In this article:
- What is magnesium's role in the body?
- What is magnesium deficiency?
- How magnesium affects the thyroid
- Benefits of optimizing magnesium levels for thyroid health
- How to optimize your magnesium levels
Magnesium is currently a buzzword in the health and wellness community, and for a good reason. This essential mineral plays critical roles in numerous cellular and enzymatic processes. When your magnesium level is even slightly low, it can disrupt everything from your sleep to your bowel habits. Here's a look at why magnesium is popular and why it is especially crucial for people with hypothyroidism.
What is magnesium's role in the body?
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. It is the fourth most common cation in the human body, responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions that help make proteins and DNA. Magnesium also helps make bone and regulates muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. One of its most important roles is producing energy for your cells.
Our bodies contain over 25 g of magnesium. We store over 99% of the body's magnesium in the bones, muscles, and soft tissues.
What is magnesium deficiency?
When magnesium levels are too low, it can lead to several challenging symptoms. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include:
- Muscle cramping, especially with exercise
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS) or muscle spasms
- Headaches and migraines
Risk factors of magnesium deficiency
Generally, magnesium deficiencies are due to a low dietary intake of this mineral in healthy people. Only an estimated 2% of the population has a true magnesium deficiency. However, one study declared that at least 75% of Americans do not have adequate magnesium intake. This is partly due to poor eating habits and the mineral content in our food. Thus, the standard American diet may be a risk factor for magnesium deficiency.
There are other risk factors for magnesium deficiency, including:
- Taking certain medications
- Chronic alcoholism
- Having a condition that causes chronic diarrhea such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and IBD
- Type 2 diabetes
In many of these conditions, magnesium deficiency occurs because you either have excessive losses of the magnesium you ingest or cannot absorb it.
Older adults are also more susceptible to magnesium deficiency because the gut has a more challenging time absorbing it, and the kidneys often excrete too much magnesium.
How magnesium affects the thyroid
We need magnesium to convert the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3. Without this conversion, cells do not receive the more potent form of thyroid hormone. Therefore, when magnesium levels are low, our thyroid is not able to function correctly.
People with autoimmune thyroid disease commonly have sub-optimal magnesium levels. Specifically, people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis tend to have deficiencies in key micronutrients partly due to autoimmune processes in the body. One of the hallmark signs of an autoimmune disease is inflammation. People with Hashimoto's have inflammation of the thyroid gland, which can lead to eventual thyroid failure. However, autoimmune diseases often occur together in a situation called polyautoimmunity, resulting in system-wide inflammation.
When the body is chronically inflamed, it can lead to more frequent infections and food sensitivities, which can off-set your gut health. Some speculate that autoimmune diseases sometimes start in the gut through "leaky gut syndrome." A leaky gut is where the tight junctions between your intestinal cells widen, allowing toxins to enter your bloodstream.
When you have disturbances in your gut, it can change your stomach acid's acidity, cause fat malabsorption, disrupt your gut microbiota, and weaken digestive enzymes. Thus, people with Hashimoto's and other autoimmune disorders may struggle with nutrient deficiencies because they cannot absorb them in their gut.
Benefits of optimizing magnesium levels for thyroid health
Relieves sleeplessness or insomnia
Getting a quality night of sleep affects everything from how the body processes food to how it regulates blood sugar, remembers information, controls inflammation, and more. However, a magnesium deficiency may cause occasional sleeplessness or insomnia. A research study shows that people who received 500mg of magnesium daily experienced improved sleep efficiency and increased concentrations of renin, cortisol, and melatonin compared to the placebo group.
Reduces migraine headaches
One symptom of hypothyroidism may be headaches or migraine headaches. A research study of 50 migraine-sufferers and a control group of 50 people without any history of migraines shows that magnesium levels are much lower in patients with migraines than in the healthy group. Another study shows that supplementing with magnesium may help lower the frequency of migraines.
Lowers blood pressure
Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure caused by another medical condition. When the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, high blood pressure can result. An article in an American Heart Association journal summarized results from over 30 different clinical trials to establish the effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure. Results show that supplementing with magnesium for one month helps to elevate magnesium levels in the body and reduce blood pressure.
Manage your magnesium levels through diet and supplements
Your diet is the primary way to boost your magnesium intake. If you wish to boost your magnesium intake through diet, try increasing your intake of the following foods:
- Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.)
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Milk, yogurt, and other milk-based products
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Foods containing dietary fiber generally provide magnesium. Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be sources of magnesium, but the amount varies by source and brand.
Sometimes it's hard to optimize magnesium intake with food alone. Supplementing with magnesium is one of the best ways to ensure you are meeting your minimum daily requirement. In general, magnesium is safe to take. Still, it is best to check with your doctor before starting this supplement if you are taking other medications.
Recommended daily intake of magnesium
The average daily intake level sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements is 400 mg for adult men and 310 mg for women ages 19 to 30. People over the age of 31 are recommended 420 mg daily for men and 320 mg for women.
Risks of Magnesium Supplementation
Typically the kidneys eliminated any excess magnesium in the urine. Hence, there is no real risk of getting too much magnesium from food. However, high doses of magnesium from supplements or medications may cause uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea, accompanied by nausea or abdominal cramping.
Laxatives and antacids that contain magnesium may cause magnesium toxicity when taken in substantial doses (more than 5,000 mg/day). Symptoms of magnesium toxicity may include nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, urine retention, depression, and lethargy before progressing to worse symptoms.
A note from Paloma Health
Some vitamins, minerals, and herbs may benefit people with hypothyroidism. However, each of us unique with individual sensitivities, so it's critical to work with a trustworthy thyroid doctor to develop a thyroid supplement routine based on your specific needs.