Menstrual Health

Aug 27, 2021

The benefits of magnesium for menstruation

Studies show magnesium to play a significant role in prevention and treatment of menstrual problems, including PMS, cramps, mood disorders and migraines.

When we ask someone to list the tools they most rely on during their menstrual cycles, overwhelmingly we get to hear about hot water bottles, heat patches and OTC medications. Old fixes that work like charms. But, at Girlmantra, we firmly believe that it is time to look at other solutions that target both relief and prevention. In fact, a growing body of evidence indicates that magnesium deficiency can play a significant role in poor menstrual health, especially around PMS, cramps and post-menopausal symptoms. [1] For instance, studies have found that the magnesium levels of women with PMS is lower than that in non-PMS women. These findings are really important since supplementing with magnesium could help you prevent and relieve your unfavourable menstrual symptoms.

So, which symptoms does magnesium help with?

Magnesium is the “fourth most abundant cation” in your body and is involved in several bodily functions such as enzyme activity, protein synthesis and neuromuscular excitability. [1]  A 2017 literature review conducted on “Magnesium in the gynecological practice also brings to light the positive relationship between magnesium and the relief/prevention of several menstrual conditions including dysmenorrhea, menstrual migraines, PMS, mood disorders and osteoporosis. 

Period cramps

Dysmenorrhea or painful period cramping is a common occurrence reported by many menstruators. Typically, people rely on meds such as ibuprofen to alleviate the pain, alongside other therapies including heat application, acupuncture, and herbal preparations.  The potential role for magnesium in the treatment of dysmenorrhea has been investigated in four studies and trials. Out of the four, three showed positive results, with the consumption of magnesium significantly reducing symptoms, when compared to the control. In other words, volunteers who took magnesium experienced lesser menstrual cramping than those who didn’t. [2]  Science doesn’t fully understand how magnesium helps with menstrual cramps, but the most likely theory is that it relaxes the uterus muscle and reduces the number of prostaglandins. 

PMS 

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects millions of women worldwide and is known as the most important menstrual condition in women. It is a condition that is marked by the onset of physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms that significantly interfere with regular functioning of individuals. If you’re someone who experiences PMS, supplementing with magnesium could help reduce your symptoms. This observation has been backed by several studies; however, it is also important to note that a minimum of two months is needed to start seeing the benefits, so patience is key.

Additionally, even though the impact of pure Mg supplementation on the treatment of PMS has been proven in research, it appears that a combination of Mg and vitamin B6 could produce superior results. One study conducted with 150 women found that taking magnesium in conjunction with B6 is better than taking magnesium alone in reducing PMS symptoms such as ​​anxiety, breast tenderness, insomnia and water retention. [3]

Mood disorders

Mood disorders are extremely common among people going through perimenopause and post menopause. Animal models used in research studies have linked magnesium deficiency with the onset and intensity of  depression and anxiety. In other words, mice which received a diet deficient in magnesium showed increased signs of mood disorders, while supplementing with magnesium was shown to produce an antidepressant effect. [4] This finding was further backed in an observational study conducted on humans, in which, significantly lower magnesium concentrations were found in women with depressive symptoms than in women without those same symptoms. Supplementing with magnesium could also help with hot flashes and osteoporosis that most menopausal women go through.

Menstrual Migraines

A migraine is more than just an ordinary headache. It is ​​a neurologic condition that can produce debilitating, throbbing pain on a single side of your head. Menstrual migraines ( also known as “hormone headaches”), can occur right before or during your period and may exacerbate with any sensory changes, including light, sound and movement. [5]  Studies estimate that about 50% of women have suffered from migraines related to their menstrual cycle. Menstrual migraines are typically more debilitating, recurring, and less responsive to acute treatment than non-menstrual migraines. [1]

The effectiveness of magnesium supplementation on the prevention of premenstrual migraines has been investigated in many studies. In 1996, one trial carried on for 12 weeks found a 41.6% reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks in those who took oral magnesium supplementation daily. [6] It is estimated that many people don’t get enough magnesium through their diets. Magnesium, and particularly magnesium oxide, is sometimes used to treat and prevent migraines.

Cravings

Most of us, if not all, seek guilty pleasure in sweet treats, especially chocolate. These cravings, however, could be indicative of a nutrient deficiency in our body. For instance, many dietitians claim that individuals who crave chocolate (especially dark-chocolate) could be deficient in magnesium. 

How do I get magnesium in my diet?

Despite the importance of magnesium in your diet, a growing number of studies show that  a majority of the European and United States population is deficient in magnesium, with intake falling below the daily recommended amount. [1] Broadly speaking, the two best ways to get magnesium in your diet is either through natural food sources or through oral supplements. It may also be wise to use a combination of the two to ensure proper consumption.

Magnesium Supplements

Taking magnesium supplements orally can be a viable and inexpensive alternative to meet the daily recommended intake amount. Magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate can be a good magnesium supplement as it is the most absorbable. Consulting a doctor before taking the supplements is important. 

Magnesium Superfoods

1. Dark Chocolate: 70%+ dark chocolate is known for being rich in magnesium, with more cocoa solids, the better. [7] 

2. Nuts: Types of nuts that are particularly high in magnesium include almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts. For instance, a 28-gram serving of cashews contains ~82 mg of magnesium, or 20% of the recommended daily amount.

3. Legumes: Lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas and soybeans are rich in different nutrients, including magnesium. 1-cup serving of cooked black beans is believed to contain ~120 mg of magnesium, or 30% of the recommended intake.

4. Tofu: A meat-alternative for protein, tofu is also a good source of magnesium with a 100-gram serving containing ~53 mg of magnesium. 

5. Seeds: Many seeds including flax, pumpkin and chia seeds contain good amounts of magnesium.Pumpkin seeds are a particularly good source, with 150 mg in a 28-gram serving. In addition, seeds are rich in iron, monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids.

Before starting any magnesium supplementation or making significant changes to your diet, please consult your doctor or a medical professional. Certain pre-existing medical conditions need to be taken into account while determining the right quantity and supplementation. 


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