Magnesium and the menopause
Menopause takes place when your periods stop completely and you can no longer get pregnant. It’s a natural stage of life for anyone born with a womb and it usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
Your body’s level of stored magnesium may decline during menopause, so it’s important to replace it. The most direct and natural way of doing this is through eating a healthy, balanced diet, but supplements are also a popular choice.
Magnesium is a key mineral that helps to:
- maintain healthy bones
- support the nervous system
- convert food to energy
Men usually need 300 mg daily and for women it’s around 270mg daily.
Can magnesium relieve menopause symptoms?
During the menopause, the ovaries usually stop producing high levels of hormones, including oestrogen and testosterone.
The decline in these hormones around menopause can give you symptoms such as hot flushes, joint pain, trouble sleeping(insomnia) and mood changes, including depression, mood swings and anxiety. Research suggests that magnesium may play a role in how long some of these symptoms last and how intense they become.
Studies have shown a link between lower magnesium levels and postmenopausal women with depression. People with higher magnesium levels tend to have fewer symptoms.
There have also been studies into whether magnesium could help ease hot flushes and other symptoms, such as high blood pressure, but more research is needed in this area.
Can magnesium protect your bones at menopause?
Around 50 to 60% of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones.
That’s why during the perimenopause and menopause it’s important to look after your bone health. There’s a link between the menopause and osteoporosis, a condition that can weaken the bones and cause bone fractures.
Low magnesium levels have been linked to weaker bones and osteoporosis. It’s not yet proven that magnesium supplements can help bone health, but some research has indicated that this might be the case.
Read more about fractures and other unusual symptoms of menopause.
What are the symptoms of a lack of magnesium?
It can be hard to tell if you’re running low on magnesium and you won’t normally get symptoms. But you’re more likely to have low magnesium levels if you eat a lot of processed food and don’t have enough green vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grain in your diet.
You’re also more likely to have low magnesium levels if you’ve got health conditions which affects how well your body absorbs and keeps magnesium. This includes health problems which affect your gut like coeliac or crohn's disease, diabetes, and alcohol dependence.
Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can include:
In more serious cases you may get an irregular heartbeat, numbness, seizures and changes in personality.
How can I take magnesium?
Magnesium is best taken as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Magnesium-rich foods include:
- green, leafy vegetables
- fruit (in particular bananas)
- fresh meat
- nuts and seeds
- fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
- wholegrain breads and cereals
Can I take magnesium supplements?
Magnesium citrate is often used for conditions such as fatigue and insomnia. It dissolves easily and the body is said to absorb it well. However, there’s limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness.
The best way to get enough magnesium is through a healthy diet. You should speak with your doctor if you think you may need to also take a supplement. They will be able to discuss options and recommend a suitable dosage.
What are the risks of taking magnesium during the menopause?
Taking too much magnesium (more than 400 mg) in supplement form may lead to mild symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and tummy cramps. Taking even larger doses can cause more serious problems. It’s also possible for magnesium to interfere with other medicines.
You should always speak with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.
When to see a doctor
Speak with your doctor about any menopause symptoms you may be experiencing. They will be able to discuss whether a lack of magnesium may be playing a role. They may suggest arranging a magnesium blood test to check your levels.
Taking less than 400 mg is safe but taking too much magnesium may cause serious problems such as irregular heartbeat and digestive problems, and could even be fatal at very high doses.
You should see a doctor if you experience:
- slow or fast heart rate, or palpitations
- fatigue or weakness with no obvious cause
- unexplained or sudden nausea and vomiting
Your health questions answered
Can I take magnesium with HRT?Answered by: Healthily's medical team
There is some evidence that taking hormones such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can actually increase your magnesium levels, so taking extra magnesium in the form of supplements may lead to higher levels in your body. More research is needed into this, but if you want to start magnesium supplements when you’re taking HRT, it's safest to discuss with a doctor first.
Some preparations that contain magnesium can reduce the absorption of oral medications, so if you're taking HRT by mouth (orally), you may need to take it at a different time of day to magnesium (HRT patches or gels should not be affected). If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor.
The best course of action is to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium naturally from a healthy, balanced diet. Your doctor will be able to run a blood test to check your levels and recommend supplements if required.
- the mineral magnesium helps to maintain healthy bones, support the nervous system, regulate blood pressure and convert food to energy
- magnesium is mostly stored in our bones
- lower levels of magnesium during menopause may cause bone weakness
- the best source of magnesium is a healthy, balanced diet
- your doctor can run a magnesium blood test to check your levels and determine whether supplements may be needed