Why do women need magnesium?
Magnesium is such an important mineral for women because it is needed for healthy hormones, to manage stress effectively and support good energy levels and sleep patterns – to name a few reasons!
Magnesium supports these processes because it has so many jobs in the body including:
- Normal hormone production and ovulation – oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone
- Calming the nervous system
- Preventing too much stress hormone (cortisol) being produced
- Balancing blood sugar levels – blood sugar spikes, insulin sensitivity
- Making thyroid hormones,
- Sleep processes
- Cellular energy production
- Reducing oxidative stress
- Relax muscles
- Supporting bone mineral density.
What are signs and symptoms of low magnesium levels in women?
Overt or primary magnesium deficiency is uncommon as the body runs a pretty tight ship when it comes to maintaining magnesium homeostasis.
However, low or marginal levels of magnesium are more common, especially in women, and can cause or contribute to the following symptoms:
IN THE EARLY STAGES:
- Muscle cramps and spasms
- Flickering eyelids
WHEN IT IS PROLONGED:
- Loss of appetite
- Mood imbalances
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Poor memory
What causes low magnesium levels?
- Stress (increases the excretion of magnesium from the body)
- Sugar intake (the body needs magnesium to metabolise sugar)
- Excessive coffee
- Medications (e.g. OCP, diuretics, immune suppressants, beta adrenergics)
- Environmental toxins
- Strenuous exercise
Can I get levels tested?
Yes, but it will not give an accurate reading of body magnesium levels (and therefore of deficiency levels), as it tests serum/blood levels, not cellular magnesium levels where most (99%) of the magnesium in the body is located.
Where can I get it?
- Nuts and seeds (sunflower, brazil, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts)
- Leafy greens (spinach)
- Dark chocolate (the darker the better)
- Epsom salt baths (1-2 cups in a bath)
- Topical magnesium oil
High enough of magnesium can be difficult for some women to get from just food, especially if your levels are low. For therapeutic doses, high quality supplemental form with the right form of magnesium and supporting nutrients can be used clinically. Generally, at least 300mg/day of a magnesium glycinate form is what I recommend to women who could benefit from supplementation.
Who can benefit from it?
- PMS symptoms (irritability, tiredness, anxiety, sugar cravings)
- Period pain (dysmenorrhoea)
- Taking or coming off the oral contraceptive pill (which can cause low levels)
- High / chronic stress levels (this can be physical or psychological or both)
- Headaches and migraines (including menstrual migraines)
- Perimenopausal and menopausal women (to support hormone production, a healthy stress response, reduce hot flushes)
- Insomnia/sleep issues
- Blood sugar imbalances such as insulin resistance
- During pregnancy
- Regular strenuous exercise activity levels.
Any side effects or interactions with supplemental magnesium?
Generally, long term magnesium supplementation is safe (but remember it is always important to look at and address the underlying reasons contributing to low magnesium levels).
High levels of zinc, calcium and fibre can interfere with magnesium absorption while protein can enhance its absorption.