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Magnesium and menopause have a close relationship – and not just because they are very nearly anagrams of each other! Magnesium could make a world of difference to how you experience the transition through perimenopause and beyond.

There is so much you can do to support you through perimenopause and menopause. Nutrition can be hugely important, both alongside HRT and for those who can’t or choose not to take HRT. You can work with nutrition – including magnesium – to help manage blood sugar, moods and energy levels, soothe joints and digestion, and strengthen bones and mental resilience.

Magnesium and inflammation

A great deal of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms are due to increased inflammation. Oestrogen is often protective against inflammation, so fluctuating or decreased levels are bound to have an impact. This can set the scene for joint problems, digestive issues, headaches, itchy or flaky skin and even depression. Inflammation can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Magnesium, on the other hand, is a natural anti-inflammatory: being low in magnesium is associated with low grade persistent inflammation, and people who take magnesium supplements reduce their anti-inflammatory markers.

Magnesium and menopause

Unfortunately, the lower your oestrogen levels, the lower your blood serum levels of magnesium are likely to be – at a time when you need magnesium the most. No one really understands why, but one factor could be that your liver uses magnesium to help clear excess oestrogen from your body. When you’re making less oestrogen, you should potentially need less magnesium, so lower levels of oestrogen may trigger you to absorb less magnesium fom your food. Not only that, but magnesium is less well metabolised, and you also wee more out.

However, there is so much that you need magnesium for that can then suffer as a result.

Magnesium and bone strength

We often think of calcium and vitamin D for bones, but actually magnesium is just as important. Low magnesium has been correlated with poor bone strength at any age, and a specific study on postmenopausal women with osteoporosis found that magnesium supplements significantly raised levels of osteocalcin, a protein produced by bone-forming cells. Additionally, you need magnesium to process vitamin D.

Mood swings, brain health and depression

Magnesium is involved in the process of making neurotransmitters such as serotonin, your “happy chemical”, and GABA, which helps keep you calm. It’s also involved in other pathways that help you manage stress.

At the same time, inflammation has been implicated in both depression and brain fog. So extra magnesium may be helpful in improving mental and cognitive health. One study of post-menopausal women found that those with the lowest levels of magnesium were more likely to have depression, and those who didn’t suffer from depression had the highest levels of magnesium.

Magnesium and menopause: relax in a magnesium bath

Magnesium, energy and sleep

Magnesium seems to increase production of melatonin, your sleep hormone, and to help relax your muscles and your mind. Many people find magnesium helpful for sleep, whether they take it before bed or earlier in the day.

Sleeping more will help you to feel more energised – and actually magnesium itself is essential to energy production in your cells. Without magnesium, you can’t make effective ATP, which is like a miniscule battery that powers most of the activity in your body, including breathing and heartbeat, moving nutrients around your body, repairing and renewing cells and fuelling your brain. So you need magnesium to both move and rest, to feel both energised and relaxed.

Low energy is sometimes a symptom of underactive thyroid – and guess what? Your thyroid needs magnesium to stay healthy too.

Magnesium and HRT

HRT can help maintain magnesium levels by raising oestrogen levels, and can stimulate bone deposition. Magnesium supplements can also achieve both of those things. I’m not saying take magnesium instead of HRT, but you may want to factor this into your decision-making. For some women, HRT makes a crucial difference that you can’t get anywhere near with nutritional changes alone. But many women don’t need to go down the medical path, and instead can dance through perimenopause and menopause with the support of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices. Essentially, for a lot of women, HRT is not the only answer. But if it’s the answer you choose, that’s ok, and you may find working with nutrition and lifestyle provides even more effective support.

Magnesium – diet vs supplements

It’s always preferable to try to address nutrient balance through diet rather than supplements, and it’s worth being aware of some of the major food sources of magnesium. Nuts, green leafy vegetables and the vibrant green superfoods such as wheatgrass, barleygrass, chlorella and spirulina are all fantastic. This may not be enough – not least because we absorb less and excrete more magnesium when oestrogen levels are low.

Most of the studies looking to increase magnesium do so with supplements, so it’s hard to know how successfully you could address this, for example, by increasing supergreens.

Having said that, not all supplements are the same. High doses of magnesium glycinate are less likely to give you diarrhoea than a high intake of magnesium oxide, and will most likely be absorbed better too. You can also absorb magnesium through the skin, for example with an Epsom salts bath.

Magnesium in your menopause

As impressive as magnesium seems, it’s not the only thing that can help your perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause wellbeing. There are so many other nutrients and dietary changes you could explore, alongside exercise, herbs, mindfulness and reassessing what you want your life to look like.

If you’d like to learn more, I run a Menopause Nutrition workshop online every couple of months or so. My next one is Wedneday 9th March 2022 7-8.15pm GMT – book online here.

Exercise, magnesium and menopausePre-run supergreen shake with running trainers

References:

Maier, J. A., Castiglioni, S., Locatelli, L., Zocchi, M., & Mazur, A. (2021, July). Magnesium and inflammation: Advances and perspectives. In Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology (Vol. 115, pp. 37-44). Academic Press.

Veronese N, Pizzol D, Smith L, Dominguez LJ, Barbagallo M. Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Inflammatory Parameters: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2022; 14(3):679. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14030679

Kolanu, B. R., Vadakedath, S., Boddula, V., & Kandi, V. (2020). Activities of Serum Magnesium and Thyroid Hormones in Pre-, Peri-, and Post-menopausal Women. Cureus, 12(1).

Avinash, S. S., & Goud, B. K. (2013). Magnesium Metabolism in Menopause. In Nutrition and Diet in Menopause (pp. 213-223). Humana Press, Totowa, NJ.

Porri, D., Biesalski, H. K., Limitone, A., Bertuzzo, L., & Cena, H. (2021). Effect of magnesium supplementation on women’s health and well-being. NFS Journal, 23, 30-36.

Morton, D.J. and James, M.F.M. (1985), Effect of Magnesium Ions on Rat Pineal N-Acetyltransferase (EC 2. 3 1.5) Activity. Journal of Pineal Research, 2: 387-391. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-079X.1985.tb00718.x

Jurczak, A., Brodowski, J., Grochans, E., Karakiewicz, B., Szkup-Jablonska, M., Wieder-Huszla, S., … & Grzywacz, A. (2013). Effect of menopausal hormone therapy on the levels of magnesium, zinc, lead and cadmium in post-menopausal women. Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine, 20(1).

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