include leafy green vegetables, avocados, nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans and walnuts, whole grains, legumes, figs and dates. Unfortunately, unless the foods are grown organically, they will contain little magnesium. Standard industrial farming techniques use the standard NPK fertilizers, composed primarily of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, which may make the plant look healthy, but lack the vital nutrients needed for good health. Organically grown produce is grown in topsoil constantly replenished with compost that supplies micronutrients such as magnesium.
“However, if you are suffering from the following symptoms you may need supplemental magnesium: muscle twitches, tics, or spasms; “Charlie horse” (the muscle spasm that occurs when you stretch your legs); insomnia or restless sleep; stress; back pain; headaches, cluster headaches, migraines; stiff and aching muscles; bones and joints that need continued chiropractic treatment; weakness; hypoglycemia; diabetes; nervousness; hyperactivity; high blood pressure; osteoporosis; PMS; constipation; angina; kidney stones; aging; depression; heart attack; irregular heartbeat; attention deficit disorder; aggressive behavior; chronic fatigue syndrome; stroke; anxiety; confusion, muscle weakness; hiccups; seizures; high-strung; exhaustion from exercise,” writes Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. in her book, The Miracle of Magnesium.
Imagine the stack of prescriptions for drugs that would be needed to treat each of the above symptoms, each drug with its own long and impressive list of side effects, some of which require additional drugs to alleviate the adverse reactions, not to mention the hefty expense.
Obviously, many of the health disorders listed above have complicating factors in addition to magnesium deficiency, and every individual is unique with a unique health history and genetic predisposition. But considering that magnesium is responsible for the correct metabolic function of over 350 enzymes in the body, until magnesium levels are brought up to par, it is difficult to know just what the other factors may be.
It is terribly easy to become magnesium deficient. Mental stress, menstruation, a diet high in processed foods, high salt intake, as well as intake of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and many prescription drugs all tend to increase the loss of magnesium through the urine.
The official required daily allowance of magnesium gives the absolute minimum necessary amount, currently set at 300 milligrams per day for women and 400 milligrams per day for men. Magnesium citrate and magnesium malate are considered the formations of the mineral best tolerated and absorbed. Since the body easily rids itself of excess magnesium, it is safe to start supplementing with the required daily allowance and increase the dosage each day to “tolerance,” or the level that causes the bowels to be loose.
However, for many people who are severely depleted of magnesium, the oral tolerance dosage is insufficient to build up magnesium to healthy levels. Luckily, magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin, or transdermally.
“There are many advantages to transdermal magnesium therapy, since the gastrointestinal tract is avoided altogether and there is no laxative effect. Next to intravenous magnesium administration, transdermal therapy provides a greater amount of magnesium to be absorbed than even the best tolerated oral supplements, and can restore intracellular concentrations in a matter of weeks rather than the months required for oral supplementation,” according to the Weston A. Price Foundation on its website.
Many people have used Epsom salts without realizing they were soaking in magnesium sulfate or engaging in transdermal therapy. Magnesium sulfate provides temporary relief from a wide variety of problems, but there is another formulation of magnesium that is more effective and longer lasting because it is more deeply absorbed into cells, magnesium chloride powder. Magnesium chloride can also be spread directly on the skin in the form known as “magnesium oil,” which is not oil at all, but a supersaturated concentration of magnesium chloride and water that feels slippery like oil.
Magnesium supplements and Epsom salts are widely available at local health food stores, but magnesium chloride is not and so must be ordered through sources on the Internet. Ultimately, you may have to go to a bit of trouble locating and then getting sufficient quantities of magnesium into your body’s cells, but doing so has the potential of vastly improving your health right now and saving you from a surprisingly wide range of health troubles as you age.