Menopause can be a tough time in a woman’s life, bringing side effects like insomnia, low mood, hot flashes, and brain fog. If you’ve been looking for natural solutions to help, you might be wondering: is magnesium good for menopause symptoms? Lots of women think so! But what does the science say? Let’s dive in and see if magnesium can really help with menopause.
First, what exactly is menopause?
Menopause is the point in a woman’s life when she is no longer able to menstruate or get pregnant. It’s caused by a change in the balance of reproductive hormones, particularly estrogen, and progesterone.
Technically, “menopause” is defined as the moment 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual period. Peri-menopause is the time leading up to this when the woman’s hormones begin to change. And post-menopause is the time after. However, it’s common to refer to this entire time, before and after, as “menopause”.
Peri-menopause usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but for some women, it may begin earlier due to genetics, surgery, or an underlying condition. On average, this stage lasts around four years, during which most women will have symptoms like:
- Hot flushes (suddenly feeling very hot and sometimes sweating and flushing).
- Night sweats (night-time hot flashes).
- Insomnia and tiredness.
- Lower sex drive.
- Discomfort, pain, and/or dryness during sex.
- Problems with memory and concentration (sometimes called “brain fog”.
- Mood problems like sadness, depression, anxiety, or irritability.
Post-menopause, women are also at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis (“brittle bones”).
The experience of menopause can be incredibly difficult for some women. According to Menopause Support, a quarter of women describe their symptoms as debilitating, and many say that there is a general lack of support and understanding. Given how long menopause can last, it’s no surprise that around 50% of menopausal women feel depressed and a third suffer from anxiety.
Can magnesium help with menopause symptoms?
If you’re dealing with menopause symptoms, you may be reassured to know that lots of women swear by magnesium supplements. Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in hundreds of biochemical processes in the body. In fact, it’s so important that if we don’t get enough, we’re at greater risk of serious conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, migraines, and Alzheimer’s disease.
But can magnesium help with menopause symptoms? Here’s what the science says…
Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression are common throughout menopause. As estrogen and progesterone hormones gradually start to fall, they can cause serotonin levels to dip, too. This hormone is responsible for mood regulation and stability, so it’s no surprise women can find their mood taking a dive.
Magnesium is actually required to make serotonin, so a magnesium deficiency can make matters worse. We already know that deficiency increases the risk of depression and anxiety in general, and menopausal women with low magnesium levels have been found to have more intense depressive symptoms. Just as in other studies showing that magnesium supplements can ease anxiety and depression symptoms, this suggests that supplements could be helpful for menopause-related mood difficulties too.
Sleepless nights are unfortunately very common during menopause too, affecting up to 60% of women. Obvious culprits include stress, anxiety, night sweats, and hot flashes, all of which would make it difficult to switch off and rest. There are hormonal factors at play too, though.
Again, serotonin is partly to blame, as it’s required to make melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Progesterone also has a relaxing, sedative effect, so lower levels mean that you’re more alert. So how can magnesium help?
Well, aside from giving you a serotonin boost and easing some of those other sleep disturbances, magnesium is heavily involved in sleep. For a start, it helps to regulate your body clock at a cellular level, and it helps to put your nervous system into its restful “parasympathetic” state. It also acts on receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the brain down and prepares you for sleep.
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, a magnesium supplement called magnesium glycinate may be a good option. It contains glycine, a natural amino acid known to calm the brain, improve sleep quality, ease insomnia, and reduce daytime mental fatigue and sluggishness. Magnesium glycinate has been shown to help people fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and feel more deeply rested.
Hot flushes can be one of the more upsetting or uncomfortable menopause side effects. They usually involve spontaneous flushing and redness in the face and neck area, accompanied by sweating and feelings of intense heat.
In one pilot study that gave magnesium supplements to menopausal women, hot flushes stopped completely in 45% of cases. Another 45% of women said that their hot flushes were reduced by more than 50%. There are two theories as to why this might happen.
