Is it possible to have a favorite mineral? Yes, yes it is, and ours is definitively magnesium. Here is what you need to know about magnesium’s magic*—and why it’s a miracle-worker for people with PMS.
(*Science-based magic, of course!)
- Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are eerily similar to PMS symptoms.
Anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue, muscle tension, cramps, difficulty concentrating, depression, nausea—this litany of complaints reads like what we go through on a monthly basis during our luteal phase, the 10 or so days before we start menstruating (aka PMS). But in fact, it’s a list of possible symptoms that may arise when you’re magnesium-deficient. Uncanny, huh? Magnesium is a responsible party in approximately 300 different biochemical reactions in the body, and researchers believe it has a normalizing effect on various hormones that act on the central nervous system (most notably progesterone). It’s essential for supporting your body’s energy cycles, nerve function, blood sugar balance, brain chemicals, bone health, and adrenal hormones (so, a lot of stuff).
- Cramps are a telltale sign you need more magnesium.
Trust us when we say that supplementing magnesium works as well as Advil in acute situations—i.e. you’re in the throes of an all-out cramp fest—and without the potential side effects of stomach ulcer or injury to the stomach lining. But the best method is to take magnesium preventatively—we mean daily, not just around your menstrual phase. Magnesium is responsible for muscle contractions (among a zillion other things), and having adequate levels helps to relax uterine muscles and reduce pain-causing prostaglandins that make cramps painful.
- We need way more magnesium than we’re getting from our diet.
According to the USDA, a huge percentage of us are walking around without enough of this mineral in our bodies, which could contribute to worsened PMS symptoms—depleted levels of magnesium are actually considered a causative factor of PMS. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 320mg, but it can be difficult to get this much from your daily diet unless you’re really trying. Magnesium is most commonly found in pumpkin seeds (151mg in 1 oz), dry quinoa (89mg in ¼ cup), almonds (80mg in 1 oz), cooked spinach (78mg in ½ cup), and chocolate (praise hands; 64g in 1 oz). Supplements can be helpful to pick up the slack.
- Not all forms are created equal.
The most easily absorbed and usable forms (a concept known as bioavailability) are magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate. Marea uses a water-soluble form of magnesium citrate that’s sourced from seawater off the Irish coast, and which has been found to be highly bioavailable in clinical studies. Magnesium citrate has been shown to be especially helpful for those who suffer from anxiety, insomnia and constipation—it can help loosen stool. Most experts recommend taking 250 mg daily, and more around your period. Marea contains 355 mg, which is based on research showing that this amount of supplemental magnesium can help with PMS-related mood changes (helpful!).
- Magnesium is depleted by stress!!!
Because we can’t have nice things, our bodies aren’t that great at holding onto this magic mineral. High and sustained levels of stress cause the body to excrete magnesium in urine. Do you drink coffee/alcohol? Those substances can also cause more magnesium dumping, especially for chronic/heavy users.
- It’s hard to test for.
Serum blood tests for magnesium can show a severe deficiency, but the kicker is that you can still be deficient in the mineral while having what appears as “normal” blood levels–a condition called a “subclinical” deficiency (or, not detectable by the standard clinical tests). If you’re interested in testing your magnesium levels, seek out a holistic practitioner such as a naturopath (ND) or a medical doctor trained in functional lab testing.
- Magnesium helps clear estrogen.
Thanks to magnesium’s support of a specific liver enzyme called catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT for short), magnesium helps the liver excrete estrogen—crucial for those who suffer from fibroids or other conditions marked by excess estrogen.
- Other minerals and nutrients depend on magnesium to work properly.
Calcium, iron, zinc, copper all look to mama mag to function correctly. And several studies have shown that vitamin B6 is much more effective in relieving PMS symptoms when combined with magnesium.
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