A wide range of vitamins and minerals support multiple functions in our bodies.
We need these micronutrients to remain strong and healthy, to ward off diseases and other complications.
Like the rest of our bodies, the thyroid also requires a plethora of nutrients and micronutrients, including magnesium.
Why is magnesium so important for our thyroid? Let's find out.
Why is magnesium important?
Before we can discuss the significance of magnesium for thyroid function, it's useful to learn a thing or two about this mineral.
What many people don't know is that magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body as it participates in about 300 functions.
Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve and cell function, supports immune system strength, keeps the heartbeat steady, and also ensures your bones remain strong.
Other functions of magnesium include blood glucose regulation and assistance in the production of energy and protein[i].
Additionally, magnesium helps maintain proper levels of other minerals such as zinc, calcium, and potassium.
Heart, muscles, kidneys, and other organs and systems in your body need magnesium to do their "job."
Symptoms of low magnesium
An unhealthy diet is a primary culprit for low magnesium levels.
When the body doesn't have sufficient amounts of a specific nutrient, it lets you know that through a plethora of signs and symptoms.
Here are some signs and symptoms that are associated with a deficiency of magnesium:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Mental health problems such as mental numbness, lack of emotion, delirium, etc.
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Lower calcium and potassium levels
If you notice the above-mentioned symptoms, you may want to see your doctor who will order some tests to diagnose the problem.
Magnesium and thyroid
Magnesium participates in about 300 functions in the body, so it's not that difficult to assume that this mineral may also have an impact on thyroid function.
The question is: what kind of relationship does this mineral and the thyroid have?
Conversion from T4 to T3
Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and participate in many other functions, but they’re only able to do their job when there is a sufficient amount.
One of the many functions of magnesium is to convert inactive T4 hormones into active T3. This is particularly important if you bear in mind that our metabolisms depend on T3 a lot more than T4.
It’s also important to mention that magnesium helps thyroid produce more T4 hormone[ii].
Basically, without adequate amounts of magnesium, your thyroid wouldn’t be able to produce much-needed T4 and convert the inactive form of this hormone into active T3 to allow the body to have a healthy metabolism.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition indicated by low production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. The condition is indicated by various symptoms, and it is more common in women than in men.
Wang et al. carried out an interesting study which found that severely low serum magnesium is associated with an increased risk of hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity. Researchers explained that doctors should check serum magnesium levels in patients with hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis. Increased intake of magnesium may be beneficial for patients who have these conditions and low magnesium levels[iii].
Other studies reveal that elevated thyroid vascularization and low magnesium levels could be the sign of an inflammatory process related to the musculoskeletal changes.
The central biochemical event in thyroid disease could be caused by a deficiency of magnesium and other minerals[iv]. It’s important to mention that increased vascularization of the thyroid is associated with hypothyroidism[v].
Contributes to the treatment of hypothyroidism
The underactive thyroid gland can induce a number of symptoms which can affect a patient’s quality of life and lead to potentially more severe complications.
Fortunately, adhering to the treatment recommended by the doctor can manage symptoms and prevent unwanted scenarios.
Hypothyroidism is usually treated with hormone replacement, i.e., intake of levothyroxine, which is a synthetic form of hormone T4. Dosage is prescribed by the doctor, and it depends on many factors, including the severity of the condition.
Abbas et al. found that the combination of magnesium sulfate and levothyroxine is better in alleviating chronic low-grade inflammatory status in hypothyroidism than taking the treatment on its own[vi].
In other words, magnesium may make it easier for hypothyroid patients to alleviate inflammation and thereby manage their symptoms more effectively. It is recommended to consult your doctor regarding treatment options.
Prevents reduced thyroid hormone activity
Not only can magnesium aid management of inflammation in hypothyroid patients, but it can also help active men and women prevent a reduction in thyroid hormone activity.
One study investigated the effect of magnesium on thyroid hormones of sedentary and active people who practiced 4 weeks of tae-kwon-do training. The findings revealed that training to exhaustion decreases the activity of thyroid hormone in sedentary people and active counterparts.
However, supplementation with magnesium prevents this unwanted reduction in thyroid hormone activity[vii] and symptoms that would come with it. That way, you can train and be active without having to worry whether it would negatively affect your thyroid hormones.
Favorable influence on lipid metabolism
Thyroid problems can cause a chain of reactions that induce many other health concerns and complications.
For instance, hypothyroidism is also associated with higher cholesterol levels and higher diabetes risks. Cholesterol management is important because it protects us from heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases and events.
Magnesium can contribute to successful management of high cholesterol and thereby protect your health.
Baydas et al. carried out a study to investigate the effects of oral zinc and magnesium supplementation on serum thyroid hormone and lipid levels in diabetic rats.
For the purpose of the study, some rats received zinc and magnesium while others were in the control group and did not.
Scientists found that serum glucose, total cholesterol, and triglyceride concentrations were higher, and serum T3 and T4 levels were lower in diabetic rats than in their counterparts from the control group. That being said, zinc supplementation had no effect on any of these parameters.
On the flip side, magnesium supplementation lowered the elevated total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations of diabetic rats to control level. Scientists concluded that supplementation with magnesium could successfully decrease diabetes-induced disturbances of lipid metabolism[viii].
