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Menstruation and magnesium: are you getting enough of this mineral miracle?

Magnesium is a multi-tasker. It plays many key roles in the health of your body and brain, regulating muscle and nerve function, keeping blood sugar levels steady, maintaining healthy blood pressure and oh, making protein, bone and DNA. Just a few little tasks then. But wait, there’s more. Magnesium is also credited with boosting exercise performance, fighting depression and preventing migraines. And when it comes to the menstrual cycle, magnesium is a girl’s BFF, ’cause it can help with all the following. Note! It may take a few cycles to take effect so don’t give up on it too quickly.

Premenstrual mood swings Getting 250mg of magnesium daily is shown to reduce anxiety, depression, irritability and moodiness that can occur due to plunging estrogen on pre-period days. It does this by reducing stress and regulating mood-moderating brain chemicals. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory which can guard against depression.

Period cramps In clinical studies, volunteers who took magnesium daily for six months had fewer period pain than those who took a placebo. Magnesium reduces pain by relaxing those spasm-ing uterine muscles, and improving blood flow. It is also known to curbs the production of prostaglandins that triggers pain and inflammation.

Premenstrual bloat and sore boobs Wonder why your belly swells and your breasts get tender in the run up to your period? Progesterone is largely to blame – higher levels cause fluid retention that can cause bloating and soreness. A small daily dose of magnesium can help by acting as a natural diuretic, helping the body shed excess fluid.

Menstrual migraines Magnesium affects the key brain structures and chemicals that are believed to play roles in the onset of migraines. In fact, one theory about why migraines happen in the first place is a magnesium deficiency. In one study, a supplement was found to cause a 42% reduction in headaches.

All sounding good so far? Then it may surprise you to learn that many people don’t get enough of this mineral miracle. It’s something that’s easy to find in lots of everyday food sources, so you should be able to make up the recommended daily intake (about 35g) by diet alone. Magnesium rich foods include pumpkin seeds, almonds and cashews for snacking; spinach, black beans, quinoa and avocado in salads; and fish mains such as halibut, mackerel and salmon. And last but not least, dark chocolate – the 70–85% cocoa type. You can also take a supplement, although as with any supplements, you should check with your GP before you start.

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