Ugh Menopause! When you’re taking off your cardy for the 10th time today, feeling bloated, flooding embarrassingly in public, when you are really struggling to sleep though the night and getting up in the morning feels impossible, when you are feeling anxious depressed, not yourself, when your migraines are hell and increasing in severity and regularity …We really do wish for a miracle or the return of our young self! While this of course is impossible, there are definitely some things that can help.
Today we talk about the single most important nutrient during this life stage, and the one most lacking from an average diet; Magnesium! One well-known naturopath, who specialises in woman’s hormones, Lara Briden “calls it the hormone rescuer”! One study even demonstrated that supplementing with oral magnesium resulted in a 50% reduction in hot flushes. And other studies tell us that by simply increasing your intake of this wonder mineral, you’ll sleep like a baby, heal your PMS, put an end to anxiety and associated heart palpitations, improve your migraine symptoms and even start to get that smile back on your face (there might not be a study about that!)
Is this an oversell? I’m wary of anything that is promoted as a magic pill (snake oil anyone??)! So what are the facts about magnesium, and how could you benefit?
Why does magnesium matter?
Magnesium is one of the building blocks of life and is responsible for a massive variety of bodily functions; some sources say that up to 80% of our cellular functions rely on magnesium, but even the most conservative sources put this figure at around 30% So no wonder it seems to be quite the miracle! Some things it regulates include bone & tooth health, energy production and release from your cells, restful sleep, and nervous system health, where it encourages the “rest and digest” branch of the nervous system.
Most importantly of all for all of us in the throws of menopause magnesium is also supports hormonal function and balance, it does all this:
Promotes thyroid health, and is vital for the production & regulation of thyroid hormone
Fuels cellular energy. It acts as a "spark plug" for your cells, so to speak! Hormone producing tissue has high needs for energy and therefore more need for magnesium.
Support your body in the manufacture of those sex hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone.
Helps your body effectively deal with stress by calming your nervous system and reducing your cortisol levels for better overall hormonal functioning.
Improve your insulin sensitivity and stabilises your blood sugar levels for fewer cravings and better energy.
Help you get a good nights sleep, and as you might know, sleep is vital for hormone production.
Slows ageing, reduces oxidative stress, and enhances the production of glutathione, which is one of your body's primary antioxidants.
So yes! magnesium is extra-important as the menopause approaches! & damn it! - This is precisely the time your magnesium stores actually drop through the floor, which worsens your menopausal symptoms and also affects your bone density and tissue strength (think wrinkles at the least problematic and prolapses and varicose veins at the worst),
But there is good news in all of this. Because if we start paying closer attention to our magnesium intake and taking steps to get as much of this amazing mineral as we can, we could alleviate or even eliminate those symptoms of the peri-menopause and menopause Here are the three easy steps you need to take to do it:
Look to your food first!
It’s best to get your nutrients though your diet, including magnesium. This means consuming whole foods which are rich in all the co-nutrients which actually aid in its absorption and provide you with the ‘whole package’ nutritionally-speaking. Note the difference between brown rice and white rice! Same goes for all white grains..
These are all delicious foods which are really easy to add to your daily diet. However, for best benefits, you should aim to grow your own or choose organic produce. Modern (intensive) farming methods have reduced many of the nutrients in our foods so they just don’t contain what they used to.
Get rid of the magnesium thieves!
You are consciously eating high magnesium foods a plenty, but still suffering? The way we live in the modern era robs us of our magnesium and prevents it’s absorption. So these things really make a difference to how much magnesium your body has for all those vital processes!
Sugars: Lots of sugar in your diet makes the kidneys excrete more magnesium in your urine and sugar also has a really bad effect on your hormone levels. This isn’t just the sugar you put on your cereal! Read labels! FYI 5gms of “sugars” on a label equals 1 tsp!
Stress: Stress raises your cortisol and adrenaline levels which cause your cells to ‘dump’ magnesium. We live with a huge amount of low grade chronic stress. What can you do to reduce it in your life?
Caffeine: Coffee, tea and energy drinks raise your cortisol and adrenaline levels. They also bind the magnesium (and other minerals) in your gut, meaning it does not absorb.
Alcohol: your body burns through all nutrients in order to process any alcohol you’re drinking, It also is a diuretic which flushes minerals out of your system.
Cigarettes: Smoking robs your body of magnesium. Just another reason to quit!
Supplement as a rescue package!
For a quick rescue I suggest supplementation, but not before you put the dietary and lifestyle stuff in place so you don’t have to rely on supplementation for the rest of your life! I tend to recommend oral magnesium citrate as an easily absorbed form. This is the form the bulk of the research has used. Don’t go with cheap labels especially when they contain “natural magnesium” (read: rock; not very absorbable!) magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) magnesium oxide & magnesium phosphate. All of these will work as a great laxative, but not so great if you want to absorb some of it! Sometimes you’ll even need more than the daily recommended amount (320mg) and often people need up to around 600mg if they are really deficient
Transdermal oil/ gel/lotion and Epsom salt baths – these have a locally relaxing and pain killing action on your muscles and body, but the molecules are large and I’m not convinced they actually get magnesium into your blood stream. I’ve been actively looking for the research to prove this for years because they feel so good (especially the bath!)! But have drawn a blank thus far! so use them, as a relaxing self care thing to do, but don't rely on them to get your levels up!
Magnesium really could be the answer help you out of the worst of the symptoms of menopause and to help you get your life back on track. So, Ditch those magnesium thieves, pay attention to your diet and consider a supplement to start getting that mojo back!
If you want some sciencey stuff this article is awesome! Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review.