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Magnesium: A Key to Women’s Health

Everyone needs magnesium in order to stay healthy. That’s because magnesium — the ninth most abundant element in the universe — is also one of the most plentiful chemical elements in the human body.

In fact, magnesium is involved in more than 300 different chemical reactions that support, among other things:

  • Blood sugar and blood pressure control
  • Bone health
  • Detoxification
  • Energy metabolism
  • Healthy muscle and nerve function
  • Hormone balance
  • Immune system function
  • Protein and DNA production
  • Steady heart rate

While the amount of magnesium we need depends on our sex and age, generally speaking, women have a lower threshold for health issues related to magnesium deficiency.

Common and painful health conditions like hormonal migraines, premenstrual syndrome, and even anxiety and depression are common in women suffering from magnesium deficiency.

So how exactly do women ensure that magnesium — which our bodies do not naturally produce — is plentiful? Further, what should we do when experiencing a magnesium deficiency? That’s just part of what we’re going to cover in this post, starting with information about common dietary sources of magnesium.

Dietary Sources of Magnesium

Since our bodies don’t make magnesium, we need to obtain it from dietary sources or supplements. Dietary sources of magnesium include the following:

  • Fish: Chinook salmon, halibut, Atlantic mackerel, and Atlantic pollock
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, flaxseed, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes: Black beans, edamame, and lima beans
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, brown rice, and shredded wheat
  • Dairy: Milk and yogurt
  • Greens: Spinach, Swiss chard, seaweed, green algae
  • Chocolate: Dark chocolate
  • Water

Magnesium Deficiency: A Growing Problem

Magnesium deficiency, which sometimes presents itself through muscle twitches and cramps, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and even an irregular heartbeat, is becoming more widespread for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Foods are lower in magnesium now than they once were. Part of the reason is that many fruits and vegetables are grown in soil depleted of magnesium. In addition, food processing removes magnesium from many food sources, such as wheat grains.
  • Studies show that women have a lower dietary intake of magnesium than men.
  • Magnesium intake typically decreases with age.
  • Commonly prescribed medications tend to deplete magnesium. These medications include acid blockers (for indigestion), antibiotics, anti-viral medications, blood pressure meds, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants. Oral contraceptives are also commonly linked to the depletion of micronutrients, including magnesium. This reduction is proportional to the duration of time the patient has been using contraceptives.
  • Many acute and chronic illnesses reduce magnesium levels, including alcoholism, burns, liver disease, diabetes, and hormone imbalances.

Women’s Health Issues Commonly Associated with Magnesium Deficiency

Low magnesium has been linked to chronic inflammation, irritability, headaches, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, muscle twitches or cramps, constipation, insomnia, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and bone loss.

In women specifically, low magnesium is associated with discomfort and other issues during the premenstrual period, menstruation, and menopause. Low magnesium may also contribute to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and cancer.

Premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramps

Magnesium likely plays a role in premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Women with PMS have a significantly lower concentration of magnesium in their red blood cells than those women who don’t experience PMS symptoms. Magnesium levels tend to drop in the second half of the menstrual cycle, so women already deficient in magnesium may experience certain PMS symptoms, such as muscle cramps, as a result.

Magnesium has been shown to provide some relief in the treatment of dysmenorrhea (painful uterine cramps that precede or accompany menses). These cramps are related to excessive contraction of the uterine muscles.

In turn, prostaglandins released in the uterus induce an inflammatory response that leads to the onset of cramps and other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, and headaches. Several studies have also shown some benefits of magnesium supplementation for the prevention of premenstrual migraines.

Note that other micronutrients may impact PMS as well, so it’s important to have your doctor run blood work to check out levels of all essential vitamins and minerals.


Women in menopause often suffer from hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and insomnia, along with certain long-term complications such as osteoporosis, all of which are linked to a decline in circulating estrogen produced by the body.

However, a growing body of evidence points to magnesium deficiency as a possible underlying cause of these symptoms and complications.

Climacteric symptoms

Climacteric refers to the period of time when estrogen levels decline in women. During this time, women commonly experience mood issues and hot flashes.

In a recent observational study, researchers reported that women who experienced depressive symptoms during perimenopause and post-menopause had significantly lower levels of magnesium compared with women in a healthy control group.

Magnesium also seems to play a useful role in the prevention and treatment of hot flashes related to menopause.

Bone, nerve, and muscle health

Magnesium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. In fact, dietary magnesium deficiency has been implicated as a risk factor for osteoporosis (bone loss) — a well-known long-term risk for postmenopausal women. Optimizing magnesium levels may be an effective and affordable means of preventing osteoporosis.

Magnesium may also serve as a neuroprotective agent. As the neuroprotective effects of estrogen decline with menopause, the antispasmodic effects of magnesium on the smooth muscle of arteries may offset that decline.


Magnesium deficiency is commonly associated with cancer for several reasons, including the following:

  • Inflammation is related to both magnesium deficiency and cancer.
  • Magnesium helps to regulate cell proliferation, and it supports the production of healthy DNA.
  • Magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) is common in cancer patients, especially during the terminal stages of cancer.
  • An increased intake of magnesium is associated with a decreased risk of breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancer in women.

Next Steps

No doubt, magnesium is a key ingredient to health — women’s health in particular — but avoid the common mistake of taking a magnesium supplement before you know what your body needs. While a magnesium deficiency can certainly cause problems, too much magnesium can also cause health issues, including the following:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Facial flushing
  • Irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Urine retention
  • Vomiting

If you suspect that you may be suffering from magnesium deficiency, we recommend that you consider taking the following steps:

  1. Have your magnesium red blood cell levels checked along with levels of other vitamins and minerals? If you find that you need to supplement with magnesium, you may need to supplement with other minerals and vitamins as well to maximize the benefit.
  2. Consult with your healthcare provider for guidance in selecting the appropriate dose and form of magnesium — oral (capsules or powder) or a topical application (such as a magnesium oil applied to the skin). For example, if your magnesium deficiency is causing constipation, magnesium citrate may be the better choice. On the other hand, magnesium glycinate may be the better choice for supporting healthy bones and teeth, because it’s more fully absorbed by the body.
  3. Take a thoughtful approach to balancing hormones by having your doctor run labs for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormones. All of these can contribute to the symptoms associated with low magnesium, bone loss, heart disease, PMS, and menopause.

If you or a loved one believe that a magnesium deficiency may contribute to your health and well-being, consider engaging the help of a functional medicine practice like ours. Functional medicine-trained doctors like those at our Tampa functional medicine practice are trained and focused on finding the root cause of illness and disorder. And a magnesium deficiency — while not difficult to detect — is often overlooked by traditional and general medical practitioners.


Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about the role magnesium plays in women’s health is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.