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Article at a glance:

• Magnesium is vital for many different aspects of health, including female hormone balance.
• Often nicknamed ‘nature’s tranquiliser’, magnesium may help to support symptoms of PMS and the menopausal transition too.
• For PMS, magnesium may help to reduce anxiety and tension, support mood, reduce cravings, relax painful muscle cramps and alleviate menstrual headaches.
• For menopause, magnesium may help to support mood, stress resilience, reduce headaches, anxiety and tension and support sleep.
• Magnesium may also help to balance the stress response which is crucial both for PMS and during the menopause.
• This powerful mineral also supports long term bone health which is a key consideration during the menopause.

Magnesium is the much-talked about essential mineral that’s involved in many aspects of your health. From energy production, muscle function, sleep and the ability to cope with stress to bone, cardiovascular, nervous system and hormonal health. In fact, there are few bodily processes that magnesium doesn’t affect to at least some degree. Unfortunately, the average Western diet, packed with beige, lifeless, convenience food, and low in nutrient-dense, colourful, wholefoods doesn’t typically deliver enough magnesium to fully support these processes. Busy and stressful 21st century lifestyles are a constant drain on the body’s magnesium stores too. Needless to say, it’s true that most of us would benefit from adding more magnesium in to our daily diets.

In this article we explore more specifically how optimising your magnesium intake may help to support a range of PMS symptoms and help to ease the menopausal transition too.

Magnesium & PMS
Magnesium’s nickname of ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ gives some clue as to it's potential benefits for supporting symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Many symptoms fall under the umbrella term of PMS. These can range from low energy, headaches, food cravings and muscle cramps to anxiety, tension, low mood and many more in between. PMS is estimated to affect as many as 80 % of women during their reproductive years, and whilst for some the symptoms may be mild to moderate, for 30 – 40 % of sufferers they can be severe enough to interfere with daily life. PMS is a complex health problem with a range of possible underlying causes. There certainly isn’t a magic bullet that can be used to beat PMS, magnesium does however come pretty close.

In some studies, women with PMS have been found to have lower blood levels of magnesium than those without PMS.1,2 For symptoms of anxiety and tension, magnesium may help to calm everything down, and some studies show it may work even better when combined with vitamin B6. 3,4 Magnesium may also help to soothe and relax painful muscle cramps, reduce sugar cravings, support a balanced mood and reduce menstrual headaches too.5Stress is a significant contributing factor to PMS and magnesium is needed to help balance the stress response, so it can be a great support in this respect too, targeting the symptoms of PMS right at the root cause.6-12

In a 2023 review on 'The impact of diet nutritional therapy on premenstrual syndrome’, and published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the researchers found, “magnesium supplementation is considered effective in preventing dysmenorrhea, PMS, and menstrual migraine. A combination of magnesium with vitamin B6 can effectively reduce premenstrual stress, and vitamin B6 can effectively reduce anxiety in older women.”13-15

Magnesium & Menopause
The menopause is not a health problem, but rather a natural transition process that every woman goes through. Every woman is born with a finite number of eggs (around 2 million!) and menopause happens when these literally run out and the monthly menstrual period no longer occurs. The balance of hormones changes and ovarian function declines. Menopausal symptoms can be wide ranging and may include hot flashes, low libido, thinning hair, night sweats, poor sleep, mood swings, headaches, anxiety and tension. Menopause is also associated with increased osteoporosis and cardiovascular risk.

As hormone levels start to decline, particularly oestrogen, it is crucial to pay particular attention to supporting the adrenal glands, since they can produce a form of oestrogen to help compensate for decline in production from the ovaries. The adrenal glands are involved in progesterone production too.16. In fact, stress has been identified as a determinant in some studies of factors associated with hot flashes.17 Magnesium has a vital role to play here since it helps to support a healthy balanced stress response.6-12

Other menopausal symptoms such as headaches, poor sleep, anxiety, tension and mood swings may also benefit from additional magnesium in the diet.18-20

Multiple studies have demonstrated improved stress response, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects of magnesium supplementation. 21-23 In fact, magnesium has many important roles to play in supporting the nervous system including interactions with the calming brain neurotransmitter GABA.24 Magnesium works particularly well in the form of magnesium glycinate. Not only do you get the benefits of magnesium with this form, but additional support from the amino acid glycine too. Glycine has an additional calming effect on the brain. Some studies have shown improvements in sleep following glycine supplementation.25-27

Among many other uses in the body, the hormone oestrogen helps to protect your bones, so when oestrogen production declines during the menopause, the risk of osteoporosis increases. Whilst calcium is an important mineral for healthy bones, so too is magnesium and this is often overlooked. Many people get good sources of calcium in their diet but typical Western diets are often lacking in magnesium. Not having enough magnesium may reduce bone growth, decrease bone cell activity and make bones more fragile.28 One of the reasons why magnesium is amongst are most recommended menopause supplements .

Magnesium in food & supplements
The best food sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, beans and sea vegetables such as kelp. And to give you an idea of how much you need to eat just to meet standard daily requirements you’d need the equivalent of 1 avocado, 1 cup cooked spinach, 1 cup cooked black beans and 100g tofu every single day! And for anyone who may have higher magnesium requirements, such as those struggling with PMS or menopausal symptoms, these quantities would need to be increased even further! To achieve optimal daily amounts, especially for anyone with increased needs, supplementation is often recommended. Magnesium can be supplied either as a powder or tablet, and is best taken in the form of magnesium glycinate as it is well absorbed and tolerated, even in higher amounts.

