PMS. PCOS. Cystic acne. Thyroid conditions. Perimenopause. Anxiety. Irregular ovulation. Adrenal fatigue.
There’s nothing like a list of hormonal conditions to make you want to crawl back under the covers and wish you’d kept that set of worry beads your aunt gave you. Most of us have experienced at least one of these issues—if not multiple—and have stressed about the rest.
Although the female endocrine system is très mysterious, there are several not-so-complicated things we can do to make a difference in how we feel, look, reproduce, and get our sexy on.
One of the most important things we can do is get enough magnesium. Women’s hormone expert and author of The Woman Code Alisa Vitta considers magnesium “a surefire supplement for everyone, across the board.” Why? Magnesium is required for adequate production of hormones, including progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
In addition to being integral in the production of hormones, magnesium is a wonder for the endocrine system because it:
- Helps regulate cortisol, aka the “stress hormone.” When our stress levels are out of whack, our progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, FSH and LH may be thrown off balance, resulting in mood swings, unpredictable periods, and other unpleasantries.
- Promotes healthy blood sugar balance by helping control insulin levels and reduce sugar cravings. Here’s why is so important to have balanced blood sugar (hint: hormonal acne!).
- Helps production of the thyroid hormone–plus, adequate magnesium helps keep the thyroid healthy and free of disease.
- Aids in high-quality sleep–adequate magnesium helps you feel relaxed, fall asleep, and stay asleep for a full night’s rest.
In addition to the way it directly affects our hormones, magnesium is crucial in supporting the body’s detoxification processes and preventing damage from environmental toxins and heavy metals. Magnesium also helps digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters, including serotonin. (What doesn’t it do?!)
Unfortunately, there’s a high chance that anyone one of us is deficient in magnesium and is thereby experiencing a hormonal imbalance. Furthermore, because the vast majority of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones and the organs, a blood test is unlikely to reveal that you have a magnesium deficiency. We have to take a close look at our lifestyles to determine if we’re likely lacking in this superstar mineral.
Our modern way of life is largely to blame for this widespread deficiency. Because magnesium helps us feel relaxed, we evolved to purge magnesium from the body when we’re stressed. Feeling all chill and cuddly won’t help you escape from a [insert large primordial predator here]. Makes sense. The problem is that in our contemporary world, we’re very often operating under some level of stress, with little to no recovery time.
And then there’s sugar, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. Sugar requires magnesium to be processed. Caffeinated drinks (including coffee and soda) cause us to excrete magnesium, among other vital minerals. And finally, the phosphoric acid in carbonated beverages reduces the body’s ability to absorb magnesium. So if you’re in the habit of reaching for a can of Pepsi (sugar+caffeine+carbonation) when you feel the pressure of your deadlines (stress), your magnesium levels may be suffering.
I want to fix my period, etc.—what can I do?
While it’s smart to include a variety of magnesium-containing foods in your diet (good-quality dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, and leafy greens), modern farming practices don’t promise optimal levels of magnesium in food. Herbicides, for example, can act as chelators and block the uptake of minerals in crops. While this is certainly one more justification for shopping organic, it’s impossible to know the quality of the soil our food is grown in—unless you’re growing it yourself and have expertise in this area, of course! (In which case, go you, you earth goddess!)
But that’s not most of us. Supplements provide another source of magnesium, but supplementing magnesium can get a bit complicated. Magnesium must be balanced with calcium and vitamins K2 and D3, and it would probably be best to consult a nutritionist about supplementing your minerals. In the meantime, taking a high-quality whole-food based multi-vitamin may be the next best thing. (Vitamins made with whole foods often contain a variety of healthy minerals, too.)
I know, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. But here’s some good news: you can take regular Epsom salt baths to increase your intake of magnesium. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that your body can absorb through your skin. Twice a week, draw a hot bath, add no more than two cups of Epsom salts, and enjoy! You can also use a magnesium body oil. Vitta recommends Ancient Mineral Magnesium Oil. Whatever brand you choose, make sure to avoid any blend with magnesium stearate, the safety of which is debated.
Have you tried any of these recommendations for boosting your magnesium and fixing hormonal imbalance?
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