Of all the nutrient deficiencies we read about on a regular basis - vitamin D and Omega-3 spring to mind - there’s one we rarely consider that is vitally important for our hormonal health, and that the majority of women reading this post right now will be suffering from - and that’s magnesium deficiency.
That’s right, most women do not take in enough magnesium and that lack is the root of many, many health issues.
Magnesium governs our pituitary health, and without it we produce less of the hormones like FSH (follicular stimulating) LH (luteinizing) and TSH (thyroid stimulating). These hormones signal other glands in your endocrine system to perform at their best. Low levels of those foundational hormones can cause irregular ovulation and thyroid function issues, which can be at the root of your bigger hormonal conditions.
Magnesium: the Flo-essential mineral
Boosting your magnesium levels can help heal PMS, PCOS, adrenal fatigue, menopausal symptoms, and all other hormone-cycle related health problems. The great news is that once your magnesium levels are sufficient, the positive changes happen fast. It’s really the wonder mineral for your hormonal health, and maintaining a good daily intake should always be at the forefront of your mind. Without magnesium, even your best efforts in other areas of your diet will fall short.
The science of magnesium
I want to share with you some of the amazing ways that magnesium supports your hormonal balance and overall health. This mineral really is one of the pillars of living life in your Flo. In fact, it is essential to succeeding in the first two steps of our Flo Living protocol - stabilizing your blood sugar and nurturing your adrenals. Magnesium plays an important role in approximately 300 bodily processes. Here are just a few of the ways it works for you:
- Cortisol regulation - magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents the creation of excess cortisol, the stress hormone. When your stress hormone system is in balance, your levels of progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, FSH and LH will follow suit.
- Blood sugar balancing - magnesium helps to control insulin production and as a result reduces sugar cravings, thereby preventing blood sugar spikes. This is absolutely vital when it comes to healing hormonal issues like PCOS.
- Thyroid support - magnesium helps the production of the thyroid hormone and, as an anti-inflammatory, prevents thyroid disease.
- Sleep aid - magnesium will make sure you get to sleep and stay asleep through the night. It also prevents the chronic urination that can be a sleep interruption.
- Hormone creation - magnesium actually makes your hormones progesterone, estrogen and testosterone, so if you’re getting into perimenopause or are just off the Pill and your levels are low, it can be your best friend.
Signs of Flo-blocking magnesium deficiency
Although most of us do have a deficiency, and we should assume that we do, I want to share some of the cycle-related signs that you need to increase your magnesium right away.
1. Very noticeable symptoms of PMS such as depression or anxiety
2. Bloating (See myYahoo Health Article about Bloating here)
3. Fatigue and insomnia (I discuss this health issue in more detail here)
4. Muscle cramps or facial tics
5. Headaches or migraines
6. A lack of magnesium is also one of the culprits behind chronically low sex drive - click here for my tips on how to combat this problem specifically with this mineral and other supplements
The 4 best foods for boosting your magnesium levels
So, what might be some easy and highly effective ways to start upping your magnesium levels today? Well, I’m here to tell you!
- Chocolate - good quality organic dark chocolate with low or, even better, no dairy or sugar is a powerful and yummy source of this mineral. Click here for my tips on using chocolate to combat PMS cravings and to get a great recipe for Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes!
- Sunflower seeds - these pack a punch of magnesium in a small serving along with a bunch of other essentials like vitamin B and E. Snack on a handful, add to salads, or add as a soup topping.
- Fish - make at least one dinner a week fish-based. All of the fish I recommend to eat throughout your cycle on the Flo Living eating plan are high in this mineral, but especially salmon, halibut and cod.
- Leafy greens - try to fit a portion of collard greens, spinach, kale or swiss chard into every meal. You can keep it very simple - just add to your rice, beans or scrambled eggs or have a steamed plate with olive oil on the side.
The best way to supplement
That all said, some people have trouble absorbing enough magnesium through foods alone due to gut health issues and, sadly, many of our foods now lack in this natural mineral because the soil itself in which they are grown has been depleted and drained of nutrients. Therefore, it’s also important to consider a more direct approach to supplementation. Here are a couple of ways you can tackle this:
- Epsom salt baths - studies have shown that a good soak in a warm bath with epsom salts increases the body’s levels of magnesium safely and effectively. Add two cups worth to a bath taken two to three times a week. This will also decrease your stress levels, which is also important for maintaining magnesium.
- Transdermal supplement - I recommend Ancient Minerals topical magnesium oil, which can be applied to the skin or added to a bath. How about getting your partner to give you a magnesium oil massage? Relaxing and beneficial to your hormonal health!
Magnesium-depleting lifestyle choices
There are also some lifestyle changes that can have an immediate impact on your magnesium levels. The following behaviors actually deplete your resources of magnesium or block absorption of the mineral, so even if you’re actively supplementing, you also need to be conscious of your day to day choices.
- Drinking carbonated beverages - the phosphoric acid that makes these drinks tangy actually depletes magnesium and blocks your body from absorbing the magnesium you are trying to take in.
- Eating sugar - sugar requires magnesium to be processed in the body, so every time you eat sugar in something sweet your body is wasting vital magnesium.
- Caffeine - studies have shown that caffeinated drinks force your body to excrete vital minerals including magnesium.
- Dehydration - when you’re working out intensely, make sure you are also drinking a lot of water. And of course drinking soda, coffee or alcohol all produce a dehydrating effect along with all the other ways they're bad for your hormones!
- Stress - both psychological and physical forms of stress, which means anxiety, but also surgery or illness - depletes magnesium. Depleted magnesium causes a heightened stress response. So if you’re under pressure, be sure to take at least ten minutes out of each day to sit still, meditate or just rest.