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Magnesium Is Popping Up Everywhere, but What Does It Actually Do?

Magnesium supplements are more popular than ever, but you might be wondering what they actually do. But do you really need a magnesium supplement, and how do you find the right one? We tapped a few experts to find out.

What does magnesium do?

Magnesium is actually quite the superstar when it comes to nutritional potency. The fourth-most abundant mineral in the human body, magnesium contributes to many enzymatic functions — including regulation of the nervous system, the synthesis of proteins and fatty acids and the metabolism of food. Dr. Adeeti Gupta, founder of Walk In GYN Care, says getting adequate amounts of magnesium can help with everything from lessening PMS symptoms to easing chronic pain and muscle spasms.

In fact, Gupta says magnesium can help with many health issues. “Specifically, in relation to women’s health, it’s useful for PMS, endometriosis, period cramps and leg cramps associated with periods,” Gupta tells SheKnows. “It’s helpful for sleep, relieving muscle tension and even migraines.” Since magnesium alters flow through calcium/magnesium transport channels, Gupta explains, it has powerful muscle-relaxing effects. It also has effect on smooth muscles of the body, and it relaxes them and increases blood flow, she adds.

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“The most important function of magnesium is assisting in the creation of energy in the trillions of cells making up our body,” Adrienne Klein, a nutritionist at Thyroid Refresh, tells SheKnows. “Magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of 700 to 800 enzyme systems in the body. There are 65 conditions associated with a magnesium deficiency: headaches, muscles aches and pain, angina, high blood pressure, constipation, anxiety, sensitivity to loud noises and insomnia to name a few.”

How do we get magnesium?

Considering how vital magnesium is to your overall health, it’s significant that up to 80 percent of people in the U.S. are magnesium deficient, Klein says. While dietary sources of magnesium like avocados, brown rice, leafy greens, nuts, dark chocolate and wild fish are great to eat on the regular, Klein also recommends a good supplement in order to ward off (or correct) any potential deficiencies.

“How much magnesium we get is based on how we fertilize our crops,” Klein says. Since some fertilizer mixtures might interfere with magnesium levels in foods, even healthy organic foods may have insufficient levels of magnesium, she explains. So a magnesium supplement can be helpful — especially if you suffer from any deficiencies or a magnesium-related health condition.

When shopping for a magnesium supplement, look for only one ingredient on the supplement label (magnesium), Linda McIntyre, a clinical dietitian specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tells SheKnows. Women need about 310 to 320 milligrams per day, and the best sources include magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate and magnesium carbonate, she explains. McIntyre also advises you check with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements, however, since they can interfere with other medications.

Klein concurs, recommending you avoid supplements with a lot of added fillers, such as “additives, artificial colors and other cheap ingredients.” When choosing which supplements to buy, Klein says to make sure to select the highest-quality items you can afford.

Magnesium is a great nutrient for women,” says Gupta, who recommends starting your supplement in smaller doses — after food and at night. “You can slowly increase the dose over time. Do not go over the recommended dose because it can affect your respiratory system in extremely high doses.”

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It’s also important to note that if you have heart disease or kidney problems, magnesium supplements might create adverse effects — another reason to check in with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your routine. Always read labels carefully, take supplements as directed and consult with your physician if you have any questions about whether taking magnesium supplements is right for you.

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