Did you know that it’s estimated that as much as 80 percent of the U.S. population is magnesium deficient, making it one of the leading nutrient deficiencies? I guess I don’t have to tell you that’s a pretty high number, but just how important is it really?
Here’s what you need to know about the significance of this mineral and its impact on your health, plus an overview of top magnesium supplements for those looking to add them to their self care routine.
Let’s start with what part magnesium plays in the body.
Magnesium actually plays a very crucial role within our cells, assisting regulation of hundreds of biochemical reactions within the body, and affecting proper functioning of the nervous, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.This includes aiding in muscle contraction, including the heart, in order to support normal rhythm and blood pressure.
Let’s take a look at some very important ways these biochemical reactions that magnesium is vital for actually play out when it comes to the state of our health.
Top Health Benefits of Magnesium
Here are some of the ways that magnesium helps the body to function at an optimal level:
1. Regulates Calcium, Potassium, and Sodium Absorption
In conjunction with other electrolytes, magnesium helps to actively transport calcium and potassium across cell membranes making it vital for healthy nerve impulses and muscle contractions, including normal heart rhythms.
To stress the importance of magnesium as a calcium regulator – in certain cases, a high intake of calcium has increased the risk of calcification of the arteries, cardiovascular disease, and kidney stones when there is not enough magnesium present in the body to act as a regulator, so a sufficient amount is very important.
2. Supports Bone Health
Now that we know that magnesium is necessary to transport calcium where it needs to go, it makes sense that this includes the bones. This synergistic relationship makes both magnesium and calcium important for structural bone formation and healthy bone density, which is key to preventing osteoporosis.
Studies have shown the correlation between higher magnesium intake and bone mineral density, and that prevention of, or reversing osteoporosis is possible by increasing magnesium consumption and preventing deficiency.
Maybe you’ve noticed that most calcium supplements include magnesium, which is important to ensure that the calcium is properly metabolized. And if it doesn’t, it should be included separately to help with the uptake.
3. Supports Heart Health
Magnesium is very important for heart health for a few reasons. As mentioned earlier, the presence of sufficient magnesium, as well as, a healthy magnesium to calcium ratio is necessary to support cardiovascular health overall. It’s also vital to our muscles (and the heart is a big one), and for the transmission of electrical signals in the body.
What this equates to is reduced risk of high blood pressure/hypertension, fatty buildup or calcification of arteries, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, or stroke.
4. Relieves Aches and Spasms, Including Restless Leg Syndrome
Many people suffer from muscles aches, spasms, cramps, and RLS (restless leg syndrome) and the tangible effects of magnesium supplements helping to relax the muscles are well known. Again, this is due to magnesium’s contribution in assisting with neuromuscular transmission and aiding in healthy muscle contractions.
5. Regulates Nervous System (Calming and Anti-anxiety)
Magnesium is also a regulator of certain hormones that act to calm the brain and promote relaxation. It also plays a key role in assisting the function of the neurotransmitter GABA which is responsible for “happy or feel good hormones” like serotonin. Research has shown that magnesium deficiency altered gut microbiota and was associated with anxiety-like behavior.
In studies done on mice, they displayed enhanced anxiety-related behaviors when they became deficient in magnesium compared to mice given magnesium supplements. This appears to be related to the activation of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal) axis, a part of the brain that controls responses to stress and anxiety, which also caused an increase in the production of cortisol hormones.
6. Prevents/ Relieves Migraine and Tension Headaches
Regular magnesium supplementation can be beneficial for those who suffer with migraine and tension headaches. Many people experience a great improvement in symptoms along with a reduction in intensity, duration, and frequency. This is due to the ability of magnesium to reduce constriction of the blood vessels, which is typically the primary source of pressure and pain.
7. Alleviates PMS Symptoms
Adequate levels of magnesium, specifically when combined with vitamin B6 have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms such as mood swings, depression, bloating/water retention, breast tenderness, low back pain, headache, abdominal cramps, and insomnia.
8. Promotes Regularity
If you’ve ever taken magnesium and it made you go, then you’ve experienced first hand it’s ability to help keep you regular. This mineral helps to neutralize stomach acid and move stool through the intestines, and going back to the magnesium-muscle connection, also helps to relax the muscles within the digestive tract, including the intestinal wall, for smooth sailing.
