Did you know that almost half (48%) of the US population consumed less than the required amount of magnesium from food in 2005-2006? Estimated to be even higher today, magnesium deficiency may be the root cause of many health problems.
According to research, longer-term low magnesium intakes and blood levels have been associated with:
- type 2 diabetes
- metabolic syndrome
- elevated C-reactive protein
- atherosclerotic vascular disease
- sudden cardiac death
- migraine headache
- colon cancer
Chronic magnesium deficiency has also been linked to:
- kidney stones
- blood clots
- inflammatory bowel disease
- numbness and tingling
- high cholesterol
In addition to these long-term health problems, there are short-term symptoms associated with low magnesium levels like:
- muscle spasms from feet and leg cramps
- chest pain
- feeling constantly tired or weak
- anxiety and edginess
- loss of appetite
- quick exhaustion during exercise
I explain these symptoms in greater depth in this article.
Why are we so deficient?
If that list of symptoms seems long, it is for good reason. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme functions in your body related to the structure and function of your body. You can see why having a deficiency would cause such a large number of health problems.
There are many reasons we are so deficient in magnesium, the first being the food we eat is grown in soil that is deficient. Poor soil quality is a result of modern farming techniques and one way to ensure more mineral dense produce is to either grow it yourself or buy local organic goods.
Other common reasons for our magnesium deficiency are poor quality food (eating packaged products and nothing fresh), a toxic burden from our environment, high sugar intake and, of course, stress. Check out this video where I talk more about magnesium deficiency.
According to Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride (the founder of GAPS diet), we need 56 molecules of magnesium to metabolize one molecule of sugar. Given that most of us (unknowingly) are consuming way more sugar than we should, magnesium deficiency is not a surprise.
Need some low-sugar recipes, check out my collection here.
Magnesium acts as a spark plug for the adrenals which help us manage stress – from minor daily issues to major life events such as death, financial, relationship or work challenges. Given our stressful lives, it’s no surprise we run through magnesium so quickly. To read more about adrenal fatigue, read my article here.
Fixing a deficiency with food
If you have followed me for a while, you know that I’m a big proponent of using food as the first and primary way of managing your health and fixing nutritional deficiencies.
Get more delicious healing recipes and learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in Cooking for Hormone Balance.
Here is the list of foods high in magnesium, based on 1 cup:
- Rice bran – 922 mg
- Pumpkin seeds – 764 mg
- Sesame seeds – 518 mg
- Brazil nuts – 500 mg
- Almonds – 430 mg
- Cocoa – 429 mg
- Lima beans (uncooked)- 399 mg
- Buckwheat (uncooked) – 393 mg
- Cashew nuts – 356 mg
- Spirulina – 218 mg
- Hemp seed (hulled) – 210 mg
- Walnuts – 185 mg
Depending on your deficiency level, you might need 200 to 800 mg of magnesium per day. Take a look at the above foods. To get, for example, 400 mg of magnesium per day, you might need to consume a ½ cup of pumpkin seeds or a cup of almonds per day. For some people, that’s totally doable. For others, it’s not. This is when supplementation becomes helpful and even necessary.
If you are doing the AIP diet, all of the above foods (expect spirulina) are off-the-list for you. Supplementing with magnesium is ever so important then for you.
Keep reading for my supplement recommendations.
What is the right dose (not RDA)?
The latest magnesium RDA is 400-420 mg/day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women. In my experience, women who are deficient need higher doses. The RDA is slow to change their recommendations and take a long time to correct the symptoms of hormonal imbalances.
The practice among functional healthcare practitioners is to dose up on magnesium until we experience loose stool.
Everyone’s maximum dose will be different based on individual bowel tolerance and magnesium stores. For example, you start with 100 to 120 mg per day and your stool is either normal, lose or you may still experience constipation. Go up to 400, 600 and then, let’s say at 800 mg per day you start to experience loose stool. Back off to 600 mg per day or until you stool is solid and healthy.
Understanding its various forms
In an effort to increase magnesium levels, many have chosen to supplement with capsules, tablets, powders or topicals to improve health and reduce symptoms related to conditions. But, not all forms of magnesium work the same – the following will help you pick the right form for you and clear up the confusion about which one to use for your specific needs.
Magnesium Bisglycinate (also known as magnesium chelate, magnesium di-glycinate, magnesium glycinate) is a highly absorbable form of magnesium chelated to two molecules of the amino acid glycine.
“Chelated” forms of a mineral mean that an amino acid has been attached to them making them a very stable form of magnesium that is less likely to cause gastrointestinal symptoms and reduces the laxative effect.