A hot flush involves a type of reaction where your blood vessels widen to let heat escape from your body via the skin. Normally this would only kick in when you’re too hot, but during menopause, this reaction can be triggered randomly. That’s because of an imbalance in the hormones that control it, one of which is — again! — serotonin.
There’s also evidence to say that hot flushes are associated with high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and insulin resistance. We know that magnesium deficiency increases the risk of all of these conditions and that supplementing with magnesium has been shown to improve them. So it could be that magnesium improves hot flushes indirectly by easing one or more of these conditions.
We usually think of men when we think of testosterone, but women have this hormone too — just at lower levels. Just as it does for men, testosterone helps to regulate libido in women, along with estrogen and progesterone. As these hormones decline during menopause, many women find themselves with a much lower sex drive as a result. Magnesium may help, with supplements shown to increase testosterone levels in people with magnesium deficiencies after just four weeks.
Menopausal “brain fog” can be so profound and disorienting that some women fear they’re experiencing the early signs of dementia! According to researchers, this is completely normal in the first year after your last period, with many women experiencing difficulties with memory, attention, and concentration. Magnesium deficiency doesn’t help matters, as these brain functions actually depend on magnesium to work properly.
If brain fog is making it difficult to focus on your day-to-day activities, a type of magnesium supplement called magnesium L-threonate may be able to help. It was specially designed by MIT researchers to cross the blood-brain barrier and increase brain levels of magnesium, something other types don’t do as well. Countless animal studies (here, here, here, here, and here) have shown just how effective it is at improving memory, focus, learning, and other cognitive skills, and a landmark human study found that it actually reversed cognitive decline associated with aging!
Other benefits of magnesium during menopause
In addition to easing some of the symptoms of menopause, magnesium supplements may help to guard against some of the common health risks that menopausal women often experience. The two most serious are osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the density — and therefore the strength — of your bones. Healthy bones undergo continuous remodeling, where bone cells are broken down and new bone cells are created. However, in people with osteoporosis, bone cells are broken down faster than new ones can be created. That net loss of tissue leaves the bones weak, brittle, and vulnerable to fractures.
The hormonal changes that happen during menopause can speed up bone loss, leading to osteoporosis in at least 10% of postmenopausal women. And because magnesium is one of the minerals used to build bone, magnesium deficiency can also contribute to the weakened bone. Put the two together, and a menopausal woman with magnesium deficiency is at even greater risk.
Magnesium supplements have been shown to help fortify and protect the bones during menopause. In one short study of women with osteoporosis, 30 days of magnesium citrate slowed down bone loss. In another longer study, this time with almost 74,000 postmenopausal women, higher magnesium intake was associated with stronger, more mineral-dense bones.
Menopause doesn’t cause heart disease in itself, but it is linked to certain conditions that can increase a woman’s risk. These include higher blood pressure, blood triglycerides (fats), and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Luckily, magnesium has been shown to support all three in menopausal women. It lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and boosts protective HDL cholesterol, reducing heart disease and stroke risk. Study after study (more here, here, and here!) has shown that magnesium also lowers blood pressure, and the higher the blood pressure, the greater the benefit. A type called magnesium taurate may be especially beneficial. It contains magnesium and taurine, two blood pressure-lowering ingredients that have been shown to be even more effective when they’re taken together.
Which magnesium supplement is best for menopause symptoms?
There are lots of different types of magnesium supplements, each with its own strengths. The best one for you will depend on your main concern. For example, magnesium taurate is likely to be the best option for heart health, while magnesium glycinate will help most with mood and sleep, and magnesium L-threonate will help with brain fog.
How much magnesium should I take for menopause symptoms?
The table below shows the adequate intake (AI) and recommended dietary allowance (RDA) from the National Institute of Health.
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
Are magnesium supplements safe during menopause?
Yes, magnesium supplements are safe for most women throughout menopause. However, if you have a health condition or you’re taking medication, it’s best to speak to your doctor first. Magnesium might not be suitable for people with certain conditions, and it can also change how some medications work in the body. These include some common medications you might take for menopause symptoms, like antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and sleep medications, so it’s best to check first and be on the safe side!