It’s so important to remember the body is interconnected. Western medicine has “compartmentalized” the body. You have multiple doctors for different body parts, and they don’t talk to each other. When we have a symptom, we tend to not connect the dots to other things we are feeling in our body. It’s wonderful when we can learn about the multiple things a specific nutrient does in the body so that we are empowered to find the answer ourselves.
Magnesium is one of those nutrients that play a role in so many areas of the body, that we often don’t connect it to a symptom we are having. Magnesium deficiency is rampant in our population and it’s such an important mineral that we want to understand how and where it works.
The RDA for magnesium is 350mg for adult males, and 300mg for adult females. This would be for a “healthy” adult, which, unfortunately, we don’t have many of. In the U.S., the average consumption ranges between 143 and 266mg daily for adults.
Magnesium works as a catalyst for enzyme activity, especially the activity of those enzymes involved in energy production. Energy production is the life of the body, no energy production and you have no repair and maintenance going on and the body is in a state of declining health.
Magnesium also assists in calcium and potassium uptake. A deficiency of magnesium interferes with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses. A deficiency of magnesium can also cause calcification of soft tissue. Magnesium plays a role in the formation of your bone and mineral absorption over-all. Research has shown that magnesium, along with calcium, Vitamin D3, K, and trace minerals, may prevent osteoporosis.
Research has also shown that this important mineral may reduce cardiovascular disease and lower cholesterol levels. This mineral is essential for protecting the arterial lining from stress caused by sudden blood pressure changes. It allows the small blood vessels to be “flexible” as the blood pressure increases and decreases.
Magnesium is also been shown to prevent birth defects, prevent premature labor, and reduce convulsions as well as help with labor in pregnant women. A Journal of the American Medical Association reported a 70% lower incidence of mental retardation in the children of mothers who had taken magnesium supplementation during pregnancy. The incidence of cerebral palsy was 90% lower!
What Interferes with Magnesium Absorption?
The consumption of more than one alcoholic drink per day can increase your need for magnesium. A diet that includes high phosphate beverages such as sodas, even diet sodas, can lead to a magnesium deficiency.
Diuretics deplete your magnesium at an alarming level. Magnesium and potassium supplementation is highly recommended if on a diuretic. I remember a friend who was on a diuretic but was not told to supplement with magnesium and potassium. She passed out and they rushed her to the hospital where she almost died because her heart stopped.
Diarrhea or a chronic condition such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Leaky Gut, or Celiac disease will cause you to become depleted in magnesium.
The presence of “halogens” such as fluoride, chlorine and bromine, all increase your need for magnesium. Iodine is a halogen but can be displaced when the three mentioned above are elevated. Often it’s difficult to get iodine levels up if magnesium levels are low. Make sure a filter your drinking water to remove these halogens.
High levels of Zinc and Vitamin D will increase your need for magnesium. With many people increasing both of these nutrients during the COVID pandemic, it’s important to increase magnesium along with them.
Large amounts of fats, fish oils, and protein will decrease your absorption of magnesium. This may be a reason people get the “keto flu” when starting on a keto diet.
Foods high in Oxalic Acid such as, almonds, chard, cocoa, rhubarb, spinach, and tea, hinder the absorption of magnesium as well.
If you are a diabetic, you will have a very difficult time getting magnesium into your cells. It will be important to not only eat a diet high in this mineral, but supplementation will be essential as well.
If you suffer from kidney stones, or cardiovascular disease, magnesium may be the answer. It’s wise to test for magnesium and the intracellular magnesium test (RBC test) is more sensitive than the serum magnesium test that is typically done.
Low vitamin B6 seems to be linked to magnesium deficiency. The intracellular levels of B6 have a direct correlation to the content of magnesium in the cell. In other words, without B6, magnesium will not get inside the cell.
Food Sources of Magnesium
I’m a big fan of “food first” before supplementation, so let’s look at magnesium-rich foods.
- Dairy products, fish, meat, and seafood
- Apples, apricots, bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, and avocados
- Leafy greens, garlic, watercress, and pulse
- Blackstrap molasses, brewers yeast, lima beans, millet, sesame seeds, and whole grains.
Multiple herbs are high in magnesium as well, such as alfalfa, lemongrass, dandelion, fennel seed, parsley, sage, paprika, nettle, raspberry leaf, and yellow dock.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
This could be a very long list! Let’s keep it to twelve common symptoms.
- Fatigue, excessive muscle fatigue, and mental fogginess
- Irritability daily, tantrums, and emotional outbreaks
- Poor sleep quality
- Muscle spasms and cramping
- Irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and calcification of arterial tissue
- Asthma and lung conditions
- Chronic pain syndromes
- Kidney stones
- Numbness and tingling in extremities
- Poor quality hair and nails
As I mentioned above, if you have a serious health condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or kidney stones, getting tested is the best thing you can do.
If you experience any of the above symptoms then you will want to increase your dietary consumption of magnesium along with supplementation.
There are many different forms of magnesium available on the market. I recommend my clients avoid 100% the carbonate form, as it is poorly absorbed at the typical pH of human digestive processes (but it’s a cheap form and thus commonly available!). Instead, consider these magnesium supplements. I usually start with 200-400mg daily but also look at all labels on all the supplements being taken as magnesium is included in many formulations.
- Specifically for constipation, I recommend magnesium citrate. Start with 300-400mg taken with dinner to help with early AM bowel movement the next day. It may take a few days to build up to full efficacy. And clients may need more. I have some clients taking 800-1000mg each night to keep regularity and comfort with their GI ‘waste removal’.
- For muscular spasm, tension, tightness, including headache, I recommend magnesium glycinate or malate. These chelated forms of magnesium typically do not affect the GI tract much and won’t overly-stimulate an already-healthy bowel movement habit.
- For attention deficit, anxiety, panic, and those who are easily startled, I recommend magnesium threonate as it penetrates the blood-brain barrier particularly well and provides threonine, an amino acid particularly calming to the nervous system (my favorite is Jarrow’s “MagMind”). I would start with 200mg magnesium in this form and build up as needed (start dosage to target key needs e.g. first thing in the morning for daytime anxiety and evening for Restless Leg Syndrome, trouble going to sleep, or ruminating thoughts that prevent deep sleep).
- For cardiovascular disease and related concerns (e.g. atrial fibrillation), I recommend magnesium taurate. The amino acid chelate in this case (taurine) is a calming neurotransmitter, is a critical building block for optimal bile production in the liver, and is effective in countering a variety of arrhythmias (especially when combined with L-arginine and/or L-citrulline.)
Magnesium supplementation should be done cautiously in those with any degree of kidney dysfunction or disease and always in active partnership with the attending physician for the kidney ailments. Supplementation may still be warranted but in very small doses that are actively monitored to ensure filtration, function is not harmed.
All of these forms of magnesium can be found in my online dispensary Wellevate.
Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Murray, Michael N.D., Pizzorno, Joseph N.D., Prima Health, 1998, pgs. 420,421
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Balch, Phyllis A. CNC, Balch, James F., M.D., Avery Press, 2000, pg. 30
Five Body Signs of Nutritional Deficiency, https://drjockers.com/5-body-signs-nutritional-deficiencies/?ck_subscriber_id=790605958