BY DAVID LARSON, MD
Magnesium is an essential mineral and a cofactor in over 300 essential metabolic reactions in the body, helping muscles to relax, stabilizing neuronal cell membranes, creating new nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins, and playing a key role in cell signaling and energy production. It is present in all tissues of your body, but especially in your bones, muscles, blood vessels, and brain.
There are nearly 4000 peer reviewed articles on the impact of magnesium deficiency. Some of the problems associated with magnesium deficiency that can benefit with magnesium replacement include:
- Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke: In one study of 42 patients with coronary artery disease who were already taking low-dose aspirin, three months of oral magnesium supplementation (800 to 1,200 mg/day) resulted in an average 35% reduction in platelet-dependent thrombosis (blood clots that lead to a heart attack and stroke)
- Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Premature Ventricular Contractions, Premature Atrial Contractions)
- Inflammation and higher hs-CRP levels (which has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia).
- High blood pressure (studies have shown magnesium to be able to lower systolic blood pressure by 18 points and diastolic blood pressure by 10 points!)
- Decreased Bone Density (if you have a magnesium deficiency, your vitamin D level may not rise even if you take supplements, and if it does rise it may not help you to strengthen bones to treat osteopenia or osteoporosis)
- Elevated Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes
- Stress, Anxiety, and even Bipolar Disorder.
- Insomnia and Non-Restorative Sleep.
- Muscle spasms, cramps, and muscle twitching.
- Migraine headaches
Am I Deficient?
National survey studies suggest that magnesium deficiency is quite common in the US, and when you look at the magnesium content in common foods, it’s easy to see why we aren’t getting the RDA of 400-420 mg/day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women. If you look at the magnesium content in common foods it’s easy to see why…When was the last time you consistently ate over 3 cups of spinach/day, or over 4 cups of Brown Rice, or 13 bananas! In addition to not getting enough from the diet, many groups of people have conditions that lead to decreased intestinal absorption of magnesium and increased losses of this precious mineral in the urine. The conditions and behaviors that put you at ADDITIONAL risk of deficiency are:
- Age over 50
- Consumption of alcohol, coffee, dark sodas
- Prolonged stress
- Diuretics (water pills), antibiotics, and other prescription medications.
- Elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia or diabetes)
- Intestinal illness such as leaky gut, food allergies, celiac disease, and GERD)
This is all complicated by the fact that to absorb vitamin D from our intestines, we not only need enough in our diet, but also need enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium in our system as well!
Unfortunately we don’t have an easy way to test for magnesium deficiency, because blood levels represent only 1% of total body stores of magnesium, and even mild deficiency can cause symptoms and impair you from experiencing optimal health. That said, we still often check blood levels because if your blood levels of magnesium are low, this indicates a severe deficiency.
What Can I Do?
- Stop Depleting Your Stores of Magnesium:
- Limit coffee, colas, salt, sugar, and alcohol
- Control stress by practicing active relaxation daily.
- Eat Foods High in Magnesium–list of foods here
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts
- Greens: Spinach, collards, dandelion greens.
- Sea Vegetables: kelp, dulse.
- Take a Daily Magnesium Supplement: Most people benefit from 400mg – 1,000mg of magnesium per day. There are many types of magnesium, and the form of magnesium matters.
- Avoid the most common (and cheapest) forms of magnesium (magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide). These aren’t absorbed well in the GI track and can lead to diarrhea.
- If you suffer from constipation, an excellent choice is magnesium citrate which is both highly absorbable, and also can soften stools. Start at 300-400 mg at bedtime, and if you don’t have at least 1 soft bowel movement per day after 1 week, increase the dose to 400 mg twice a day.
- If you don’t suffer from constipation, use magnesium chelate (bound to a Kreb cycle intermediate such as malate, succinate, or fumarate), or magnesium glycinate. Start by taking 200-400 mg at bedtime along with your multivitamin (since this will help with absorption).
- Another excellent option is to get magnesium through the skin with a Epsom salt bath (add 2 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup Baking Soda, 1 tsp lavender essential oil to as hot of a bath as you can tolerate and soak at least 20 minutes).
- If you have chronic kidney disease (eGFR <60), or severe congestive heart disease, talk to myself or Dr. Rice before taking any magnesium supplements.
I personally take Magnesium Chelate 300mg twice a day and have noticed the benefits in terms of increased relaxation, decreased blood pressure, easier recovery from strength training, and improved sleep quality.
I invite you to commit to healthy magnesium stores and enjoy the many benefits of this miracle for yourself!