Magnesium (Mg) is one of my favorite supplements. It is responsible for over 300 enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions in our bodies such as but not limited to: muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, blood glucose control. It is also responsible for energy production, it contributes to structural development of bones and is required for synthesis of DNA and RNA. Magnesium (Mg) plays a major role in active transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes which is vital for nerve impulse conduction, normal heart rhythm and muscle contraction.
According to The National Academy of Science about 80% of North Americans are magnesium deficient. In 1900s an average person consumed about 500 mg of magnesium per day, today that number is barely at 200 mg per day. Why such drastic change in just 100 years? There are several reasons for this: depletion of soil due to mono-cropping and chemical use, processing of the food removes most of the nutrients, preservation practices, food coloring and a variety of additives rob the foods of Mg content. Did you know that there are certain medications prescribed by your medical doctor that can also deplete your body of magnesium? Such medications are acid blockers, antacids (I see people popping Rolaids like they are candy), antibiotics (including but not limited to amoxicillin, Keflex, Cipro etc.), blood pressure medication, antiviral agents, cholesterol medications, hormonal therapies and immunosuppressant medications. I bet if you are taking one of these medications you didn’t even know they had a negative impact on your magnesium levels.
Because your body will do everything and anything to keep the vital organs functioning properly it WILL “pull” any extra Mg that you managed to store in the tissue and thus the first symptoms that you will experience are (most often) cramping of the muscles. The very early signs that your body is Mg deficient include: leg cramps, foot pain, muscle or eye twitching, constipation, headaches, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), Blood Pressure irregularities.
In my practice I see more and more clients who are suffering from the migraines, they are often prescribed very harsh medications that can be damaging to other organs such as liver and the gut. But, according to several studies done on Mg and the prevalence of migraines “the use of magnesium in both acute and preventative headache treatment has been researched as a potentially simple and inexpensive, safe and well-tolerated option”. Also, “there is a strong evidence that magnesium deficiency is much more prevalent in migraine sufferers than in healthy individuals.” The statistics state that about 50-60% of all migraine sufferers are magnesium deficient! This is HUGE!
From personal experience, I used to live with almost daily migraines- the more I stressed the worst I ate the more intense my migraines were. It was not until I started to heavily and regularly supplementing with Mg that I felt the relief.
Do you know of anyone who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia? Guess what, these people are also magnesium depleted! In order for your doctor to diagnose fibromyalgia everything else needs to be ruled out. Once other conditions are ruled out the doctor will test the patient for trigger points and if the patient scores high on the test, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is hen assigned to the exhausting and painful condition. There are 18 trigger points (currently known) that seize up and become very hard, “radiating pain starts in surrounding muscular areas, because they are contracted so hard that they technically cut off blood supply”. There is strong evidence suggesting that by taking magnesium PRIOR to a deep tissue massage and then right after it will help “unlock” the spasms and allow for better blood circulation into the tissue, releasing the trigger points and thus decreasing the symptoms of fibromyalgia!
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as a secondary to Multiple Sclerosis in 2015, my neurologist have NEVER mentioned that Mg can help the needless suffering. I have been taking Mg every single day since the day I have been diagnosed and I find a significant relief in fibromyalgia symptoms!
I would say that close to 96% of all the clients I see suffer from constipation. It is such a big deal that I even wrote a blog on healthy bowel movements, if you want to read more, check it out.
You should be having at least 2 bowel movements a day. My general rule is if you eat 3 main meals, then you should be having 3 bowel movements! To me it is unacceptable when the client tells me they only “go once a week” . So here is how Mg can help you release the waste from your body: It is needed for normal muscle function including intestinal muscles. By gently relaxing intestinal muscles, it allows for the waste to be removed. Frequent use of laxatives leads to mineral loss (yes including magnesium!) which creates CHRONIC constipation. It is a viscous circle!
Diabetes, Blood Pressure and Metabolic syndrome
When our bodies are insulin resistant it can lead to many-many health problems, such as diabetes, blood pressure irregularities, increased LDL (bad) cholesterol, increased inflammation (if you want to read more about chronic inflammation check it out here), increased plaque formation and so on.
Magnesium enhances insulin secretion; it activates insulin and increases insulin sensitivity (it is a good thing!). Low magnesium worsens Type 2 Diabetes and supports insulin resistance.
Magnesium has a very relaxing effect on your body and that’s why I always recommend taking magnesium before bed for a more restful, relaxing sleep. Deficiency in Mg leads to more stimulation (less relaxation). Also, in order for Tryptophan to convert to 5 HTP (which is a precursor for melatonin and serotonin) it requires sufficient amount of Mg (along with some other vitamins and minerals), so that mean when there is not enough Mg your body is not producing enough melatonin/serotonin and therefore it leads to insomnia.
What type of magnesium to take?
There are a variety of different magnesium formulations available on the market now. Let’s quickly talk about them:
- Mg Oxide – it remains mostly in the gut and therefore has laxative effect, barely absorbed by the body
- Mg Citrate – slightly better absorbed, however it is a very strong laxative. If you ever went for a colonoscopy you most likely drank a mixture that helped you release the waste from your colon. Citrate is an organic (metabolic waste) acid and that is something you want to keep to a minimum.
- Mg Malate – also an organic acid (metabolic waste) and absorbability is very close to Mg Citrate.
- Mg Glycinate – unlike the Citrate and Malate (acids), this Mg is bound to L-Glycine which is an amino acid which takes Mg by “the hand” and carries it through the intestinal wall into the blood stream and tissue. This is the highest absorbable form of magnesium. This is the Mg that I take and recommend to my clients.
How to dose
Although there will be a “recommended dose” on the bottle I always teach clients to do a bowel tolerance test.
*just like with any other supplement, please speak to your health care professional prior to introducing it into your daily routine*
Here is how to dose to bowel tolerance:
- First night you will take the recommended dose and note how you feel (sleep, bowel movements) the next morning/day.
- Next day and the days after you will increase your dose by ONE capsule UNTIL you have runny stools (diarrhea) in the morning. This means you have reached your max dose.
- REPEAT the max dose the following evening and if you still have diarrhea, the following night DECREASE the dose by ONE capsule.
- Stay on this dose until THIS dose becomes too much and you are having loose stools again. Taper down by a capsule as needed.
*I have clients who take 20 capsules a night, it is ok for them. Remember we are all biochemically individual and therefore have specific needs. Do what works best for YOU.
Remember that it takes a while to build up the magnesium stores in your body, so you have to take it every night to experience the benefits.
- The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Carolynn DeanNational Research Council, 1989 Magnesium, PO Wester, MD, 1987
- Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine. Expert Rev Neurother. 2009 Mar; 9(3): 369-79
- Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J. Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012 May; 119(5):575-9.
- Cyrus Kuhzarani, R.Phm, 2016 Sep. Magnesium presentation.