Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, and women with PCOS aren’t getting enough of it. According to a study in the Journal of Gynecology and Endocrinology, women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to have a Magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium plays a role as a co-factor in some major processes in the body. It’s involved in insulin and glucose signaling and magnesium is needed to regulate heart contractions, just to name a few important functions.
Having a deficiency of magnesium has been shown to increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and is associated with worse health outcomes. Here’s what women with PCOS should know about magnesium and how to best maintain optimal levels.
WHY WOMEN WITH PCOS NEED MAGNESIUM
There are many benefits of having optimal levels of magnesium. Magnesium has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, promote better sleep, and relieve PMS symptoms (Premenstrual syndrome). But the biggest benefits of magnesium for women with PCOS may be its ability to alleviate anxiety and reduce blood pressure and insulin.
Anxiety (as well as depression) affects many women with PCOS. Having low levels of magnesium is believed to be an underlying cause of anxiety. A review of 18 studies published in Nutrients, showed that magnesium does have a beneficial effect for people with anxiety. In fact, individuals in the study who received magnesium supplementation saw a significant reduction of common anxiety symptoms such as apathy, anxious behavior, anger, nervousness, insomnia, rapid pulse, or heart palpitations.
It is believed that magnesium works to calm the excitability of the nervous system to help reduce anxiety. Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to promote better sleep which can also have a beneficial effect on anxiety.
Improves Insulin Resistance
When compared to women without PCOS, women with the syndrome have higher levels of insulin, with most women with PCOS having insulin resistance.
An important role of magnesium is in glucose and insulin regulation to help glucose enter cells where it is used for energy. Insufficient amounts of magnesium, whether it be from poor diet, lifestyle or other factors, can prevent glucose from entering the cells in sufficient amounts. As a result, individuals with insulin resistance tend to experience fatigue and difficulties regulating blood sugar. Sufficient levels of magnesium can therefore improve insulin resistance and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Some women with PCOS have High blood pressure also called hypertension. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables (both excellent sources of magnesium) has been shown to be an effective way to reduce high blood pressure as well as other metabolic aspects in women with PCOS. A review of nine studies published in Nutrition Journal found that the more magnesium in your cells, the more likely you are to have lower blood pressure.
Women with PCOS and those with other metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes tend to be deficient in magnesium.
One theory is that chronic insulin lowers magnesium levels. While having these medical issues can have a direct effect on magnesium levels, there are many other factors that can affect levels of magnesium as well.
People who eat diets that are low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains tend to fall short in magnesium. High amounts of alcohol or refined foods in the diet such as breads, crackers, some cereals, and baked goods do not contain sufficient amounts of magnesium. High protein diets or eating too many foods that contain oxalic acid (found in spinach and chard), or phytic acid (found in seeds and grains), can affect the absorption of magnesium too.
Sometimes other factors can affect the absorption of magnesium. Taking in too high amounts of certain nutrients such as sodium, calcium, or iron can affect the absorption of magnesium, as can certain medications such as birth control pills or diuretics. Even lifestyle factors like high stress living can affect levels. That’s a whole lot of factors that can affect magnesium, which is why it’s important that women with PCOS get enough of this important mineral.
Checking for a Magnesium Deficiency
Unfortunately there isn’t one good or easy test to detect levels of magnesium. Blood levels are unreliable as the majority of magnesium is found in the bone. The body works in such a way that if blood levels of magnesium start to become low, magnesium gets pulled out of the bones to keep blood levels up. Read below to see if you have any of the following signs and symptoms that could indicate a magnesium deficiency.
Signs You May Have a Magnesium Deficiency
Every woman with PCOS is different, but these are some common complaints in those with low levels of magnesium:
Recommended Amounts & Food Sources of Magnesium
The recommended daily amount (RDA) for magnesium in adult women is 320mg. Food sources such as chocolate, avocados, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains are good sources of magnesium, but may provide insufficient amounts if you are deficient.
There are many types of magnesium supplements. The ones that are best absorbed and are more bioavailable include magnesium aspartate, glycinate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms. Magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate are generally not absorbed as well. Oral and transdermal cream forms of magnesium are generally better absorbed than Epson salts.
Since magnesium is water soluble, toxicity is rare, as excess amounts will be eliminated through the urine. Excessive consumption of magnesium (three to five grams daily), can result in side effects such as diarrhea, stomach upset, and dehydration.
Do not take magnesium if you have a heart problem called “heart block” or any kidney problems or kidney failure.
Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress-A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5).
Han H. Dose-response relationship between dietary magnesium intake, serum magnesium concentration and risk of hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutr J. 2017 May 5;16(1):26.
Muneyyirci-Delale O. Divalent cations in women with PCOS: implications for cardiovascular disease. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2001 Jun;15(3):198-201.