What role does magnesium have in good bladder function?
More than you would think!
Magnesium is a mineral with an important role in muscle relaxation throughout the body. This effect occurs in both skeletal muscle (which is why magnesium may help muscle cramps) and smooth muscle (such as in the bladder, called the detrusor muscle).
Mineral works closely with other minerals, especially calcium. While calcium leads to muscle contraction, magnesium counteracts this. Where there is an imbalance between available magnesium and calcium, there can be symptoms of contraction with insufficient relaxation e.g. muscle cramp, spasm, twitch, flicker or ‘’jump’’. (This twitch, flicker or ‘’jump’’ often occurs in the eyelid, and gives you an annoying twitching feeling that you feel everyone else can see). So, magnesium has been described as a ‘’natural calcium-channel blocker’’ in the body – it counteracts the effects of calcium.
Muscle contraction in the body relies on electrical activity (nerve impulses) in the nerve that connects to that muscle. The end of the nerve is called the synapse. The release of a chemical called acetylcholine at the synapse is responsible for the continuation of the electrical impulse further down the chain of nerves.
Magnesium actually inhibits this release of acetylcholine at the synapse. So, when a nerve is being ‘’overstimulated’’, magnesium can actually calm it down. This is why magnesium is used as an anti-convulsant – something that reduces seizures. It decreases the excessive amount of nerve stimulation within the nervous system that leads to a seizure. It has also been used for bronchospasm in asthma, to help relax the smooth muscle contraction in the airways.
Is it possible that magnesium could help your bladder, if you have a deficiency?
While no studies have been done on this, it is theoretically possible. In a condition called detrusor overactivity, the bladder contracts without you ‘’giving it permission’’. This can be associated with a feeling of urgency and sometimes leakage of urine. If you have other signs of a need for magnesium, such as leg cramps at night, it could be worth trying magnesium to see if it helps your bladder. It is possible that it may help compete with the ‘’excess of nerve messages’’ your bladder is being given to contract. A 1998 study from the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found a significant effect of taking magnesium in women with detrusor overactivity. A 1992 study in the British Journal of Urology found that magnesium decreased spontaneous contractions in the detrusor muscle, which are often seen in women with overactive bladder.
So is it worth having your magnesium levels tested?
Not in my opinion. I have seen many women in my practice with normal serum levels of magnesium who have responded well to supplementing with magnesium. One reason for this may be that serum levels are not particularly reliable. Serum magnesium only represents about 0.3% of the body’s total magnesium. Most of it is found in the bone, muscle and soft tissue. These different ‘’pools’’ of magnesium in the body may take up to 6 months to reach equilibrium. What this means is that you could have a magnesium deficiency in the muscle, but it won’t show up in the blood test for six months. In my experience, if you get muscle cramps in your legs or feet, you probably would benefit from taking extra magnesium.
Magnesium is one of the safest minerals to supplement with. Even so, the wrong type or amount can cause diarrhoea or stomach upsets in some people. This is especially so with magnesium oxide. It is important to take the right form and dose of magnesium for the best effects. Organise an appointment for advice on this.