Magnesium for perimenopause: why it's important, the best plant-based sources & if you need to supplement. Veg Out With Maria.

As women transition through perimenopause, fluctuating hormone levels can bring about a range of challenging symptoms, from mood swings and sleep disturbances to muscle cramps and fatigue.

Among these changes, magnesium emerges as an essential mineral, playing a pivotal role in supporting bone and heart health, energy metabolism, mood regulation, sleep quality, and alleviating muscle tension, making it a crucial nutrient for women navigating perimenopause and menopause.

This blog will delve into the importance of magnesium for perimenopause and highlight the best plant-based sources and if you need to supplement to ensure you receive all the benefits of this essential mineral.

Why is Magnesium Important?

So, why is magnesium so important? Magnesium is an abundant mineral found in every cell of your body and plays a key role in:

  • Energy Production: Magnesium acts as a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions involved in the creation and storage of ATP, the body’s primary energy currency.
  • Muscle and Nerve Function: Magnesium helps to prevent cramps and spasms by facilitating normal muscle contraction and relaxation.
  • Bone Health: Magnesium supports bone health by contributing to the structural development of bones and regulating calcium and vitamin D levels, which are essential for bone maintenance and growth. About 60% of your magnesium is located in your bone.
  • Heart Health: Magnesium aids in maintaining heart health by regulating heart rhythm and supporting cardiovascular function, which includes maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
  • Insulin Sensitivity: Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels by influencing insulin activity and carbohydrate metabolism, making it beneficial for individuals with diabetes and women suffering from PCOS1.
  • DNA and RNA Synthesis: Additionally, magnesium is involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, crucial for cell division, growth, and repair.

The Role of Magnesium in Perimenopause

Magnesium levels tend to decrease during perimenopause and menopause, along with estrogen, putting you more at risk for deficiency2.

Consequently, this can make the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause even more apparent: hot flashes, insomnia and sleep disturbances, fatigue and muscle weakness, irritability and mood swings, increased risk of osteoporosis, and muscle cramps and spasms.

The following is a breakdown of the role of magnesium in perimenopause:

1. Mood Regulation and Stress Reduction

Magnesium is vital for neurotransmitter function and can help alleviate mood swings, anxiety, and irritability commonly experienced during perimenopause. It supports the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness​3,4,5.

2. Improvement in Sleep Quality

Insomnia and sleep disturbances are common in perimenopause and menopause. Magnesium helps regulate melatonin production, the hormone responsible for sleep-wake cycles, thereby improving sleep quality and duration6.

Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting relaxation and calmness. This activation helps to reduce stress and anxiety, creating a more conducive environment for falling asleep and staying asleep​.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and inhibits nerve activity. Magnesium binds to GABA receptors, enhancing its calming effects on the nervous system7. This action helps to quiet the mind and reduce the hyperactivity that can interfere with falling asleep​.

Magnesium helps to modulate and reduce cortisol levels in addition to helping to relax the muscles and reduce tension. All of this makes it an effective aid in improving sleep quality.

3. Supports Bone Health

Perimenopause and menopause are associated with a decline in estrogen levels. This can negatively impact bone density and increase your risk of fracture.

Various studies have shown that lower magnesium levels are related to the presence of osteoporosis and that about 30–40% of the women studied (mainly menopausal women) are low in magnesium8

Magnesium supports bone health by aiding in the absorption and metabolism of calcium and vitamin D which is crucial for maintaining bone strength and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

4. Cardiovascular Health

Magnesium is essential in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and normal heart rhythm. It helps relax blood vessels, supports the proper function of the heart muscle, and can help reduce cortisol levels by calming the nervous system and blocking the neuroendocrine pathways that send cortisol to the brain9.

A higher magnesium intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and is protective of risk factors such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension10

Estrogen is a protective hormone for cardiovascular disease. A woman’s risk for heart disease (including heart attack and stroke) increases significantly after menopause. This is due to the significant drop in both estrogen and progesterone11.

5. Alleviation of Muscle Cramps and Tension

Perimenopause particularly predisposes you to develop musculoskeletal pain12. Muscle cramps and tension are common due to hormonal fluctuations. Magnesium aids in muscle relaxation and can prevent cramps and spasms, providing relief from physical discomfort

6. Blood Sugar Regulation

Hormonal changes during perimenopause can affect blood sugar levels. Magnesium plays a role in insulin regulation and glucose metabolism, helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes13.

7. Thyroid Health

Magnesium plays a significant role in supporting thyroid health, particularly during menopause when hormonal changes can affect thyroid function. It helps in the balanced secretion of thyroid hormones and also plays a key role in the secretion of the active form of thyroid hormone T3.

High stress levels and elevated cortisol can interfere with thyroid function. Magnesium helps modulate the body’s stress response by regulating cortisol levels and supporting adrenal health, indirectly benefiting thyroid function during menopause​14

8. Reduces Hot Flashes?

Although this hasn’t been studied enough and the science is mixed, magnesium may play a role in reducing hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause15. For one, Magnesium helps regulate the body’s temperature control systems. Adequate magnesium levels can support the body’s ability to maintain stable internal temperatures, potentially reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes​.

Also, magnesium’s role in stress reduction, neurotransmitter support, muscle relaxation, and anti-inflammatory effects can collectively contribute to the alleviation of hot flashes. I thought the following review was great at breaking it all down: Menopausal hot flashes: The role of magnesium and select endocrine factors.

