Are you getting enough magnesium? If you’re not sure, the answer might be no. But paying attention to good dietary sources of this mineral is absolutely critical. And, especially as you age, your body may need a supplement, too.
Can’t live without magnesium
Sodium, calcium, and potassium are all essential minerals to the human body. And magnesium belongs right on that list, too. Your body needs magnesium to execute 500-plus biochemical functions. It helps muscles and nerves stay healthy and work well. And it also keeps your bones, teeth, and immune system in top shape. Plus, it influences electrolytes, hormones, and much more.
With so many important jobs, it’s no wonder not getting enough of this mineral causes a number of problems in the body. In fact, low magnesium is linked to a variety of chronic issues and conditions. Some of these include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Thyroid disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- And more
Symptoms of low magnesium
You often hear that a true magnesium deficiency is rare in developed countries. And it’s true that a well-rounded diet can usually provide adequate intake. After all, leafy greens, nuts, beans, and dairy all offer magnesium. (And some boxed products are fortified with it.) But it’s still possible to have low levels or not as much as you need, especially as you age.
Low levels of magnesium may not be obvious. Or, it can cause symptoms like:
- Aches and pains
- PMS, or premenstrual syndrome
- Muscle issues (cramps, twitching, weakness)
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
Magnesium & your body
Here are a few ways magnesium is important to your hormones:
Most of your body’s magnesium is in bones and other tissue. This makes it hard to get an accurate reading through lab work. However, evidence does show links between low serum magnesium and antithyroid antibodies. Specifically, low magnesium increases your risk of thyroglobulin antibodies, or TgAb. (And, therefore, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.)
Another reason magnesium is important to your thyroid? It helps your thyroid gland produce hormones. It’s also needed to convert inactive thyroid hormone, T4, into an active form your cells can use (T3).
Menstrual pain and migraines
It’s recommended that women with migraines take magnesium oxide daily. In many people, magnesium levels are low during a migraine. And, as a whole, low magnesium levels are more common in women with chronic migraine and menstrual migraines.
Magnesium may also benefit premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Magnesium relaxes muscles, so it may ease cramps. A small study even showed that oral magnesium supplementation helps with PMS-related mood changes, cravings, and more.
Magnesium has a reputation for helping with constipation, and it’s well deserved. It draws water into the intestines and helps make it easier to go. What does this have to do with estrogen? Extra estrogen is cleared through your digestive tract. But, if your liver and gut aren’t healthy enough, your body can’t eliminate the estrogen. If that happens, the estrogen recirculates and can cause high levels of the hormone.
With age, it’s harder to absorb magnesium from food. Plus, your body eliminates more through urine. These two factors can up your chances of a magnesium deficiency.
While calcium gets most of the attention for bone health, magnesium is also important in menopause. It can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Magnesium helps with calcium absorption. It also helps your body better absorb vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption, too.
Magnesium has gotten a lot of press for menopause symptoms. But, in most of those claims, its effectiveness isn’t fully clear. There is potential for magnesium to provide relief for hot flashes. A study proved it helped with hot flashes caused by chemotherapy.
Another way magnesium may be helpful in menopause is insomnia. It boosts production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps you relax and fall asleep.
Ways to get magnesium
A well-rounded diet can provide good sources of dietary magnesium. Some foods that are rich in magnesium include:
- Spinach and leafy greens
- Fortified foods, like cereals
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
Especially as you get older, getting enough magnesium from your diet may be more difficult. Your body may not absorb this (and other) minerals as well. Magnesium is present in most multivitamins, but you may want to talk with your healthcare provider about if you should take a dedicated magnesium supplement.