Magnesium for Moms – From Menstruation to Menopause
By Sarah Clachar, Health Writer
This month we celebrate motherhood. The work mothers do in raising children – nurturing, disciplining, exercising endless patience or sharing in the excitement of each success small and large – is invaluable.
But the contributions mothers make are also physical. Our bodies do enormous work preparing for pregnancy, building new life inside of us and then helping it get out into the world. And to do this tremendous job, our bodies need specific nutrients. One of them is magnesium. Says practicing naturopathic doctor Kris Somol, ND, “Magnesium has worked wonders with many gynecological complaints I have encountered.”1
PMS – The Hormonal Link
You probably already know too well the outward effects of the hormonal swings our bodies go through on a monthly basis – moodiness, cravings, headaches, and irritability. Well, these rude reminders that earn menstruation the nickname “the curse,” can indicate hormone-induced nutrient depletions inside the body.
According to a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that ebb and flow with our monthly cycle, affect the levels of magnesium in our bodies.2 High levels of estrogen and progesterone are linked to significant drops in magnesium levels – as much as a 30% decrease.3 One reason for this magnesium depletion as Dr. Somol explains, is that magnesium is also necessary in the metabolism or breakdown of estrogen. The more estrogen, the more magnesium used up to break it down.4
And these two hormones peak right around that dreaded premenstrual syndrome (PMS) time, resulting in especially low magnesium levels.
So this explains quite a few things. How about pre-menstrual chocolate cravings? Ounce for ounce chocolate is probably one of the more magnesium-rich foods.5 Yearning for the dark stuff is clearly our body writing its own prescription. Some women also develop a yen for dark leafy greens at this time, another food rich in magnesium.6
Headaches, Moodiness, and Cramps
If headaches – even migraines – plague you right before your period, low magnesium levels may also be to blame. Statistically, more of these sledge-hammer headaches hit women right before menstruation. With hormone levels high, magnesium levels drop in the smooth muscle cells surrounding the blood vessels in your brain. Without adequate magnesium, these muscles spasm and cramp, restricting the flow of blood, causing premenstrual migraines or even increasing the risk for a stroke.7
Even pre-menstrual depression and moodiness may be linked to low magnesium levels, according to one small double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted in Italy.8 Additionally, magnesium is essential for helping your body make use of another natural mood-buster, omega-3 fatty acids.9
Finally, magnesium continues on to provide relief during menstruation when cramps hit. Explains Dr. Somol, “[Magnesium] is essential in the process of muscle relaxation after a contraction. This is why it is useful for menstrual cramps,” as well as prenatal leg cramps and labor.10
Magnesium for a Healthy Pregnancy
Unquestionably, adequate magnesium is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Clinical trials have shown that mothers who take magnesium supplements have healthier babies and fewer pregnancy problems.11 The importance of magnesium for a healthy pregnancy is dramatized by two particular concerns: pre-eclampsia and cerebral palsy.
Preeclampsia is a frightening condition marked by high blood pressure, headaches and edema. It is responsible for at least 76,000 maternal deaths each year according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.12
A recent large-scale randomized placebo-controlled trial conducted in England confirmed what doctors had been putting to practice for years. Magnesium sulfate can effectively and safely treat preeclampsia. Researchers from the Institute of Health Sciences followed over 10,000 women with preeclampsia through delivery and checked in on them and their children for up to 2 years after birth. Compared to the placebo group, magnesium sulfate halved the cases of eclampsia – the escalation of preeclampsia to the point where women experience seizures. Better yet, 2 years later, there were no residual side effects observed in either the mothers or the children.13
In addition to maternal health risks, preeclampsia and eclampsia can cause significant problems for the baby. High blood pressure during pregnancy has been linked to cerebral palsy and other forms of brain damage. After reviewing 5 different clinical trials where magnesium sulphate was given to women at risk for giving birth to children with cerebral palsy, researchers from University of Melbourne’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that “magnesium sulphate therapy given to women at risk of preterm birth substantially reduced the risk of cerebral palsy in their child.”14 For a health problem like cerebral palsy for which there is no cure, a simple prevention with a simple mineral makes a lifetime of difference.
Good For Motherhood And Beyond
Menstruation and pregnancy mark the active phase of our reproductive lives. Yet even with menopause, magnesium can help ease the transition. Dr. Somol uses it frequently to help with hot flashes.15
To get your magnesium, Dr. Somol recommends eating lots of leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, legumes and drinking hard water. Yet with magnesium-depleted soils, these foods may have less than we need. For that reason, magnesium supplementation may be necessary. Says Dr. Somol, “I have used magnesium supplementation with many patients,” listing a lengthy number of health issues women face – from gynecological complaints to cardiovascular issues to migraines. She notes, “There are many times when magnesium has been sufficient to correct certain symptoms.”16
So honor your womanly body – at whatever stage – and care for it. Inside magnesium’s simple mineral package lies health benefits equal to at least a dozen hand-picked bouquets and several Mother’s Day brunches.
- Personal interview Kris Somol 4/21/09
- Muneyvirci-Delale O. et al. Sex Steroid Hormones Modulate Serum Ionized Magnesium and Calcium Levels Throughout The Menstrual Cycle in Women.” Fertility and Sterility. 1998 May;69(5):958-62
- Muneyvirci-Delale et al.
- Somol interview.
- Carolyn Dean, The Magnesium Miracle. Ballantine, New York. 2007, p. 136.
- Somol interview.
- Dean, p. 134.
- Facchinetti F. et al. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1991 Aug;78(2):177-81.
- Dean, p. 137.
- Somol interview.
- Dean, p. 142.
- Dean, p. 141.
- Smyth, RM et al. Magpie Trial in the UK: Methods and additional data for women and children at 2 years following pregnancy complicated by pre-eclampsia. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2009 April 14; 9(1): 15. and Magpie Trial Coordinating Center. The Magpie Trial follow up study: outcome after discharge from hospital for women and children recruited to a trial comparing magnesium sulphate with placebo for pre-eclampsia. BMC Pregnancy And Childbirth. 2004 March 8; 4(1):5.
- Doyle LW, et al. Magnesium sulphate for women at risk of preterm birth for neuroprotection of the fetus. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 2009 Jan 21; (1)
- Somol interview.
- Somol interview.