magnesium health benefits

Magnesium Benefits: 15 Ways This Mineral Boosts Health

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Balancing Your Hormones, Cramps, Food, Headaches & Migraines, Herbs & Supplements, Pregnancy, Thyroid & Hormone Balance Leave a Comment

Magnesium is near the top of the list of crucial nutrients. It is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body, and it helps with things like your heartbeat, sleep cycles, muscle contraction, energy production, immune function, hormone balance and so much more. When you dig into the research, the magnesium benefits seem endless. Safe to say that getting enough magnesium is non-negotiable. 

The thing is, over 50% of the population in the U.S. isn't getting enough magnesium in their diets, not even enough to meet the questionably low recommended daily allowance (RDA). Modern farming practices have depleted our soil of nutrients, and many of our foods don't have as much magnesium in them as they did a few generations ago. 

On top of that, the standard American diet is woefully lacking in whole foods. To compound the issue, the rising prevalence of digestive disorders like celiac disease or Crohn's means many people cannot absorb magnesium efficiently, either. 

Since your body stores most of your magnesium in your bones and soft tissues, blood tests aren't the best way to diagnose deficiencies. Many women have subclinical (undetectable) magnesium deficiencies that won't necessarily show up on a blood test. 

In a recent review of magnesium studies, researchers found that increasing magnesium by 100 mg a day reduced the risk of stroke by 7 percent, type 2 diabetes 19 percent, and heart failure an impressive 22 percent. 

In other words, if you're trying to stay as healthy as possible, it's a good idea to make sure you're prioritizing that magnesium. 

Let's dig into the details of all the ways this crucial mineral can help us every day.

What Are The Benefits Of Magnesium?

People reach for magnesium to address several concerns, including:

  1. Stress relief and HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis (a vital hormone and nervous system communication network) function 
  2. Improves PMS Symptoms
  3. Lessen Menstrual cramps
  4. Support Thyroid function
  5. Improve sleep
  6. Menstrual migraine and headaches
  7. As part of an eclampsia and preeclampsia regimen in pregnancy
  8. Relieve Constipation
  9. Improve Indigestion
  10. Perimenopause and menopause symptoms
  11. Support Bone health support
  12. Reduce Inflammation
  13. Alleviate Mood issues 
  14. Improve Insulin sensitivity
  15. Reduce Blood pressure

Whether or not magnesium regulates these depends on whether the magnesium deficiency is at the root of the problem, or something else. Since magnesium is so crucial for so many functions, there are many benefits to incorporating more magnesium in your day.. 

Magnesium is in every cell in the human body. It's required for DNA and RNA synthesis, reproduction, and also for protein synthesis. It's critical for insulin metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and proper muscle contraction. Magnesium helps your cells extract energy from the food you eat. 

When your dietary intake of magnesium is on the low side, as it is for approximately half the United States population, certain chronic diseases are more likely to develop. Researchers have linked diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insulin resistance, and hypertension to low levels of magnesium.

Here are 15 ways magnesium works to help keep you healthy.

1. Magnesium for Stress Relief

The HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis keeps hormones and your nervous system communicating smoothly, which helps regulate hormones. Magnesium works to generally calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety and stress. A recent review of 18 studies showed that magnesium supplementation reduced self-reported levels of anxiety. 

And in another study, magnesium deficiency was linked to anxiety as well as HPA axis dysfunction. The HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis keeps hormones and your nervous system communicating smoothly, which helps regulate hormones. 

Magnesium can be beneficial in helping combat stress, but it is also depleted during times of elevated stress. This is why we include it in our Adrenal Calm formula, along with other nervous system calming herbs, to help you feel more calm and get better sleep.

2. Magnesium Improves PMS Symptoms

In one study, participants were able to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms using magnesium supplementation. Studies suggest that it's even more effective as a PMS remedy when combined with vitamin B6, which is why we include the two in our Balance Women’s Hormone Support supplement

Studies have also shown that magnesium may reduce fluid retention — one of the most common PMS problems.

Also — magnesium helps your liver process estrogen more efficiently, which is crucial for eliminating those PMS symptoms like:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating 
  • Insomnia

3. Magnesium May Lessen Menstrual Cramps

Magnesium could also help with cramps since it plays a role in regulating muscle contraction. 

Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that are responsible for the contraction of the uterus (cramps). When compared to placebo, magnesium has been shown to be more effective in reducing period cramps and lowering prostaglandins.

Because it is highly absorbable and doesn’t cause digestive upset like other forms of magnesium, we use Magnesium Bisglycinate in my clinical. A typical starting dose is 300 mg nightly. Some people benefit from increasing their dose the week leading up to their period.

