When you decide to start trying for a baby, your doctor will probably tell you the basics: cut out caffeine and alcohol, “eat healthy”, and take a prenatal. They will probably NOT tell you about the critical mineral deficiency (that you may not even know you have) that could dramatically impact your ability to conceive.
Did you know that half of the total population of the US is likely magnesium-deficient? And that several studies (here’s one) have shown incredible results when it comes to treating magnesium deficiency among infertile women?
Magnesium is a mineral that is vital for the body to function at the most basic level. Not only does magnesium help regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, but it is a critical component of over 300 biochemical functions in the body. It assists in maintaining healthy blood pressure, balancing blood sugar, keeping your heart rate steady, and relaxing muscles.
That’s not all though—magnesium plays a huge role in overall fertility and the development of a healthy fetus. Here’s what magnesium is responsible for when it comes to a woman’s fertility:
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is dramatically under-diagnosed because it doesn’t show up on a blood test. Only 1% of the magnesium in your body is stored in your blood, and the majority of it’s stored in your bones. However, there are a few symptoms to look for that point to a magnesium deficiency:
Leg Cramps. Upwards of 70% of adults experience leg cramps on a regular basis. Because of magnesium’s role in neuromuscular signals and muscle contraction, researchers have observed that magnesium deficiency is often to blame.
Insomnia. Magnesium deficiency is often a precursor to sleep disorders such as anxiety, hyperactivity and restlessness. It’s been suggested that this is because magnesium is vital for GABA function, an inhibitory neurotransmitter known to “calm” the brain and promote relaxation.
Anxiety. Because magnesium deficiency affects the central nervous system (more specifically the GABA cycle in the body) its side effects can include irritability and nervousness. As the deficiency worsens, it causes higher levels of anxiety and, in severe cases, depression and hallucinations.
High Blood Pressure. Magnesium works with calcium to support proper blood pressure and protect the heart. When you are magnesium deficient, often you are also low in calcium and tend towards hypertension or high blood pressure.
Fatigue. Low energy, weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Migraines. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraine headaches due to its importance in balancing neurotransmitters in the body.
Magnesium deficiency makes you feel stressed, and causes your stress hormone (cortisol) to elevate. When you’re stressed, you excrete more minerals from your body (including magnesium). This causes MORE stress (because your magnesium deficient), which in turn further depletes your magnesium levels.
As the body becomes more magnesium deficient, we experience higher levels of anxiety, irritability, and MORE stress, which digs us even deeper in the magnesium deficiency hole. As this vicious cycle continues, your body’s natural balance falls out of harmony, and all other hormones (including the hormones responsible for your fertility) are affected as a result.
Fortunately, there are lots of magnesium-rich foods that bump up your magnesium levels naturally. The key is to buy foods that is grown organically or from your local farmer’s market. The soil from conventional farms is magnesium-depleted, because conventional farming practices don’t practice crop rotation or let the land rest. Also, conventional farms typically put nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium back in the soil, but leave out the magnesium.
The foods that are usually highest in magnesium are green leafy vegetables, which are packed with chlorophyll. Remember chlorophyll from science class? It’s like the blood of the plant—it absorbs the sun’s light and turns it into energy. But one major difference between human blood and chlorophyll is that human blood has iron at the center of the cell, but plants have magnesium at the center of the cell.
Other foods that are great sources of magnesium include:
Here’s a quick (and delish!) recipe to get your started:
Mega Magnesium Salad
4 oz ounce grilled or baked wild-caught salmon
2 big ol’ handfuls of spinach
½ cup sliced zucchini and squash
½ cup raspberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon avocado oil
dash of sea salt
dash of pepper
2 thyme sprigs
Lemon juice from 1 lemon
A few teaspoons of toasted pumpkin seeds
First, cook your salmon. I bake mine in 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of salt and pepper for ~10 minutes at 400F, or until flaky. While your salmon is baking, slice your zucchini and squash and saute in a skillet with ½ tablespoon of avocado oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Once the the zucchini and salmon are cooked, it’s time to build your bowl—throw in the spinach, veggies, and salmon. Drizzle in the balsamic, thyme sprigs leaves, and the rest of the oil. Toss everything together, then top with the raspberries, a touch of lemon juice, and your toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!
The quickest and easiest way to help your body absorb magnesium is to literally spray it on! My favorite magnesium spray—Ease—is incredibly easy to use. Apply 20-40 sprays across your body per day after taking a shower (I recommend using the product right after a shower when your skin is clear of lotions or other oils). You can spray the product anywhere on the body; however, the following areas are recommended for maximum absorption: inside the elbows, behind the knees, the wrists, and the tops of your feet.
It should be noted that the first few times applying magnesium spray may result in some uncomfortable tingling. This sensation will dissipate the longer you use it—this is just your body’s way of telling you that you are, in fact, magnesium deficient.
If you don’t love the idea of a magnesium spray, I have a supplement recommendation! Magnesium Buffered Chelate is one of the best absorbed forms of magnesium. This type of magnesium is bound to multiple amino acids (proteins) and used to restore magnesium levels quickly and efficiently. It’s best to take magnesium at bedtime as it also helps with sleep and relaxation.
Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, and researchers have found that bathing in Epsom salts allows the body to absorb magnesium naturally. The added benefit is that Epsom salts baths are very calming and help the body detox, while also aiding the joints and digestive system. Chances are, you already have everything on hand that you need for a magnesium bath, but my guess is you’re not using enough Epsom salt. Here’s my recipe:
1 bag Epsom Salts (approximately 1 pound of magnesium sulfate salts per bath)
1 cup of baking soda
1 heaping tablespoon of sea salt
A few drops of lavender essential oil (optional)
Relax in the bath for at least 45-60 minutes, 3-5 times per week. Focus on taking deep breaths and directing them into your abdomen.
I recommend taking your Epsom salt baths just before bedtime—a hot bath is an excellent way to unwind at the end of the day, and will encourage your body to get a restorative, restful sleep.
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Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about the possibility of magnesium deficiency and how it might be affecting your fertility? Schedule a consultation with me!