Glycine is a calming amino acid and is the best choice for a chelate because it is the smallest amino acid giving it the greatest absorption potential. This form of magnesium allows for larger amounts of magnesium to be absorbed more quickly and be better retained by the body, as compared to other forms. This form of magnesium delivers 8.9 mg of magnesium per 100 mg of the product (8.9% bioavailable) that is chelated with 55 mg glycine.
Do your research when buying this form and make sure you are purchasing from a company using a pure form, as some may be buffered with cheaper forms of magnesium that are poorly absorbed. My favorite and recommended form of magnesium is from our very own line of supplements called Hormone Balance Nutritionals.
Try it here: Magnesium Replenish
Magnesium glycinate is great for anyone wanting to supplement without having a laxative effect, and it is particularly great for calming and relaxing the body.
Magnesium Citrate is another chelated type of magnesium bound to citric acid. This form of magnesium is about 30% bioavailable, but it pulls water into the bowels giving it more of a laxative effect, which some may like if suffering from chronic constipation.
Citrate is the type of magnesium given in a liquid form to patients to cleanse the bowels before a colonoscopy, so it’s no joke that loose bowels may be an issue. This form does offer a decent bioavailability but the laxative effects prevent getting therapeutic amounts for most, and the citric acid may cause bladder discomfort for those irritated by acidity.
If you feel depleted in magnesium (based on the symptoms) and struggle with chronic constipation, here is the form of magnesium citrate I recommend: Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Citrate.
Magnesium Malate is a type of magnesium bound to malic acid. Malic acid is a compound naturally found in fruits in vegetables and when bound to magnesium, creates magnesium malate. Malate is involved in your body’s Krebs Cycle, which is where energy is created for your cells. For those having issues with energy production, a magnesium malate supplement may be effective for helping with chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fibromyalgia. No surprise, this form may be too stimulating for some and may disrupt sleep, especially when taken at night (I had this experience first hand!).
If you feel depleted in magnesium (based on the symptoms) and struggle with chronic fatigue, here is the form of magnesium malate I recommend.
Magnesium Threonate is a form of magnesium chelated to threonic acid, a metabolite of vitamin C. This form of magnesium in comparison to others was created to cross the blood-brain barrier. Animal models using magnesium threonate have shown that an increase in brain magnesium enhances how much time it takes for neurons to fire information, and this may improve learning and memory functions. So, you can see why this form of magnesium chelate may be beneficial for age-related cognitive decline.
The suggested dose is 2,000 mg of magnesium Threonate which delivers only 144 mg of magnesium, which is a small amount, but the animal study showed when loading this type of magnesium on the brain, the best way is with low dosing.
This would not be the form to take if trying to replenish magnesium levels in the body.
Magnesium oxide contains a lot of magnesium by weight but has a bioavailability of only 4%. Translated, this means a 100 mg tablet would have 4 mg of magnesium. The low absorption rate coupled with the high laxative effect of this magnesium makes this a poor choice.
This form is found in many magnesium supplements and should be avoided. Therefore, I have no brands to recommend here. I’ve also found that many MLM (multi-level marketing companies) use this form of magnesium in their product line-ups.
Magnesium Chloride is a form of magnesium for topical use. The skin is a great way to increase magnesium levels and bypass using the gut – this is especially beneficial for people with IBS (or leaky gut) who suffer from malabsorption of nutrients.
As magnesium is difficult to absorb in high levels no matter what kind you use, a topical form can be an amazing way to add more magnesium to your body.
For anyone having difficulty taking oral magnesium due to laxative effects, malabsorption reasons or inability to take therapeutic levels, topical is the way to go. Many of our program participants have reported fantastic results using this form of magnesium; from pain reduction, feeling calmer, to deeper/longer sleep.
You can purchase magnesium salts (in chloride form) in two forms:
- Salt crystals Ancient Minerals – dissolve in hot water until full saturation is reached (meaning, you can’t dissolve any more crystals). Transfer to a spray bottle and use right away. This is a highly economical solution.
- Quick Magnesium– a ready-made liquid magnesium oil – which is a ready-made version of the above, just less work for you.
Recommended application locations are chest, upper arms, and feet.
When I was going through post-surgery rehab (I had a double hip replacement in August 2017), I used the Quick Magnesium solution mentioned above.
Additionally, Epsom salts containing magnesium sulfate can be added to a bath as another way to increase the body’s levels of magnesium via the skin. Note that people with certain genetic mutations to processing sulfur, don’t do well with Epsom salts.
What has your experience been with magnesium? What form worked for you? What has not? Share with us, I always love to hear from our readers!