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Magnesium and Thyroid Health

Published October 22 2012

Note: Most people reading this currently take nutritional supplements, and yet most people don’t have a good understanding about the vitamins and minerals they’re taking.  Because of this, what I’ve decided to do is to write some articles which discuss the different roles of each of the vitamins and minerals in the body, and since this website focuses on thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, I figured it would be a good idea to briefly discuss how they relate to thyroid health.  This article will focus on the importance of magnesium.

Magnesium has many important roles in the body, and this is one of the most common supplements that my patients take on their own prior to consulting with me.  In other words, many people are already supplementing with magnesium before they speak with me.  So many are already aware of the importance of this mineral, although most who are taking magnesium don’t realize the different functions it has.

First of all, magnesium is very important with regards to bone health.  It works with the minerals calcium and phosphorus, and a deficiency in this mineral can play a role in osteoporosis.  So while many people focus on calcium intake with regards to bone density, magnesium is very important too, as is phosphorus and vitamin D.

Some Of the Other Roles Of Magnesium

Many people are aware that magnesium is important when it comes to relaxation of the muscles.  So whereas calcium causes muscle contraction, magnesium helps the muscles to relax.  As a result, if someone has pain in the muscles due to spasms, this can possibly be due to a magnesium deficiency.  In fact, many people with fibromyalgia get a good amount of relief by supplementing with magnesium.

In addition magnesium is necessary for over 300 different enzyme reactions.   It is involved in the enzyme reactions that take place with glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, with nucleic acid synthesis, DNA and RNA transcription, amino acid activation, and many other enzyme reactions.

Magnesium can play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease.  Some studies show that it has some anti-inflammatory actions.  And it has many other important roles as well.

How Does Magnesium Relate To Thyroid Health?

Magnesium is an essential cofactor for calcitonin, which is produced by the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland.  When released this reduces calcium levels in the blood.  Also, some studies show that the excessive amount of thyroid hormone which is present in hyperthyroidism decreases the absorption of magnesium, thus making it more likely that people with hyperthyroid conditions are deficient in magnesium.  Sticking with the topic of hyperthyroid conditions, some people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease notice a significant difference in their heart palpitations when supplementing with magnesium.

Deficiency Symptoms and Food Sources of Magnesium

Some of the symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, anxiety, fatigue, and tremors.  It can be challenging to detect a magnesium deficiency.  While many doctors rely on serum tests, the serum blood tests are frequently normal even when someone has an intracellular deficiency of magnesium. As a result, unless if there is a severe magnesium deficiency then blood tests can’t be relied upon.  I commonly recommend a hair mineral analysis test to my patients to look at the mineral levels, but this admittedly can be a little bit confusing when trying to evaluate the magnesium levels.  One method of determining if someone is deficient in magnesium is to give them magnesium supplements, and then see if they develop symptoms such as loose stool, which are common when someone has too much magnesium in their system.  Of course this may be challenging for someone who has a hyperthyroid condition who already has loose stool as part of their condition.

Some of the foods that are rich in magnesium include meats, nuts and seeds, legumes, dairy products, and some whole grains such as oats and rice.  Green leafy vegetables are also a good source of magnesium.  Even if someone is eating a sufficient amount of foods rich in magnesium, if they have digestive problems then this can affect the absorption of magnesium, as well as other minerals.  So obviously such digestive issues need to be corrected in order to help improve the absorption of the vitamins and minerals.

Supplementing With Magnesium

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of magnesium is 400mg.  Of course just as is the case with every other vitamin and mineral, this is on the low side, and probably should be between 600mg and 800mg Some magnesium can be obtained from the food sources listed above.  However, if someone has a magnesium deficiency, then they probably will need to take supplements to correct this deficiency.  So in addition to consuming magnesium-rich foods, if someone has a deficiency they might need to take 200 to 400mg of magnesium daily, and sometimes they will need more than this.  It depends on how many magnesium-rich foods they normally eat, and how big of a deficiency they have.  Magnesium is important for iodine absorption, and so if someone is taking high dosages of iodine then they will need to take higher dosages of magnesium.

Magnesium also needs to be balanced with calcium.  Some sources claim that the ratio of calcium to magnesium should be 1:1, others claim this ratio should be 2:1, while a few other sources claim it should be 5 to 1.  As far as I know there is no research which proves that a certain ratio is ideal, and of course if someone is taking calcium and magnesium supplements then they also need to consider the food sources they’re consuming.  For example, if someone is taking a supplement with a 2:1 ratio of calcium, and if they eat a lot of calcium-rich foods, but don’t consume too many foods rich in magnesium, then this will affect the calcium-magnesium ratio.  The good news is that many of the foods that are rich in calcium also contain magnesium.

As for what type of magnesium to supplement with, I personally recommend magnesium lactate, but other forms of magnesium can be beneficial as well.  Magnesium malate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium citrate are all good forms.

So hopefully you have a better understanding of some of the roles magnesium plays, as well as how it relates to thyroid health.  Make sure you eat some of the magnesium-rich foods I discussed in this article, and if necessary, take some magnesium supplements.  Since it’s difficult to test for a magnesium deficiency, you might need to supplement with magnesium and then decrease the dosage once you experience symptoms such as loose stools and/or headaches.