Best Plant-Based Sources of Magnesium

Magnesium is found in most foods, but it’s predominantly found in plant-based sources. From whole grains to dark chocolate, there are many ways to add magnesium to your diet.

The following are some top plant-based magnesium-rich foods:

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are by far one of the best sources of magnesium from around 60 mg to over 200 mg per 1 oz serving. Below are a few of the richest sources:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseeds, ground
  • Hemp hearts
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Walnuts

Whole Grains

Wheat, oats, barley, and pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat are also great sources of magnesium. Just 1/2 cup can provide 40 mg to over 150 mg and 2 slices of whole wheat bread can contain 49 mg.

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Wheat germ
  • Buckwheat

Beans & Lentils

Not only are beans and lentils low in fat, high in fiber, and protein-rich but they are also a good source of magnesium. A half a cup can provide 35 to over 60 mg.

  • Lima beans
  • Black beans
  • White beans
  • Lentils
  • Mung beans
  • Navy beans
  • Black-eyed peas

Fruit

Although fruit may not contain as much magnesium as seeds or whole grains, there are a few that offer a good amount. Half an avocado or one medium banana provides around 30 mg, and 1/2 cup of dried apricots or 2 kiwis provides a little over 20 mg.

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Dried apricots
  • Papaya
  • Breadfruit
  • Plantains
  • Dried figs
  • Kiwi
  • Guava

Vegetables

Don’t forget your veggies! Dark leafy greens are a good source of magnesium, especially when cooked as it provides a more concentrated amount per serving. A 1/2 cup cooked spinach packs 79 mg. Starchy vegetables are another great source providing around 30 mg per 1/2 cup or 50 mg in a medium baked Russet potato.

  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, beet greens)
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Artichokes
  • Potatoes
  • Winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha)

Soy Foods

Soy foods not only provide a great source of plant protein but magnesium as well. A 1/2 cup of tofu or 1 cup soy milk provides around 35 mg. 1 oz (28g) of soy nuts will give you 40 mg, while 1/2 cup of edamame packs 50 mg of magnesium.

  • Soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Soy nuts
15 best vegan sources of magnesium. Picture of pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, buckwheat, cashews, almond butter, flaxseeds, chia seeds, edamame, oats, spinach, black beans, dark chocolate, quinoa, wheat germ, and peanuts. Veg Out With Maria

How Much Magnesium Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 320 mg daily for adult women aged 31 and older. While the RDA provides a general guideline, some experts suggest that women going through menopause may benefit from a slightly higher magnesium intake, up to 550mg/day.

Ideally, you want to include as many magnesium-rich foods in your diet as you can. But, because only about 30-40% of dietary magnesium is typically absorbed by the body16, it might be beneficial also to supplement.

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements come in various forms, each with unique benefits. Here’s a brief overview of some of the different forms and their advantages:

Magnesium Citrate

pink background with a bottle of magnesium supplements surrounded by capsules.
  • Benefits: Highly bioavailable and easily absorbed by the body. Often used to relieve constipation due to its mild laxative effect. Helps in muscle relaxation and can aid in reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress​.

Magnesium Glycinate

  • Benefits: Known for its high absorption and gentle effect on the stomach, making it less likely to cause digestive issues. It’s often recommended for those with magnesium deficiency, muscle cramps, and sleep problems due to its calming effects​​. This is a popular one to take right before bedtime.

Magnesium Oxide

  • Benefits: Contains a high amount of elemental magnesium per dose, though it has lower bioavailability compared to other forms. It’s commonly used for relieving constipation and as an antacid for heartburn and indigestion​​.

Magnesium Malate

  • Benefits: Highly absorbable and effective in providing energy as it is involved in ATP production. It’s often used to alleviate muscle pain and fatigue, making it beneficial for those with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia​.

Magnesium Threonate

  • Benefits: Known for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it particularly effective for cognitive function and brain health. It may help improve memory, learning, and overall cognitive performance​​.

Magnesium Chloride

  • Benefits: Highly bioavailable and effective in supporting a variety of bodily functions, including metabolism and detoxification. It’s often used topically in the form of magnesium oil to relieve muscle pain and improve skin health​.

Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt)

  • Benefits: Commonly used in bath soaks to relieve muscle soreness and stress. It’s also used in medical settings to treat conditions like eclampsia and severe magnesium deficiency​​.

Each form of magnesium supplement offers specific benefits, allowing you to choose one that best suits your health needs and conditions. The most popular choice among perimenopausal and menopausal women is magnesium glycinate. This is due to its high bioavailability, easy absorption, and positive effect on sleep.

As always, you should consult a healthcare professional to help you determine what is best for you.

Bottomline

Getting enough magnesium is crucial for perimenopausal and menopausal women. It can help manage various symptoms such as regulating mood, reducing anxiety, and alleviating sleep disturbances by supporting neurotransmitter function and hormone balance.

Magnesium also plays a role in muscle relaxation, helping to prevent cramps and tension, and is vital for bone health, which is particularly important as estrogen levels decline during perimenopause. Additionally, magnesium supports cardiovascular health by maintaining normal heart rhythm and blood pressure levels​.

Luckily, there are many excellent plant-based sources of magnesium to incorporate into your diet. From leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard, nuts and seeds like almonds and pumpkin seeds, black beans and edamame, to whole grains like quinoa and oats. Incorporating these foods into your daily meals in addition to supplementation can help maintain optimal magnesium levels, supporting your overall health during perimenopause and menopause.

To learn more about supportive nutrients during peri/menopause and how to meet your micronutrient needs on a plant-based diet, refer to my Plant-Based Over 40 Guide.

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