Updated: Oct 27
Magnesium deficiency is one of the main deficiencies in many adults, yet it's one of the top most important mineral for the body as its being used by more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. In this blog post I will cover, what are magnesium benefits for the body, from what foods can you get it and what type of magnesium to choose depending on what you want to achieve.
Why do you need magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral and an electrolyte and it's needed for:
supporting function of your muscles, nerves and body tissue
helping you to fall asleep and also treating insomnia
regulating your blood pressure
keeping your bones strong and helps to prevent osteoporosis
neutralising your stomach acid
helping to move stools through the intestine to prevent constipation
increasing your energy levels and making sure you get enough oxygen into your body when exercising
calming nerves and anxiety as not enough magnesium in the body can raise your cortisol levels
supporting treatment of asthma symptoms
regulating levels of potassium and calcium, where magnesium transports calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes (important for bones)
prevention of migraine headaches
libido and fertility
protecting your body from onslaught of toxins and free radicals
Your kidneys control the levels of magnesium and excrete it into the urine. As the body uses magnesium every day for normal functions like muscle movement, heartbeat, hormone production, we can easily become depleted if we don't focus on making sure we receive it from the food we eat or through supplements.
Magnesium is naturally present in several foods, synthetically added to some food products , and available in supplement form. It’s also found in some of the over-the-counter medicines, such as laxatives and antacids.
Why do we get depleted of magnesium?
Digestive disorders that cause malabsorption of magnesium and other types of minerals in your gut
Depleted soil (less minerals)
High rates of antibiotic use and use of other prescription drugs
If you have issues with liver, kidneys, experience frequent vomiting or have had heart failure
Eating highly processed foods
Certain medications like proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux (Nexium, Zantac, Prilosec etc), statins, blood pressure medications, diuretics etc.
How do you know you are deficient of magnesium?
Some of the symptoms that occur when you are deficient:
Muscle, weakness, aches and spasms
Anxiety and mood swings
Sleep problems and insomnia
Restless leg syndrome
High blood pressure and heart palpitations
Kidney and liver issues
Eclampsia and pre-eclampia
Fungal infections and recurrent bacterial infections due to suppressed immune system
Worsened PMS symptoms
Nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin K2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B, as magnesium level of absorption is connected to the levels of these vitamins. Also high levels of vitamin D could lower magnesium stores in the body.
How can you detect your current magnesium levels?
It's difficult to assess your magnesium levels as most magnesium is inside your bones and cells and not in your blood. That's why hoping to get the understanding of your magnesium levels from your blood does not work. There is no way of getting 100% accurate results, but the most common method is by measuring serum magnesium concentrations in your blood or by measuring concentrations in your saliva and urine.
How much magnesium do we need?
Even though compared to other nutrients we need magnesium in small amounts, we must replenish our magnesium stores on a regular basis- mainly from food, but also supplementing if and where needed (older adults, people under a lot of stress, athletes). The amount that's needed, really depends on the person, current state of health. It's not really possible to consume too much magnesium from food as what the body doesn’t need is flushed out in the urine. It's can be possible to overdose with supplements though it's rare- best to follow the guideline on the supplement bottle and pull back if you experience diarrea.
Foods that contain magnesium
I list here magnesium rich foods, sorting them from highest to lowest depending on the amount of magnesium you get from the food. A good guideline is that if a food contains dietary fibre, it also probably contains magnesium.
Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard)
Legumes (black beans, mung beans)
Magnesium supplements are available in different forms and their absorption rate and bioavailability differs. When purchasing magnesium supplements, make sure you choose the right one depending what your body needs at what stage or day of your life. Usually the ones that need to be dissolved in water are better absorbed in the gut.
For constipation you need magnesium that does not absorb well in the body, which include:
Magnesium Oxide- most poorly absorbed magnesium and therefore not good to use for magnesium deficiencies, but can be used for short-term of relief of heartburn, indigestion and constipation
Magnesium Citrate- contains magnesium and citric acid (for short term use), easily absorbed by the body and good for constipation
The above magnesium supplements are great to take along when you travel and have long-haul flights to aid with digestion due to long hours of sitting. All of these can have laxative effect when taken in high doses so pull back when this occurs.
For increasing your magnesium levels in the body and calming your nerves, plus have less laxative effects on the body
Magnesium Glycinate (also called Magnesium Biglycinate, Magnesium Diglycinate)- easily absorbed, aids with sleep, leaky gut and great for nerve pain. Best for anyone with deficiency.
Magnesium Chelate- found in the foods naturally and highly absorbable. It bounds to multiple amino acids.
Magnesium Lactate- easily absorbed by the body and gentler on the digestive system that other types of magnesium, so good for those people who need to take larger doses.
For muscle aches and pains, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms
Magnesium Chloride- most bioavailable form of magnesium, typically found in sea water. You can get it in a capsule or tablet form, but also in oil form and apply on skin to relieve muscle soreness
Magnesium Malate- contains magnesium and malic acid, which is a key component in energy production in the body.
For brain health, memory, learning, sleep, brain injuries and ADD
Magnesium L- Threonate (Magtein) or Magnesium Glycinate
For cardiovascular health and energy production in the heart
Magnesium Taurate and Magnesium Orotate- great to use with heart palpitations, high blood pressure, high blood sugar
Epsom salt (also known as Magnesium Sulfate)
A great way to get your magnesium levels up is to enjoy a bath with Epsom salt. Helps with sore and aching muscles and good for general detox of the body.
The best time to take mineral supplements like magnesium is right before bed or have half a dose in the morning and half a dose in the evening.
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