Magnesium supplementation has been touted to aid in a variety of medical conditions, but what can magnesium truly help with?
Approximately half of Americans do not get enough magnesium from their diet alone, but figuring out if you are getting enough magnesium is tricky, since measuring magnesium in blood does not reflect how much magnesium is stored in the body. This is because the kidneys do a great job keeping blood magnesium stable and normal. Symptoms of low magnesium in otherwise healthy people are very rare given the ability of the kidneys to keep the blood magnesium level normal. Foods that are naturally rich in magnesium include: pumpkin and chia seeds, almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, black, kidney and edamame beans; potatoes, brown rice, yogurt, oatmeal and some cereals.
The addition of a magnesium supplement may be helpful for the following medical conditions:
The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society state that based on research magnesium is “probably effective” in prevention of migraine headache, especially in those patients with migraine headache with aura.
This is a topic still under investigation but several studies have demonstrated that diets rich in magnesium or the addition of a magnesium supplement can increase bone density.
I often often recommend a nightly magnesium supplement for patients struggling with constipation. Magnesium acts to increase the amount of water in the intestines (osmotic laxative) and can work gently and effectively over night.
Leg Cramps/Restless Leg:
The evidence has not thus far panned out that magnesium (oral or topical) truly makes a difference for those terrible nocturnal leg cramps (https://femalehealthcollective.com/no-not-another-charley-horse/), however, anecdotally, some patients find supplementation helpful. The same can be said for restless leg syndrome; weak evidence but some individuals may find some relief.
Mixed evidence on this as well, some studies have found increased sleep duration and better quality sleep with a nightly magnesium supplement while others have not demonstrated this association.
There might be some benefit to starting a magnesium supplement for patients who have anxiety, depression or premenstrual mood symptoms. Again, evidence is lacking and more research is needed.
In addition to the above conditions that need further investigation, more research is ongoing to determine whether magnesium supplementation should also be recommended to prevent and treat high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Although magnesium supplements are generally safe with the most common side effect being diarrhea, magnesium can interact with other medications, so as always talk to your doctor to see if a magnesium supplement would be a good choice for you.
Hello! My name is Carrie Ward and I am a board-certified Internal Medicine MD and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. I am passionate about medicine and find fulfillment in the diversity of my work. I spend most of my time in the outpatient setting where I provide patient-focused comprehensive care to an adult population. Additionally, I enjoy mentoring future doctors from the medical school and spending time in the inpatient setting on the teaching service with the interns and residents. Finally, I am a mom of two-year-old twin boys. I have a true appreciation for the complexities of women’s health and how often it can take a back seat when life gets busy. I hope you might find the “Female Health Collective” a helpful resource to you; I am honored to be a part of it and hope you enjoy my contributions!