Magnesium is an important mineral that often doesn't get the attention it deserves. It's important for several hundred enzymatic reactions in the body that can affect you from your nervous system all the way to your bones. The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for adult men and women are 400 mg and 310 mg and some excellent food sources are nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, and some beans and legumes. However, some of us may not be consuming adequate amounts through the food we eat and may need the assistance of a dietary supplement to help give our magnesium levels a boost. Here are three research-backed things that can happen when you start taking magnesium.
1. Increased GI regularity.
Hippocrates, known as "the father of modern medicine," believed that "all disease begins in the gut." He may have said this 2,000 years ago, but GI health has received a lot of attention in recent years as scientists are finding more and more links between our guts and overall health. Issues with GI regularity are commonplace, and while it may seem fundamental to think "what goes in must come out," depending on your diet, water intake, and physiology, this may not be the case. For this reason, magnesium can be a game changer. A 2014 double-blind placebo controlled trial1 assessed the effectiveness and safety of magnesium-sulfate-rich mineral water in 244 adult women with functional constipation; researchers observed a trend in improved number of normal stools for the group receiving magnesium-sulfate mineral water. Magnesium can help keep things moving, but taking more than 350 mg of magnesium in supplement form can result in abdominal cramps and diarrhea, so be cautious with your dosage.
2. Finally, relief from menstrual cramps.
Like many women, cramps indicate the beginning of the monthly cycle. But rather than just relying on a heating pad to get through the first couple of days, try taking preventive measures by including a magnesium supplement in your wellness regime. A Cochrane Review of clinical trials2 suggests that magnesium supplements may, in fact, provide relief for dysmenorrhea—the formal term for painful cramping during menses—without any significant adverse events. From personal experience, I did notice that my cramps were more manageable, and I didn't have to take any of the over-the-counter meds that had been my go-to for years. This was a great solution for me since I had moderate cramping. For anyone experiencing more severe cramps, I suggest paying your gynecologist a visit to find the best solution for you.
3. Much-needed mood support.
Magnesium is an important cofactor in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These two chemicals have multiple functions in our body and can especially affect mood and relaxation. Both animal studies and human studies suggest a correlation between magnesium deficiency and increased stress, mood disorders, and insomnia3. While mood and sleep are outcomes that can be affected by many variables, it can’t hurt to ask your physician about incorporating a magnesium supplement4 into your routine.
According to Wendie Trubow, MD, adding magnesium—especially combination forms— to your routine can be beneficial for mood and PMS, along with sleep, gut function and migraines. “The only downside to getting too much magnesium happens with the magnesium citrate form, which can cause diarrhea if you get too much,” Trubow said. To find your ideal dose, she says to start low and increase every few days until you are below over-treating. “Believe me,” Trubow said, “you'll know if you've taken too much!”
Audrey Hernandez is a writer who enjoys making scientific literature easily digestible for readers. She received a bachelor's in food science and nutrition from the University of Florida and went on to receive her master's in physiology and biophysics with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University. Her interpretation of a healthy lifestyle is eating real and delicious food, getting outside as much as possible, and playing endless rounds of fetch with her husky.