4. Magnesium Supports Thyroid Health  

Magnesium and thyroid health are intimately connected – it helps your thyroid gland produce proper levels of thyroid hormones. When magnesium levels are too low, your thyroid gland might enlarge, also known as goiter. Studies suggest that magnesium levels in those with hyperthyroidism are decreased and increased in those with hypothyroidism

5. Magnesium Helps Improve Sleep

A study of an elderly population suggests that magnesium supplementation could help relieve insomnia because of its calming effects. Many women also find that taking it regularly at bedtime may help improve the quality of their sleep. 

The reverse is also true — insomnia or restless sleep could be a key indicator of magnesium deficiency. 

magnesium for pms

6. Magnesium May Prevent Migraine Headaches

Menstrual migraine is a common phenomenon for women that's not often discussed. Due to the fluctuating hormone levels just before period time, some women get hit with a migraine headache, in addition to other PMS symptoms.

Studies suggest that low levels of magnesium might play a role in the development of these headaches. And magnesium supplementation could help alleviate them. In my practice, I recommend 600 mg of magnesium to my patients at the onset of a headache for the best results. This is the one I  use with my patients. 

Keep in mind that by the time I’m prescribing a medication or suggesting supplements for my patients, I’ve already done exams, run labs, and reviewed their complete medical history. When you’re starting something new, always run your plans by your doctor.

7. Magnesium in Pregnancy is Important

Magnesium is essential for fetal development and the growth of new tissues, including bone and teeth. It is also necessary for nerve function and muscle contraction. 

Sometimes pregnant women develop issues with their blood pressure, referred to as preeclampsia. When the condition worsens, it can lead to eclampsia, which means the mother develops seizures. 

Magnesium could be useful in improving these conditions. One study showed that supplementation with magnesium cut the risk of eclampsia in half. 

Preeclampsia and eclampsia are extremely serious. Follow your doctor’s guidance the whole way through, and ask your doctor if you want to incorporate magnesium.

8. Magnesium Relieves Constipation

Specific forms of magnesium are considered laxatives due to their effect on the muscles within the digestive tract. Magnesium also pulls water into the bowels, helping things to get moving easier.

Magnesium oxide is one form of magnesium that has a noticeable laxative effect. You don’t absorb much magnesium oxide, so if you’re looking to elevate your magnesium stores, another form might be better. Magnesium citrate also gets things moving and can be gentler than other stimulant-type laxatives.

9. Magnesium Helps With Indigestion

Again, because of its effect on muscular function, magnesium may help calm spasms in the esophagus, which is one possible cause of indigestion and reflux. It also encourages stomach acid production. Low stomach acid could also be a cause of indigestion. There are other possible causes, too, so it’s best to get your indigestion evaluated. 

Pharmaceutical companies often include magnesium in over-the-counter acid reflux medications known as proton pump inhibitors. Antacids usually also include magnesium hydroxide or magnesium carbonate.

10. Magnesium Improves Menopause Symptoms

Women who are menopausal experience an array of symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and they might start to experience bone loss.

Magnesium could be effective in addressing these conditions, as we'll discuss in more detail. Because it's intimately linked to bone health, magnesium is critical for post-menopausal women or anyone looking to keep ahead of osteoporosis. Also, the calming effect magnesium has on the HPA axis means it reduces anxiety levels. Research has also shown that magnesium may also help alleviate certain kinds of depression. In one study, participants noticed an improvement in as little as two weeks.

11. Magnesium For Osteoporosis

Magnesium is one of the key components of bone. While we typically associate calcium with bone, magnesium is equally as important to bone health.

In a large 2014 study, researchers linked lowered magnesium intake to reduced bone mineral density, a test used to evaluate osteoporosis risk. 

And in a long-term study of men, those with the highest magnesium levels were 44 times less likely to experience a bone fracture. What's more, none of the men with high magnesium levels broke a bone in the 20-year study period.

12. Magnesium May Lower Inflammation

Inflammation is one of those things that we all want to keep in check because it influences disease, obesity, and overall poor health.

Lower levels of magnesium are considered a predictive factor for chronic inflammatory stress that could lead to disease. And magnesium supplementation was shown to reduce markers of inflammation in study participants with prediabetes and overweight individuals.

13. Magnesium Helps Depression in Some Cases

As I briefly mentioned earlier, magnesium has shown great promise in the approach to depression, especially when the source of depression is magnesium deficiency. Since magnesium is considered safe to take, is inexpensive, and results may manifest in as little as two weeks, there's plenty of reason to ask your doctor about magnesium as part of a depression regimen.

Magnesium deficiencies point to lowered levels of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter). And one study of 402 students found an inverse relationship between magnesium intake and depressive symptoms, even after researchers accounted for other variables. 

