Let's get a few things straight before we take a deeper dive into all things magnesium.
Magnesium is an incredibly important mineral for the human body.
Most people are pretty deficient in magnesium however.
These deficiencies lead to a whole host of ailments.
The solution to these deficiencies is twofold, magnesium rich food, and supplementation, which is often needed because our soil is depleted in magnesium after decades of poor farming practices.
For starters it's a whole lot more important than you probably know...
-Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body.
-50% of magnesium is located in and on the surface of the bones.
-Magnesium is a necessary cofactor for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body (such as muscle building, maintaining nerve function, keeping healthy heartbeat and sustaining optimal immune system function).
-Magnesium is not easily absorbed into the digestive tract unless attached to a transporting substance, which is why it’s often chelated to organic and amino acids, or used transdermally.
-Mono crop farming leads to depleted soil conditions. This means that plants (and meat from animals that feed on these plants) are lower in magnesium. Use of chemicals like fluoride and chlorine in the water supply make magnesium less available in water since these chemicals can bind to magnesium.
-Common substances that many of us consume daily, like caffeine and sugar, also deplete the body’s magnesium levels…(it takes 54 molecules of magnesium to process one molecule of sugar).
-Because insulin is necessary to shuttle magnesium to storage, and many people are insulin resistant because of high blood glucose levels, storing magnesium is more challenging for these individuals.
-The Framingham study shows excess calcium may be to blame in some cases. With high calcium levels in the body, calcification can occur. Magnesium deficiency causes the sodium:potassium pump to work incorrectly so too much calcium is allowed in the cells. This is why the Framingham Health Study found that consuming enough magnesium was correlated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
1. Calcification of the Arteries
Though this is not (hopefully) the first symptom of magnesium deficiency, it can be one of the most dangerous.
Calcification of arteries from low magnesium levels can lead to coronary problems like heart attack and heart disease.
Many heart attack patients receive injections of magnesium chloride to help stop the blood clotting and calcification, showing just how important magnesium is for the heart.
2. Muscle Spasms and Cramps
Just as calcification causes stiffening of the arteries, it can cause stiffening of muscle tissue as well, leading to cramps and spasms. Ever get a charlie horse in the middle of the night? That's typically from magnesium deficiency.
3. Anxiety & Depression
There is a lot of research showing that magnesium deficiency can have a tremendous impact on mental health. Psychology Today explains one possible reason:
Magnesium hangs out in the synapse between two neurons along with calcium and glutamate. Calcium and glutamate are excitatory neurotransmitters, and in excess, toxic. Magnesium can sit on the NMDA receptor without activating it, like a guard at the gate, but if we are deficient in magnesium, there’s no guard, allowing calcium and glutamate to activate the receptor. In the long term, this damages the neurons, eventually leading to the death of these brain cells.
4. High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
This is perhaps one of the most well-studied areas of magnesium deficiency. A Harvard study of over 70,000 people found that those with the highest magnesium intake had the healthiest blood pressure numbers.
A follow up meta-analysis of available studies showed a dose-dependent reduction of blood pressure with magnesium supplementation.
A University of Minnesota study showed that the risk for hypertension was 70% lower in women with adequate to high magnesium levels.
5. Hormone Problems
The higher the estrogen or progesterone levels in a woman’s body, the lower the magnesium. This is also part of the reason why pregnant women experience more leg cramps and women notice more of these muscular type complaints and PMS in the second half of their cycles when progesterone/estrogen are higher and magnesium is depleted.
(Tip for the ladies: consider consuming more magnesium in the second half of your cycle to ease menstrual cramps!).
6. Pregnancy Complaints
Due to it's impact on the hormones estrogen and progesterone, magnesium levels can drastically affect pregnancy health and mood. Magnesium is also often used to help with pregnancy related hypertension and muscle cramps, to help ward off preterm labor and to alleviate headaches. Transdermal magnesium can be helpful in pregnancy because there are no digestive disturbance risks.
7. Sleep Problems
Dr. Mark Hyman calls it the ultimate relaxation mineral. Magnesium helps relax the body and the mind, which both contribute to restful sleep.
Additionally, magnesium is needed for proper function of the GABA receptors in the brain, and GABA is the neurotransmitter that allows the brain to transition to a restful state.
8. Low Energy
Magnesium is required in the reactions that creates ATP energy in the cells.
ATP or adenosine triphosphate, is the main source of energy in the cells and it must bind to a magnesium ion in order to be active.
Without magnesium, you literally won’t have energy on a cellular level. This shows up as fatigue, low-energy, lack of drive and other problems.
9. Bone Health
Calcium is always considered the most important mineral for bone health, but it turns out that magnesium is just as important (or even more so!)