9. Enhances Sleep Quality
When you combine the fact that healthy levels of magnesium are vital for calming the brain and promoting relaxation, and also lowering cortisol/stress levels, it’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together…it makes sense that adequate magnesium would be a factor for adequate sleep and less risk for insomnia.
Studies have shown improvement in falling asleep, sleep efficiency, sleep time, and easier awakening, probably largely in part due to higher concentrations of melatonin, and lower levels of cortisol.
Magnesium also plays an important role in glucose metabolism, making it beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity, an instigator of type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that a magnesium-rich diet may help protect against metabolic syndrome, also an instigator of diabetes and heart disease.
Another great benefit of magnesium is the activation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an organic chemical contained in the body that is used for energy transfer within the cells. This equates to fast conversion of nutrients into adequate energy to avoid fatigue and regulate the body’s internal clock. Less oxygen is required for activities, including exercise, which means better performance and faster recovery.
Magnesium Deficiency and Symptoms
When it comes to testing for a magnesium deficiency – bones, muscles, and soft tissues store the highest percent of the body’s total magnesium, with only a small concentrated in the blood, which can make test results difficult and even misleading.
Magnesium deficiency is often overlooked and rarely tested and when it is tested, typical methods include collecting blood, saliva, and urine samples, but the challenge is that none of these are considered completely comprehensive and accurate.
With that in mind, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency can be significant and certainly a reason to look further into magnesium supplement benefits.
Low levels of magnesium have been associated with a number of conditions and diseases, including:
- loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
- muscle weakness and cramps, and restless leg syndrome
- numbness and tingling
- nutrient deficiencies including calcium, potassium, vitamin K and B1
- migraine and tension headaches
- aggravated PMS symptoms
- mood swings, anxiety, and behavioral disorders
- sleeping trouble and insomnia
- heart muscle spasms and irregular heartbeat
- hypertension and cardiovascular diseases
- insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes
Reasons for Magnesium Deficiency + Factors That = More Risk
Just within the realm of normal everyday functions, the body naturally loses stores of magnesium that need to be regularly replenished. These include natural functions such as heartbeat, muscle movement, and hormone production.
A few more factors make magnesium deficiency common, including less availability in foods due to soil depletion, digestive disorders leading to gut malabsorption issues, including those brought on by high rates of prescription medication and antibiotic use, certain medical conditions, and lifestyle factors.
Here are the factors that are more likely to put you at risk for magnesium inadequacy, in which case you may want to seriously consider a high-quality magnesium supplement:
- gastrointestinal and gut malabsorption conditions
- long-term use of certain prescriptions
- type 2 diabetes
- older adults
- alcohol dependency
Unfortunately, even when consuming a healthy diet, there’s still a possibility of magnesium deficiency, so in order to reap the benefits of this crucial mineral, it’s important to eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods. Additionally, natural magnesium supplements, or magnesium oil can be a viable option when needed.
Here are some magnesium-rich foods:
- Swiss Chard
- Dark Chocolate
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Figs, dried
- Kefir or Yogurt
- Brussels Sprouts
What is the Recommended Daily Allowance of Magnesium?
According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), these are the current RDAs according to age and gender, depending on individual factors:
- Infants-6 months: 30 mg
- 7-12 months: 75 mg
- 1-3 years: 80 mg
- 4-8 years: 130 mg
- 9-13 years: 240 mg
- 14-18 years: 410 mg for men; 360 mg for women
- 19-30 years: 400 mg for men; 310 mg for women
- Adults 31 years and older: 420 mg for men; 320 mg for women
The Importance of the Type of Magnesium
Magnesium supplements come in variety of forms and the key thing to note is that the absorption rate and bioavailability varies depending on the particular type, as well as the delivery method, for example liquids, powders, capsules, etc.
- Magnesium Chelate – bound to amino acids for high absorption. It is used to replenish magnesium levels and found naturally in foods.
- Magnesium Citrate – combined with citric acid for high absorption. It can be especially beneficial for improving digestion and regularity, but may have a laxative effect in some cases when taken in high doses.
- Magnesium Glycinate – Highly absorbable for anyone with a known deficiency and chances of a laxative effect are less likely.
- Magnesium Threonate – can penetrate the mitochondrial membrane for high absorbability, but is more difficult to find.
