As a clinician with more than twenty years experience, I regularly prescribe magnesium for PMS, PCOS, and perimenopause. I see excellent results with my patients and I’ve come to rely on magnesium as one of my favorite natural treatments for period problems.
The effectiveness of magnesium has been demonstrated in a few studies and clinical trials, which are compiled into a 2017 literature review called “Magnesium in the gynecological practice”(1). In that review, the authors conclude that there is “an important role for magnesium for the prevention and the treatment of a number of conditions relevant for women’s health” (1).
My hope is that with even more research, magnesium will one day make its way into every health practitioner’s office as standard care.
Here are some of magnesium’s potential benefits for menstrual health.
Magnesium can reduce stress
Magnesium calms the nervous system and reduces the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (2). The result is less anxiety, less cortisol, and a better capacity to cope with stress. Reduced stress can, in turn, have positive effects on your menstrual cycle and health.
Magnesium may improve insulin resistance and help with PCOS
Magnesium supplementation has been demonstrated to improve the metabolic condition insulin resistance, which is a condition of chronically elevated insulin (3). In other studies, the benefits are less clear (4).
If magnesium does help insulin resistance, then it could be a useful supplement for many of the long-term negative health consequences associated with insulin resistance, including the female endocrine disorder polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is associated with insulin resistance. The benefits of magnesium for people with PCOS was demonstrated in one study where magnesium-zinc-calcium-vitamin D co-supplementation improved the insulin metabolism of 30 PCOS patients over 12 weeks (5).
Magnesium and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
According to a recent literature review, magnesium is an evidence-based treatment for PMS (1). Some researchers propose that it may work by calming the nervous system and by “normalizing the actions of different hormones (mainly progesterone) on the central nervous system” (6).
Tip: Magnesium works best in combination with vitamin B6 (7)
Tip: Magnesium can also be used to prevent premenstrual migraines (1)
Magnesium may help to prevent period pain
Taken daily, magnesium may prevent dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) in some people (1). It works by relaxing the smooth muscle of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause period pain (1,8).
Magnesium promotes healthy estrogen clearance
By supporting the COMT enzyme (catechol-o-methyltransferase) in the liver, magnesium promotes the healthy excretion of estrogen (9). This may reduce the risk of the estrogen excess conditions (such as fibroids) associated with low COMT function (10).
Magnesium can relieve symptoms of perimenopause and menopause
Magnesium can ease symptoms of the menopause transition (1). For example, in one study, magnesium relieved the menopausal hot flashes of women who were undergoing treatment for breast cancer and could not take hormone replacement (11).
Should you test for magnesium deficiency?
Unfortunately, the standard “serum magnesium” blood test cannot detect magnesium deficiency, and a normal reading might mislead both you and your healthcare practitioner. Instead, you could consider the test “red blood cell magnesium,” which is slightly more accurate but may still fail to detect a whole-body magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium deficiency is common and approximately two thirds of Americans have been found to not consume enough magnesium (12). One way to know if you might be deficient in magnesium is to try taking a supplement and see how you feel. Unless you have chronic kidney disease, magnesium is safe to try and safe for long-term use. Some forms (such as magnesium chloride) cause diarrhea, but gentler forms (such as magnesium glycinate) are usually fine.
I recommend 300 mg daily taken directly after food.
The best type of magnesium supplement
You can get some magnesium from food (green leafy vegetables, chocolate, and nuts), but you may need to supplement it because magnesium is depleted by stress (13).
The best type of magnesium supplement is magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate (which is the mineral joined to the amino acid glycine). It’s the type that is most absorbable and is also the least likely to cause diarrhea. Magnesium bisglycinate has the added benefit of glycine, which calms the nervous system and improves insulin sensitivity (14,15).
Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor with 20 years of experience in women’s health. Her book is the Period Repair Manual—soon to be available in German as well as English. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.