6 Hormone Imbalances Which Benefit From Magnesium
Magnesium is needed for over 3000 enzymatic reactions in the body...no wonder it is one of my favourite nutrients!
Due to farming methods, poor soil quality and high levels of stress, the majority of us are deficient in this crucial nutrient.
Migraines and muscle cramps are two of the common health issues that you may have heard magnesium being used for, however the benefits for our hormones are less discussed.
It's not just our ability to make hormones that is important, we also need to efficiently transport, utilise and detoxify them.
A breakdown in any part of this process can lead to internal imbalances, and often not-so-great symptoms for the individual!
Good news! Magnesium can help to improve each of these steps and may be of great benefit if you are dealing with any of the following conditions...
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Magnesium is fantastic at improving insulin sensitivity, therefore it can aid weight loss (especially if you store a lot of belly fat), sugar cravings and conditions such as PCOS, high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes. It is so effective for blood sugar control it has been referred to as 'natural metformin' ...(All the benefits, without the horrible digestion side effects 🤮)
Along with insulin resistance and inflammation, stress is another major driver of PCOS symptoms. Our adrenal glands can pump out androgenic hormones such as androstenedione and DHEA-S when we are under stress, which can cause symptoms such as cystic acne and thinning hair for many women with PCOS.
Magnesium is known for being 'natures chill pill' and it can help to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and androgens like DHEA-S produced by the adrenal glands.
2. High Cortisol/Adrenal Overdrive
Adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol are all fancy names for our stress hormones, that are produced by our adrenal glands. In small amounts they are good and even lifesaving, but when they are being released chronically, day after day, they start to cause problems. Stress depletes nutrient stores, especially magnesium and vitamin C, so always increase your intake through diet and/or supplementation if you are going through a stressful time.
Magnesium has a calming effects on the nervous system and it can also help to reduce cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can leave you feeling wired but tired, inflamed, puffy and craving sugar! (Pass me the doughnuts 🍩)
High cortisol can also reduce progesterone levels (hello PMS!) and affect our thyroid function by interfering with the conversion of inactive T4 to the active T3 thyroid hormone.
3. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Think it's normal to be a chocolate craving, migraine suffering, anxious wreck leading up to your period each month? Sorry gals, PMS is common but it is not normal. We require more magnesium in the week leading up to our period and this is one of the reasons many of us crave chocolate! Cacao is a great source of magnesium, but the problem is that the chocolate most women go for is packed with sugar, dairy and a low cacao percentage.
Menstrual headaches, irritability, weepiness and anxiety the week before your period? A combination of magnesium and B6 has been found to improve these symptoms! This is partly due to the progesterone supporting effects of these nutrients.
Magnesium can help reduce painful menstrual cramps, improve energy levels, and it also supports the healthy elimination of oestrogen in the liver. Oestrogen dominance is a huge driver of endometriosis , because having too much oestrogen relative to the hormone progesterone can lead to excessive tissue growth and proliferation.
Calcium is required for the contraction of muscles, whereas magnesium is needed to relax them. When we are deficient in magnesium, muscles can become tight and more prone to cramping.
Any health condition with high levels of inflammation and pain is going to be a huge physical stressor on the body, and don't forget, stress depletes magnesium! It can become a vicious cycle.
One of the 3000+ enzymatic reactions in the body that magnesium is required for, includes the conversion of inactive T4, to the active T3 thyroid hormone!
An under-active thyroid can cause symptoms such as fatigue, constipation, sore muscles, anxiety and heart palpitations. Do you know what else could cause these exact symptoms?...Low magnesium levels!
The most common cause of hypothryoidism is actually an autoimmune condition known as Hashimotos Thyroiditis. High stress levels can be both a trigger and driver of autoimmunity, therefore managing stress through lifestyle techniques and ensuring you have adequate levels of magnesium (stress support) is very important.
6. Poor sleep/Insomnia
Due to it's relaxing and calming effects, magnesium can help us to both fall asleep quicker and also remain in a deep restorative sleep for longer, thus impacting our energy levels, hormone function and mood the next day.
High quality sleep allows our body to function better in many ways. During the night we produce anabolic hormones such as DHEA and growth hormone, which build and repair us on a cellular level.
When our body isn't well rested, we are more likely to over eat, crave sugar and gain weight due to a disruption of our hunger signalling hormones such as leptin. The stress of getting poor quality sleep and making poor food choices because of this can exacerbate hormonal symptoms such as acne, weight gain, anxiety, irregular cycles, painful cramping and hair loss.
Generally magnesium is pretty safe for most people to supplement with, however if you are taking a medication such as antibiotics, statins, cardiovascular or blood sugar managing drugs...please speak with your Doctor or healthcare practitioner first!
Of course, we can't forget about great food sources of magnesium which include cacao, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, green leafy vegetables, avocados and bananas. As I mentioned previously, it can be quite difficult to obtain adequate magnesium levels through diet alone.
In the UK, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for magnesium is around 300mg but I believe that our needs are much higher! The recommended values determined are usually based the amounts we need to prevent serious disease, such as scurvy or pellegra, however they almost never provide what we need to function optimally.
A general supplemental dose for most people is going to be 300-500mg per day, alongside a magnesium rich diet.
Types of magnesium
There are 4 types of magnesium that I frequently recommend to clients...
Magnesium Citrate This form is highly absorbed, especially for those who may be dealing with poor absorption or low stomach acid levels. It may also provide relief for those dealing with constipation as it draws water into the colon. If you are prone to diarrhoea, you should divide your dosage or use another type such as magnesium glycinate.
Magnesium Glycinate Glycine is a calming neurotransmitter and is also involved in oestrogen detoxification. This type of magnesium is also beneficial for those dealing with poor sleep and anxiety.
Magnesium Malate May be beneficial for those dealing with fatigue, musculoskeletal issues or conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Malic acid (which is combined with this type of magnesium) is important for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the mitochondria. ATP is the energy currency of the body.
Magnesium Sulphate Used topically, this type is absorbed through the skin and bypasses the digestive system, therefore this may be suitable for those with compromised digestive tracts. You can soak in an epsom salt bath for 20 minutes several times a week or use a magnesium oil spray daily. This can also be beneficial post-workout, in order to help reduce muscle soreness.
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