People living with PCOS often face an uphill battle. A global study found it takes, on average, two years and three doctors for women to receive a PCOS diagnosis.
It’s common that symptoms are missed, and for many, this timeline can be considerably longer.
For those who do have a diagnosis, medicines can be prescribed (with varying degrees of success) to encourage ovulation. But treatments aren’t always successful, and PCOS symptoms can be wide-ranging and debilitating.
All this rightly sounds rather downbeat, but while the statistics are concerning, we’re here with some good news! And that good news is about our favourite mineral – magnesium – and its close relationship with PCOS.
So what does magnesium have to do with PCOS? Will using magnesium for PCOS help?
In this guide, we’ll cover the following:
- How magnesium works to help people living with PCOS
- The benefits of magnesium for PCOS
- What is the best type of magnesium for PCOS?
- How to choose magnesium for PCOS and what to look out for
In this guide:
Is magnesium good for PCOS?
Around 1 in 5 women in the UK live with Polystatic Ovary Syndrome. That makes PCOS an incredibly common condition.
PCOS occurs when ovaries produce more than the usual amount of androgens, which are male sex hormones. Polycystic ovary syndrome refers to the fluid-filled cysts (normally small and numerous) which are found in the ovaries of some women with the condition.
Do note these cysts don’t necessarily mean you do – or do not – have PCOS. Some women may have PCOS but not have the cysts – with some women who do not have the disorder do develop cysts.
It’s thought that if you have at least two of three common features, you may have the disorder. These include polycystic ovaries, irregular periods, or excess androgen.
Okay, so background covered – what’s the deal with magnesium and PCOS?
Well, women with magnesium deficiencies are 19 times more likely to have PCOS, according to research published in the Journal of Gynecology and Endocrinology.
Magnesium deficiencies can be caused by multiple factors and can manifest in many ways. The mineral is crucial to our bodies functioning properly – it’s essential to more than 300 enzymatic processes in the body, including regulating heart contractions and insulin and glucose signalling.
As well as significantly increasing the risk of PCOS, having magnesium has been shown to increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and is associated with worse general health outcomes.
So how does magnesium deficiency happen?
Well, magnesium deficiency is more common in the elderly or with people with digestive problems, kidney problems, or who ingest diuretics long term (to manage health conditions). Certain other medications can also impact our absorption of magnesium and thus lead to a deficiency – these include birth control pills and certain types of antacids.
It can also be caused by not intaking enough of the mineral naturally through diet.
Green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds and whole grains are all good sources of magnesium. As our diets become more processed, it’s become increasingly common that many of us do not naturally ingest enough magnesium through our food sources.
Another theory is that elevated insulin levels work to lower magnesium levels. If someone is consuming too many of certain other nutrients, such as calcium, iron, copper, or zinc, it can become more difficult for the body to retain magnesium.
Benefits of magnesium for PCOS
So, what are the benefits of magnesium with PCOS? Can magnesium relieve PCOS symptoms? Let’s take a look.
Magnesium can reduce anxiety
Anxiety – and depression – are common in women with PCOS. In some sense, it is still a stigmatising condition – the disorder can impact identity, mental health and quality of life.
One study on women living with PCOS in India found that the prevalence of anxiety and depression in participants was 38.6% and 25.7%, respectively. Combined with the potential of infertility (which can be the reality for some people with PCOS) and alopecia, both are associated with high anxiety levels.
But having low magnesium levels is also considered to be an underlying cause of anxiety.
One research review analysed the conclusion of 18 studies and found that magnesium may improve anxiety levels in people struggling with the condition. It’s thought that magnesium can work to calm the nervous system and thus reduce feelings of anxiety – including apathy, anger, nervousness and insomnia.
While more clinical evidence is needed to draw conclusions, magnesium may be a good option for people with PCOs who struggle with anxiety.
Magnesium lowers blood pressure
Some women with PCOS also have high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. Magnesium supplementation may help reduce blood pressure, as does a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Well, according to research, magnesium increases the production of nitric oxide – a signalling molecule which helps to relax blood vessels.
One review of 11 randomised studies found that participants with chronic medical conditions who took between 365-450 mg magnesium daily saw significantly reduced blood pressure.
Magnesium improves insulin resistance
Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of insulin than those who don’t, with most people with the disorder having insulin resistance.
This happens when cells stop responding to the excess insulin pumped out by the pancreas. Blood sugar then rises. Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) can cause permanent nerve damage and also sight problems.
In comes magnesium! As explained earlier, one of magnesium’s crucial roles is glucose and insulin regulation. Sufficient levels of magnesium can improve insulin resistance in people living with PCOS and reduce the subsequent risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
How much magnesium should I take for PCOS?
Always speak with a medical professional before taking magnesium for PCOS. Once you have the go-ahead, always stick to the doses advised by that medical professional.
Most studies indicate people see the most benefits when supplementing between 300mg and 400mg of magnesium per day. NHS guidelines also state that supplementing up to 400mg daily of magnesium “shouldn’t cause harm”.
It’s super important that you don’t take too much magnesium. Not only will it not be of benefit, it can also cause some nasty side effects, including vomiting, fatigue, and an irregular heartbeat. At extremely high doses, magnesium may be fatal.
What is the best type of magnesium for PCOS?
People with PCOS should choose a form of magnesium with high bioavailability and absorption. This is so that the highest possible amount can be absorbed into the body, which will go the furthest in helping correct any magnesium deficiency.
The most bioavailable forms include magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium lactate and magnesium aspartate.
Tips to buy the best magnesium supplement for PCOS
It’s always important to try to consume the best possible quality products, ingredients and supplements.
But it’s even more important if you’re looking to take a supplement to help improve your health or symptoms of a chronic or long-term condition.
Here are a few things you can keep in mind when considering which magnesium supplement to choose.
- Organic products will always be the best. They are free of unnecessary additives and intoxicants and will be the most natural form of the product.
- Always look for magnesium and brands that offer lab-tested products. This will ensure a certain degree of quality and, crucially, safety.
- It’s always advisable to choose Non-GMO products where possible.
Final thoughts on magnesium for PCOS
With so many women living with PCOS – and so many of those also having magnesium deficiencies – it’s clear that supplementing magnesium can be beneficial for this group of people.
However, we cannot stress enough that anyone with PCOS must always speak with a doctor or medical professional before incorporating magnesium supplements into their diet and routine.
People with certain other conditions (such as kidney problems) or who may be taking certain medications should steer clear of supplementing with magnesium.
The mineral can be an excellent supplement for promoting health and well-being and easing some PCOS symptoms. But it’s not for everyone!