This can also come handy for patients with hypothyroidism. Higher blood glucose and cholesterol levels are major symptoms of this condition and supplementation with metabolism could help tackle that problem successfully.
Magnesium lowers blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is a common problem nowadays, mainly due to an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. The most severe thing about this problem is that it's not characterized by some specific symptoms, so it's not uncommon for people to be unaware their blood pressure is high unless they check it regularly.
What many people don't know is that hypothyroidism is a cause of secondary hypertension[ix].
High blood pressure is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. When left unmanaged hypertension can lead to cardiovascular diseases and put your health in danger. Fortunately, the problem is entirely manageable, and magnesium can help you with that. A growing body of evidence confirms that magnesium can help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension[x].
How much magnesium do we need per day?
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, we often feel like the more we take, the better the results. It doesn't work that way, though.
The body needs a specific amount of some nutrient every day to function properly and prevent potential complications. Magnesium is not the exception here.
Unfortunately, evidence shows that low magnesium intake is very common, especially among the US population[xi]. The main culprit is a Western diet which has become popular, but not quite healthy as this diet fails to supply the body with vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly.
So how much magnesium we really need?
Men ages 19 to 30 need 400mg a day while women from the same age group need 310mg magnesium.
Men older than 31 need 420mg a day while women need 320mg of magnesium per day[xii].
Pregnant women should take about 350 to 360mg of magnesium every day.
Best sources of magnesium
Instead of a Western diet characterized by high intake of processed foods, it’s recommended to consume a more plant-based diet.
Enrich your menu with fruits and vegetables that deliver a plethora of nutrients.
When it comes to magnesium, the best sources of this mineral are:
- Whole Wheat
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Dark chocolate
- Cultured yogurt
While it’s easy to buy supplements and take them on a daily basis, avoid doing so without consulting your doctor first.
This is particularly important if you’re taking medications.
Magnesium fun facts
- Adult body contains about 25g magnesium
- About 50% to 60% of total magnesium content in the body is present in the bones and soft tissues
- Less than 1% of magnesium is found in blood serum
- In 1755 magnesium was identified as an element, but it was isolated in 1808 for the first time
- Magnesium has a sour taste. In fact, small amounts of magnesium in mineral water give it that noticeably slightly sour flavor
- Magnesium is the 9th most abundant element in the universe and the 8th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust
- All cells in your body contain magnesium
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals that our body needs to stay strong and healthy.
This mineral participates in hundreds of functions, and it's also crucial for thyroid health.
Magnesium is necessary for hormone production, metabolism, hypothyroidism management, reduced risk of thyroid problems, and so many other things, including management of high cholesterol, hypertension, and other problems.
The best thing to do is to enrich the diet with magnesium sources and ditch junk food.
Consult your doctor if you plan to use supplements but bear in mind that it's entirely possible to obtain the required daily intake of magnesium through diet alone.
[ii] The Benefits of Magnesium on the Thyroid, Thyroid Advisor.
[iii] Wang, K., Wei, H., Zhang, W., Li, Z., Ding, L., Yu, T., … Zhu, M., (2018). Severely low serum magnesium is associated with increased risks of positive anti-thyroglobulin antibody and hypothyroidism: A cross-sectional study. Scientific reports, 8(1), 9904. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-28362-5. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028657/
[iv] Moncayo, R., & Moncayo, H. (2014). The WOMED model of benign thyroid disease: Acquired magnesium deficiency due to physical and psychological stressors relates to dysfunction of oxidative phosphorylation. BBA clinical, 3, 44–64. doi:10.1016/j.bbacli.2014.11.002. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4661500/
[v] Chaudhary, V., & Bano, S. (2013). Thyroid ultrasound. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 17(2), 219–227. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.109667. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683194/
[vi] Abbas AM, Sakr HF. (2016). Effect of magnesium sulfate and thyroxine on inflammatory markers in a rat model of hypothyroidism. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology,94(4):426-432. Doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2015-0247. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26854732
[vii] Cinar V. (2007). The effects of magnesium supplementation on thyroid hormones of sedentars and tae-kwon-do sportsperson at resting and exhaustion. Neuro Endocrinology Letters, 28(5):708-712. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17984925
[viii] Baydas B, Karagoz S, Meral I. (2002). Effects of oral zinc and magnesium supplementation on serum thyroid hormone and lipid levels in experimentally induced diabetic rats. Biological Trace Element Research, 88(3):247-253. Doi: 10.1385/BTER:88:3:247. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1385/BTER:88:3:247
[ix] Stabouli S, Papakatsika S, Kotsis V. (2010). Hypothyroidism and hypertension. Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy, 8(11):1559-1565. Doi: 10.1586/erc.10.141. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21090931
[x] Hatzistavri LS, Sarafidis PA, Georgianos PI, et al. (2009). Oral magnesium supplementation reduces ambulatory blood pressure in patients with mild hypertension. American Journal of Hypertension, 22(10):1070-1075. Doi: 10.1038/ajh.2009.126. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19617879
[xi] Ford ES, Mokdad AH. (2003). Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults. Journal of Nutrition, 133(9):2879-2882. Doi: 10.1093/jn/133.9.2879. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12949381
[xii] Magnesium: Fact sheet for health professionals, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/