In cases of magnesium deficiency, the bones suffer in multiple ways:
• Vitamin D Absorption: Magnesium is needed for Vitamin D to turn on calcium absorption- this is why it is also important to get enough magnesium when taking Vitamin D (or magnesium levels can become even more depleted)
• Proper Calcium Use: Magnesium is needed to stimulate the hormone calcitonin which draws calcium out of the muscles and soft tissues and into the bones. This helps explain why magnesium helps lower the risk of heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis and kidney stones.
•seeds: sunflower, flax, pumpkin
•wild salmon, halibut, sardines
But....As mentioned above, food sources are sadly depleted of magnesium due to mineral depleted soil conditions.
While I still believe in the power of good food to heal sometimes we need a little extra help from supplements.
Cue the next section on supplements!
1. Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate
A mineral chelate form of magnesium containing an ion of magnesium oxide connected to a mixture of some other form of amino acid. This could be a lactate, a glycine, aspartate or arginate, etc.
The best chelated amino acid form of magnesium is aspartate or arginate.
2. Magnesium Oxide
Also referred to as “Magnesia”, magnesium oxide is commonly used therapeutically as a laxative and relief for acid reflux. This type of magnesium shows high levels of concentration, but poor levels of bioavailability (only 4%).
Use caution with this one friend! It can really flush you out! ;)
3. Magnesium Citrate
Derived from the magnesium salt of citric acid, this form of magnesium has lower concentration, but a high level of bioavalibity (90%). Magnesium citrate is commonly used as to induce a bowel movement, but has also been studied for kidney stone prevention.
My kids eat these every night: Natural Calm Raspberry Lemon
4. Magnesium Orotate
One of the most effective forms of magnesium supplement, created through the use of the mineral salts of orotic acid. Both plants and animals use orotates to create DNA and RNA. Research by Dr. Hans A. Nieper, M.D. shows orotates can penetrate cell membranes, enabling the effective delivery of the magnesium ion to the innermost layers of the cellular mitochondria and nucleus. It has been shown to have powerful calming effects.
Magnesium orotate is my top form of magnesium for anxiety.
5. Magnesium Chloride
A form of magnesium showing moderate concentrations, but higher levels of bioavalibity when compared to magnesium oxide.
Often used to treat symptoms of too much stomach acid such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion.
6. Magnesium Lactate
This type of magnesium shows moderate concentrations, but higher levels of bioavalibity as compared to magnesium oxide. Magnesium lactate should be avoided by those with kidney disease or kidney-related problems.
Magnesium lactate is most commonly used for treating digestive issues.
7. Magnesium Sulfate
An inorganic form of magnesium with an elemental concentration of 10% and lower levels of bioavailability. Magnesium sulfate contains magnesium and sulfer and oxygen.
Also known as Epsom Salt this is fantastic for a relaxing bath at night - especially with lavender oil added!!
This is the brand we uses exclusively in our home: Ancient Minerals Epsom Salt
8. Magnesium Carbonate
This form of magnesium has moderate levels of elemental concentration and 30% bioavalibity rates. It is also commonly known as chalk, and is used as a drying agent by pitchers, gymnasts, rock climbers and weight lifters.
Magnesium carbonate has a strong laxative-effect when taken in high amounts so proceed with caution here too!
9. Magnesium Glycinate, Malate & Taurates
These chelated forms of magnesium hold moderate to low concentrations and higher levels of bioavailability. Magnesium glycerinate is a great form but can often be expensive. Magnesium Taurate has been shown to be good for the heart. It also has a calming effect. Magnesium Malate enhances ATP production and is very relaxing and calming because it sits on NDM receptor in brain and regulates calcium from becoming too neuroexcitatory.
10. Topical Magnesium
Experts estimate that magnesium absorption in the digestive system ranges from 20-55%, depending on the source. A solution of magnesium can be sprayed on the skin and the body can absorb what is needed at a much faster rate. The magnesium moves directly into the blood and tissues, replenishing the body’s needed magnesium stores more quickly and bypassing the kidneys.
I keep this by my kids bedsides for nights when they're feeling particularly restless and having difficulty relaxing for a restful night's sleep: Ancient Minerals Topical
Start by increasing your intake of magnesium rich foods.
If you still have sore muscles, constipation, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, or other common symptoms of magnesium deficiency consider supplementation using one or more of the forms listed above.
If you're looking for a good quality source for supplements I highly recommend my Wellevate dispensary. I offer 10% off every product, all the time. No coupon codes or special deals needed. And all products are shipped directly from the manufacturer to ensure quality (not sure why this is important? Read my blog post on the dangers of bad supplements!).
As always, this is not medical advice, talk to your doctor about supplements and always talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your routine.