Many people struggle to get enough magnesium in their diets and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) published by Public Health England shows a particularly high proportion of girls aged 11-18 and women aged 19-64 have low dietary magnesium intakes 29.Yet it is a crucial mineral for many aspects of health, including female hormonal health. Magnesium, or ‘nature’s tranquiliser’, can be an invaluable support for anyone struggling with PMS or menopausal symptoms; not least for its powerful ability to soothe and calm both mind and muscles, whilst also protecting long term bone health. The widespread benefits of magnesium make it a perfect partner for female hormone balance.

1. Rosenstein DL, Elin RJ et al. Magnesium measures across the menstrual cycle in premenstrual syndrome. Biol Psychiatry. 1994 Apr 15; 35(8): 557-61
2. Saeedian Kia A, Amani R et al. The association between the risk of premenstrual syndrome and vitamin D, calcium and magnesium status among university students: a case control study. Health Promot Perspect. 2015 Oct 25;5(3):225-30. Doi:10.15171/hpp.2015.027. eCollection 2015
3. Fathizadeh N, Ebrahimi E et al. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010 Dec; 15(Suppl 1): 401-5
4. Pouteau E, Kabir-Ahmadi M, Mazur A & Noah L. Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesemia: A randomised, single-blind clinical trial. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208454. December 2018
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6. Wienecke E, Nolden C. Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake. MMW Fortschr Med. 2016 Dec; 158(Suppl 6): 12-16.
7. Boyle NB, Lawton C et al. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress – a systematic review. Nutrients 2017 May; 9(5): 429
8. Classen HG, Effect of the current magnesium status on the development of stress ulcers and myocardial neuroses. Fortschr Med. 1981. Sep 3; 99(33); 1303-6)
9. Seelig MS, Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions: Preventive and therapeutic implications (A review) Journal of the American College of Nutrition 13(5):429-46. November 1994
10. Henrotte JG, Franck G, Santarromana M, Frances H, Mouton D, Motta R. Mice selected for low and high blood magnesium levels: a new model for stress studies. Physiol Behav. 1997; 61: 653–8.
11. Barragán-Rodríguez L, Rodríguez-Morán M, Guerrero-Romero F. Efficacy and safety of oral magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression in the elderly with type 2 diabetes: a randomised, equivalent trial. Magnes Res 2008; 21: 218–23.
12. Long SJ, Benton D. Effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation on stress, mild psychiatric symptoms, and mood in nonclinical samples: A meta-analysis. Psychosom Med. 2013; 75: 144–153
13. Siminius R & Turcanu D. Impact of nutritional diet therapy on premenstrual syndrome. Front Nutr 2023; 10: 1079417
14. McCabe D, Lisy K, et al. The impact of essential fatty acid, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc supplementation on stress levels in women: a systematic review. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. (2017) 15:402–53.
15. Parazzini F, Di Martino M, Pellegrino P. Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnes Res. (2017) 30:1–7.
16. Balfour WE, Comline RS et al. Secretion of progesterone by the adrenal gland. Nature volume 180, pages 1480-1481 (1957)
17. Leidy Sievert L, Huicochea-Gomez L, et al. Stress and the menopausal transition in Campeche, Mexico. Women’s Midlife Health volume 4, Article number: 9 (2018)
18. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLOS One June 27 2017. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180067
19. Park H, Parker GL, et al. A pilot phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients. Support Care Cancer. 2011 Jun; 19(6): 859-63
20. Dolati S, Rikhtegar R, et al. The role of magnesium in pathophysiology and migraine treatment. Biol Trace Elem Res 2020 Aug; 196(2): 375-383.
21. Classen HG, Effect of the current magnesium status on the development of stress ulcers and myocardial neuroses. Fortschr Med. 1981. Sep 3; 99(33); 1303-6)
22. Seelig MS, Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions: Preventive and therapeutic implications (A review) Journal of the American College of Nutrition 13(5):429-46. November 1994
23. Henrotte JG, Franck G, Santarromana M, Frances H, Mouton D, Motta R. Mice selected for low and high blood magnesium levels: a new model for stress studies. Physiol Behav. 1997; 61: 653–8
24. Moykkynen T, Uusi-Oukari M, et al. Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Neuroreport. 2001 Jul 20; 12(10): 2175-9
25. Kawai N, Sakai N et al. The sleep-promoting and hypothermic effects of glycine are mediated by NMDA receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, Neuropsychopharmacology 40(6) (2015) 1405-16
26. Yamadera WI, Chiba K et al. Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes, Sleep and Biological Rhythms 5 (2007).
27. M. Bannai, N. Kawai et al. The effects of glycine on subjective daytime performance in partially sleep-restricted healthy volunteers, Front Neurol 3 (2012) 61.
28. Ryder KM, Shorr RI, et al. Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects. J Am Geriatr Soc 53, no.11 (Nov 2005): 1875-80.
29. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/news/2020/key-findings-from-ndns-report-for-years-9-to-11-combined/#other

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