14. Magnesium Increases Insulin Sensitivity

Researchers have well-established magnesium's effect on insulin resistance, and the relationship is clear. Magnesium supplementation may help reduce certain types of insulin resistance, like the kind we see with type 2 diabetes. 

Some studies have even linked magnesium deficiencies with insulin resistance. By some counts, almost 50 percent of people with type 2 diabetes have low levels of magnesium. 

One large study found that participants who ingested the most magnesium were the least likely to develop diabetes.

15. Magnesium Lowers Blood Pressure

Another compelling benefit of magnesium is its effect on blood pressure. 

Because it can relax muscles, even vascular smooth muscles, especially in people who have high blood pressure, magnesium may lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure

In one meta-analysis, researchers concluded that people who took magnesium lowered their blood pressure after just three months. 

How Much Magnesium Should I Get Every Day?

The recommended daily allowance for adults for magnesium is about 300-400mg.

More specifically, it depends on age and gender:

AgeFemaleMale
19-30310mg400mg
31 and up320mg420mg
Pregnancy350-400 mg

It's important to note that many scientists consider the RDA for magnesium to be somewhat low, especially if you're dealing with an existing deficiency. I usually suggest a daily maintenance supplement dose of 300 mg per day for my patients.

What Are The Best Whole Food Sources of Magnesium?

While I am a proponent of food first and supplements second, it’s important to note that according to the Linus Pauling Institute, “Magnesium is considered a shortfall nutrient in the diet, meaning that magnesium is underconsumed by eating the typical American diet.” This is why some people benefit from a supplement and all of us benefit from focusing on incorporating magnesium rich foods in our diet.

Magnesium is a critical nutrient in so many delicious foods. It makes it easy to get in those 300+mg per day! Leafy greens, nuts, and seeds are at the top of the list for many essential vitamins and minerals, and magnesium is no exception.

Some of my favorite, whole foods that contain magnesium include:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cashews
  • Brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Potato, baked with skin
  • Banana
  • Salmon, Atlantic
  • Halibut, cooked
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate

Looking for an easy way to get your diet on the right track? I've got a complete guide that will help you out. It even has recipes done for you for an entire week. It's got a lot of other great information in it too, and it's completely free

How Can I Tell If I'm Deficient In Magnesium?

If you have subclinical levels of magnesium deficiency, you might not notice any symptoms at all. 

Some of the more common signs of low levels of magnesium include:

  • Fatigue
  • Eye twitch
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Leg cramps
  • Neck and back pain
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • PMS
  • Constipation
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor memory
  • Diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Osteoporosis

Some women who experience PMS symptoms but are doing everything else right with their diet might find that a magnesium supplement helps their PMS disappear. 

Which Form Of Magnesium Is The Best?

There are so many possible types of magnesium to choose from, it can be confusing!

The first thing to consider is this: what problem are you trying to solve when considering magnesium?

If your concern is constipation, and you're looking for a laxative effect, you may want to consider magnesium citrate.

For the rest of my patients, I recommend magnesium bis-glycinate, the primary ingredient in my Magnesium Plus. It will give you all the benefits of easily absorbed magnesium, without all diarrhea and digestive upset that you get when using other magnesium forms. 

Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate

Magnesium bisglycinate or glycinate is much more well absorbed compared to citrate. This is why it is used in many of the scenarios discussed throughout this article. Citrate works best as a laxative and is less harsh than the sulfate form.

Different Types of Magnesium

  • Magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate – One of the most highly absorbable forms. Supports increase in memory, PMS and period relief, improved sleep, and reduced anxiety.
  • Magnesium citrate – Provides constipation relief by pulling water into the bowel.
  • Magnesium malate – Often recommended for those with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia due to its support of energy production.
  • Magnesium L-threonate – May improve memory and reduce age related memory loss.
  • Magnesium chloride – This form is applied topically for quick absorption to help improve sleep and promote a sense of calm.
  • Magnesium oxide – Poorly absorbed, but may help with heartburn relief.
  • Magnesium sulfide – The most potent laxative, but more commonly used for Epsom salt baths.

Who Should Not Supplement With Magnesium?

Magnesium is generally considered safe. If you have diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease, consult with your doctor before taking extra magnesium.

Also, if you're taking any of the following medications, magnesium could interfere with them:

  • Antibiotics
  • High blood pressure medication
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Spironolactone or other potassium-sparing diuretics

Magnesium from food isn’t as likely to cause problems as supplemental magnesium, so it’s not advisable to avoid healthy foods because of their magnesium content. 

Magnesium For Optimal Health

Magnesium is vital for optimal health. Aim for a diet rich in magnesium and consider a supplement if you’re having difficulty meeting your needs with nutrition.

You can download our free meal plan or consider purchasing our Magnesium Plus as a way to increase your magnesium.

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Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.