Making the Connection: PCOS and Magnesium Deficiency, Heart Disease, Inflammation & Insulin
By Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
Inflammation is undoubtedly at the heart of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and its related symptoms. In fact, inflammation is one of the main causes of insulin resistance, a condition that puts people with PCOS at a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease and underpins symptoms such as hormone imbalance, weight gain, and more. Dietary glucose (sugar) intake is one factor driving this inflammation and insulin resistance, but many don’t know that, together with PCOS, magnesium deficiency is also commonly a factor driving insulin resistance. Whereas women with PCOS are nineteen times more likely to have a magnesium deficiency, this is of particular concern.
How the body uses magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral found largely in seeds, beans, nuts, tofu, and some fish species like salmon. It’s involved in over 600 cellular reactions in the body, from biochemical processes involved in the making of DNA all the way to muscle contraction. This explains why magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, with Calcium, Phosphorus, and Potassium before it.
Magnesium is also used by the body to fight chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is thought to be at the center of many if not all human diseases, like PCOS.
PCOS and magnesium deficiency
Despite the importance of magnesium to our body’s everyday processes, it is estimated that about 20% of the world’s population are deficient. In the US, it is estimated that half the population is magnesium deficient.
Magnesium deficiency is particularly common in women with PCOS, especially since they take medications that lower magnesium levels or reduce magnesium absorption such as metformin and birth control pills.
The role of Magnesium in inflammation and heart disease
Just like other nutrients, getting your daily dose of magnesium, either through food or supplementation, is necessary for a healthy body. Magnesium deficiency can also lead to inflammation and the resulting adverse health effects such as insulin resistance (and often, Type 2 Diabetes) and heart disease.
Studies show low magnesium levels are linked to chronic inflammation, one of the main drivers of aging, obesity, and other chronic diseases. More importantly, inflammation lets the body accumulate higher blood sugar, triglyceride, and insulin levels.
Magnesium helps keep your mineral balance in check. In fact, magnesium is used by the body as a calcium channel blocker. It may sound like a bad side effect, but too much calcium makes it a highly inflammatory substance.
Some research suggests that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease and points the finger at inflammation. They say the plaque build-up that leads to atherosclerosis is largely caused by chronic inflammation, the same condition known to play a role in diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, and hypertension.
What research says about taking magnesium supplements
- A 2012 study indicates that magnesium supplementation has an inverse relationship with C-reactive protein (CRP) – a biomarker of inflammation.
- Magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with inflammatory stress in adults with poor sleep.
- A 2018 meta-analysis revealed that taking magnesium supplements significantly lowers creatinine (CRT) levels, especially at doses of more than 2 mg/dl. Levels of creatinine in the blood reflect both the amount of muscle a person has and their amount of kidney function.
Heart disease and Insulin resistance
- A study published in 2019 revealed Type 2 Diabetes patients who took 250 mg/day of magnesium had lower insulin resistance and improved glycemic control indicators after three months.
- A 2018 review concluded that high magnesium intake is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension. They also mentioned that high magnesium intake led to lower risks of stroke, ischemic heart disease, and coronary heart disease.
Good dietary sources of magnesium
Addressing magnesium deficiency is always best by adjusting your diet. The wonderful thing about magnesium is foods that are high in the mineral can be found everywhere and available all year long.
Some of the foods highest in magnesium are:
- Seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sesame seed
- Peanuts and other legumes
- Rice, oats, and barley
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach
- Dark chocolate
- Bone broth
Another way to improve your magnesium levels is to take regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that can absorb into your body through your skin. Magnesium oil (from magnesium chloride) can also be used for topical application and absorption. Here is my favorite Epsom Salt Bath recipe.
What type of magnesium supplement should I use?
Before you buy a supplement, remember that not all forms of magnesium are the same. When you want to increase magnesium levels, it is important to choose the right form. Magnesium bisglycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency. The usual dosage is 500-1000 mg magnesium daily. Spread out the dosage and take it with meals to slow down transit time through the intestines and enhance absorption. The PCOS Diva Super Magnesium supplement is the best possible quality magnesium supplement you can find.
NOTE: If you have heart disease or kidney problems, consult with your physician before taking magnesium supplements, as they can adversely affect these conditions.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
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