Magnesium for Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps are a widespread problem that many women face on a monthly basis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, increasing magnesium is one effective way of treating menstrual cramps, as well as other types of menstrual-related pain -- including headaches and nausea. Contact your doctor about taking magnesium as well as other possible treatments for your condition.

During the menstrual cycle many women experience cramping in the abdomen or a slow dull ache in the lower back. The term for pain during the menstrual cycle is primary dysmenorrhea. Most of the time, pain during menstruation does not signify a larger problem, according to the UMMC. However, sometimes cramps can signify endometriosis, fibroids, an ovarian cyst, pelvic inflammatory disease or another condition.

According to the National Institutes of Health, many Americans fail to get recommended amounts of magnesium in their diets. The UMMC recommends supplementation for menstrual cramps in the form of 360 milligrams, once daily, for three days. If possible, begin one or two days before bleeding starts.

A series of studies reported by the NIH show that adding magnesium decreases cramps and other painful symptoms. One of these double-blind studies looked at 50 women suffering from dysmenorrhea. Of the 25 that received magnesium, 21 reported significant improvement after six months; four reported no improvement.

Magnesium is a versatile mineral, which helps create more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, according to the UMMC. Magnesium promotes good muscle tone and healthy nerve function. It helps the heart remain steady, boosts immunity, keeps bones strong and helps to regulate blood sugar. In addition, the NIH reports that people with adequate magnesium stored in the body may be protecting themselves against disorders such as cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction. Magnesium is thought to relieve cramping in many different ways, such as by helping relax muscles and increasing the absorption of calcium.

Foods high in magnesium include halibut, mixed nuts, soybeans and yogurt. Dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach are another good source of magnesium, as are whole grain breads, cereals and brown rice.

According to the NIH, a study that compared four forms of magnesium preparations suggests that magnesium oxide is more difficult for the body to absorb than other preparations. The absorption of magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate was found to be higher than that of magnesium oxide, therefore these types of supplements may be more beneficial.