That’s the total number of articles I’ve written about magnesium in the 3 ½ years
I’ve been blogging on this functional medicine website.
Shame on me. I could easily write hundreds of articles about the importance of magnesium alone. After all, it’s a cofactor (geekspeak for helper molecule) in over 600 reactions in the body. That’s a pretty big deal.
The one and only time I covered magnesium (Mg) was back in April 2022, the topic was how Mg can help improve sleep quality.
As women transition through the changes, magnesium can be a mature lady’s best friend. It’s a mineral that can, dare I say, CURE, all kinds of side effects that occur because of the changes.
This time, I want to expand on this theme and tell you how magnesium can support the body during perimenopause or postmenopause. So let’s dive right in!
How Menopause Affects Magnesium Levels
It’s bad enough that nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t get enough magnesium either through diet or supplementation. And as if dealing with menopause wasn’t enough of a pain in the BEE-HIND to deal with, the changes cause many women to have “hypomagnesemia.” Thankfully, this condition isn’t a serious disease. Rather, it means you have low levels of magnesium. But if you’re somebody going through a difficult transition to menopause, hypomagnesemia can seem as serious as life, death, and taxes.
So here are a few ways that having hypomagnesemia can negatively affect your menopausal transition. According to a study in Clinical Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine, the hormone responsible for controlling your thyroid – called “thyroid-stimulating hormone” or TSH for short – tends to increase if you’re deficient in magnesium. This increase in TSH sounds like a good thing for your thyroid, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. When your thyroid pumps out TSH, it actually makes your thyroid eventually underperform. And when you’re thyroid is underperforming, that’s when it’s easy to put on weight, even if you don’t increase your calorie intake. So being low in magnesium causes your thyroid—the master metabolism controller—to function at a low level.
Magnesium & Depression
And here’s another way magnesium impacts menopause. The mineral is involved in how your brain sends and receives signals. If you’re low in magnesium, then your brain doesn’t get the message to produce more feel-good chemicals like serotonin. This is one reason why low magnesium levels are associated with feelings of depression. Maybe it’s not the fact that you’re no longer able to reproduce that’s got you down. Instead, maybe it’s just a magnesium deficiency? It’s hard to know unless you take an accurate test. As a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Medicine professional, that’s something I can help you with.
Magnesium & Stress
There’s more to it. Magnesium also affects another hormone. Yes, it affects estrogen but I’ll get to that shortly. This one is called “adrenocorticotrophic hormone” or ACTH. This hormone is related to how your body reacts to stress. When magnesium is low, ACTH might become more active, which could lead to your body releasing more cortisol – a hormone that’s produced when you’re stressed. So, low magnesium might cause your body to release more cortisol in response to stress.
Magnesium & Circulation
Additionally, magnesium impacts a molecule in every cell of the body called “nitric oxide.” Not to be confused with nitrous oxide you get at the dentist, nitric oxide relaxes your blood vessels. This helps improve blood flow, which not only helps your blood vessels function better and reduces hot flashes. Menopause and the aging process, a double whammy, reduces the amount of nitric oxide in the cells. By consuming—and absorbing—enough magnesium, your cells will have more nitric oxide to widen your arteries.
Besides hot flashes, another reason nitric oxide is important is for the prevention of heart attacks. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women.
Magnesium For Bone Health
After you go through menopause or even before you’re full-on perimenopausal, you’re at an increased risk for osteopenia (the reversible, low-bone-density precursor to osteoporosis) and osteoporosis (the manageable but irreversible loss of bone matrix). This is mainly due to decreased estrogen levels.
Now here’s where magnesium comes into play with bone health. It interacts with calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone density and strength. Almost two-thirds of the magnesium in your body is stored in the bones. Up to 30% of postmenopausal women have osteoporosis.
As I mentioned in my last post, “The Calcium Paradox,” most people only think about calcium when it comes to maintaining strong bones. However, consuming lots of calcium can actually cause your bone density to actually go lower. Instead of thinking just about calcium for strong bones, you should think about magnesium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2.
Many women with osteoporosis get enough calcium in their diet but most women aren’t getting enough magnesium, which plays a role in cartilage and bone matrix formation.
Magnesium and Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
If you ask your doctor about magnesium for menopause relief, they probably won’t have much to say. It’s not their fault. Most doctors receive next to no nutrition or natural supplement training. To be sure, magnesium doesn’t necessarily directly relieve hot flashes or night sweats. And that’s exactly why your doctor won’t write you an Rx for it.
However, research suggests that Mg does help relieve those menopausal symptoms that destroy quality of life. For instance, a preliminary study published in Support Care Cancer tested magnesium’s effects on 25 patients with breast cancer who were experiencing hot flashes. The patients started with one 400-milligram dose of magnesium oxide at bedtime for 2 weeks. If that provided adequate symptom relief (reduction in hot flash frequency or severity of about half, or 50%), then they stayed on that dose for the full 4-week period. If the symptom relief was not adequate after 2 weeks, the dose of magnesium was increased to 400 mg twice a day. Out of the 25 patients, 17 ended up taking the second dose.
Hot flashes were reduced by over 40%. Not only that, fatigue, sweating, and stress levels were all significantly reduced, with only a few minor side effects.
The reason the women may have experienced better energy levels is that magnesium is involved in generating ATP. That’s the energy source that cells use. More ATP equals more energy.
Conclusion: Magnesium For Menopause Is Magical
The women in the study likely experienced lower stress and improved cognitive function because Mg helps boost feel-good neurotransmitters and has anti-inflammatory activity. From helping balance hormones to supporting the immune system, playing a role in balancing blood sugar levels and more, magnesium is the must-have mineral for menopause.
But let me end on a little note of caution. If you ask your doctor for a magnesium blood test, it might not be very reliable. Well, more accurately, the test will reliably reveal your serum Mg levels. But most of your magnesium is in your cells. I can help you assess what your intracellular levels of Mg are for a better indication.
I can also help recommend a high-quality magnesium supplement and let know what kind of magnesium is best for your particular needs (citrate, glycinate, orotate, etc.).
Until next time,
Jenna Witt, NP
Functional Medicine practitioner and health coach
Founder, Fundamental Wellness Nebraska