The Health Benefits of Magnesium for Women
According to Health Canada, up to 70% of women are not reaching the recommended dietary intake of magnesium. This is a result of decreased magnesium content in our soil (and thus fruits and vegetables), as well as the western diet being dominated by refined grains and processed foods. In addition, many commonly prescribed medications such as the birth control pill, diuretics, and proton pump inhibitors can deplete the body of this essential mineral. Magnesium is present in every single one of our trillions of cells and is required by more than 600 different enzymatic processes. Magnesium also helps regulate levels of other key nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and zinc. As a naturopathic doctor, I see the beneficial effects of magnesium on the whole family but especially for women’s health concerns. Magnesium can be used to effectively treat a variety of specific concerns as well as improve overall health and wellness. There are so many reasons why all women need magnesium.
Magnesium for stress and sleep
Magnesium is a very grounding and calming mineral that relaxes the nervous system and encourages restful sleep. Proper levels of magnesium can also improve our response to both acute and chronic stress, making it a must-have for the fast-paced North American lifestyle. Therapeutic Epsom salt (or magnesium sulfate) baths are a great way to combine a relaxing soak with the power of magnesium. Enjoy these at the end of the day to help with tired muscles, stress, and to promote deep and restoring sleep. Use at least two cups of Epsom salts for full effect.
PMS and menstrual cramps
PMS is a minor annoyance for some women and agony for others. Studies have shown that magnesium deficiencies are more prevalent in PMS sufferers, and that supplementation can lessen symptoms such as bloating, mood swings, breast pain, food cravings, and anxiety or insomnia. Many women also experience painful cramps before or at the onset of their period. If you find yourself doubled over in pain each month, magnesium can act to relieve uterine muscle cramping and discomfort, and decrease the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
Headaches, migraines and muscle tension
If tension headaches or migraines are a regular occurrence in your life, consider adding magnesium to your regime. Muscle tissue contains 25% of our body’s magnesium and low levels can contribute to tension, tightness, and headaches. Research has also shown that migraine sufferers are more likely to be magnesium deficient and that improving magnesium levels reduces both the number and intensity of migraine attacks. Headaches and migraines can also be related to stress and hormone imbalances, both of which magnesium can positively effect.
Pregnancy and magnesium
Magnesium can (and should!) be a wonderful addition to your pregnancy. It can help to prevent morning sickness, headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and even pre-eclampsia. It is recommended to stop any magnesium supplementation at 36 weeks in order to allow proper muscle contractions during labour. If you have a history of use of the birth control pill (OCP), magnesium supplementation is even more important as deficiencies are common with long-term use.
Choosing a magnesium supplement
Look for a high quality magnesium supplement for best results. For example, magnesium bisglycinate is well absorbed, effective at correcting deficiencies, and has minimal side effects. If you prefer to get your magnesium from food sources you can load up on leafy greens, nuts (such as almond and cashews), pumpkin seeds, and even dark chocolate!
Quick guide to magnesium supplementation
To be used for:
In baths or as part of intravenous (IV) therapy
Correcting deficiencies, muscle tension, and stress in pregnancy
Short-term relief from constipation
Non-therapeutic due to low absorption rate
Talk to your doctor or integrative health practitioner about magnesium and whether it’s right for you and your health concerns.
*Originally published March 3, 2016