- Magnesium Taurate and Orotate – combined with the amino acid taurine or orotic acid which is beneficial for the heart.
- Magnesium Chloride – can be found in internal supplements and topical magnesium products that can be applied to the skin for direct absorption. Commonly used by people with digestive and gut disorders who have a difficult time absorbing magnesium from food, by athletes to increase energy and endurance, those looking for relief from muscle pain, for calming properties, and to promote restful sleep.
- Magnesium Malate – bound to malic acid (which plays a key role in ATP synthesis and energy production) for high absorption. Good choice for combating fatigue and fibromyalgia.
The Not So Good
- Magnesium Oxide – poor absorption rate, as low as 4 percent. Studies have shown this form to be practically insoluble in water, whereas citrate, for example, has a high solubility rate. It can be used to ease constipation, acid reflux, and indigestion, but may also be irritating to the digestive tract.
- Magnesium Sulfate – widely known as Epsom salts, it’s great for topical use to soothe muscles and promote calm, but has lower levels of bioavailability and may be easily overdosed when taken internally, so it’s not recommended for regular internal use.
Before I share some highlights of the top 5 magnesium supplements I have had favorable results with, you’ll notice that 4 out of the 5 are either powders, liquids, or topical, since they are easiest to absorb, but if tablets suit your needs better the one that makes my list is a great high-quality choice.
What Are the Best Magnesium Supplements to Take?
- Ionic magnesium carbonate that when dissolved in hot water becomes activated into a highly absorbable form (this is my favorite for fast relief from leg cramps, sore muscles, and to promote restful sleep!)
- Contains 13 other nutrients to aid in magnesium’s absorption and utilization in the body
- Powder that mixes easily and comes in 3 great tasting flavors (raspberry lemonade, orange vanilla, and mixed berry)
- Suggested use: 1 scoop in 6-8 ounces of water daily
- GMP (good manufacturing practices) certified
- Non-GMO, vegetarian, free of gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar
- Magnesium carbonate and citric acid that when dissolved together in water become ionized or activated into a highly absorbable form of magnesium chelate
- Powder that mixes easily and comes in 6 great tasting flavors (raspberry lemon, lemon, cherry, orange, watermelon, and original)
- Suggested use: 2 teaspoons in 2-3 ounces of hot water daily, add more water once dissolved
- Non-GMO, vegan, free of gluten, dairy, sugar, yeast, and soy
- Magnesium chloride formulated by a process that transforms pure mineral crystals into a highly bioavailable ionic supplement
- Easy to take tasteless concentrated liquid that can be added to water or juice
- Gentle on the stomach
- Suggested use: 30 drops in 8 ounces water or juice daily
- Simply magnesium chloride and de-ionized water – nothing added
- Pure magnesium chloride from the ancient Zechstein seabed
- Rapidly absorbed, fast acting concentrated topical spray
- Can be applied directly to sore joints and muscles
- A few sprays go a long way making the bottle last a long time
- Just 3 ingredients – water, Zechstein magnesium chloride and natural trace minerals
- GMP (good manufacturing practices) certified
- 100% whole food magnesium with spinach for maximum bioavailability
- Gentle on the stomach vegetarian tablets
- Suggested use: 1 tablet daily, any time, even on an empty stomach
- Non-GMO, vegan, certified kosher, free of gluten, dairy, and soy
How Safe is Magnesium Supplementation?
Risks and side effects of magnesium supplements are rare when sticking to the proper dose. However, it is possible to take too much magnesium, overstimulate the bowels and cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. High levels in the blood can also lead to more serious effects such as low blood pressure and heart problems.
It’s important to be aware that magnesium supplementation may also interact with or alter the effects of certain types of medications, and decrease effectiveness of certain antibiotics when taken too closely together. Above all, if you are taking any medication it’s important to talk with your healthcare practitioner before starting a magnesium supplement.
Also, anyone with a kidney disorder should avoid magnesium supplements, unless advised by their healthcare practitioner.
As more benefits of magnesium continue to be discovered, it’s apparent that this mighty mineral is pretty important after all, for all kinds of vital functions in the body. I hope this helps you to make an informed decision as to whether or not a magnesium supplement is right for you, and if so, which one suits your needs the best.