Magnesium is an essential mineral for human nutrition and recent studies show that up to 80% of Americans are deficient! Magnesium is involved in over 300 different processes including the synthesis of serotonin, energy metabolism, assisting in calcium and potassium uptake, aiding in white blood cell creation, and decreasing free radicals. You hear a lot about the need for Calcium, Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein but did you know that you need magnesium (Mg) to also be present for these power players to do their job?
Listing all of the interactions and reactions that involve magnesium would be enough to fill a book. Some of the top metabolic processes that magnesium plays a part in are described below.
Magnesium plays a structural role in bone density as well as in cell membranes and chromosomes. Specifically, for bone strength, magnesium assists in the metabolic uptake of calcium and potassium as well as the active transport of those ions across cell membranes. When blood levels of calcium are high, calcitonin is produced, and parathyroid hormone (PTH) is suppressed. These hormones regulate the levels of calcium in bones and tissues and in the circulating blood. PTH breaks down bones to increase blood levels and calcitonin stimulates bone repair and calcium storage within the bone matrix. High blood magnesium levels reduce PTH secretion. This regulation of bone catabolism is one way that magnesium may help prevent osteoporosis.
Through its role in ion transport systems, Mg affects the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and the normal rhythm of the heart. As mentioned, magnesium regulates the transportation of calcium in and out of cells. Calcium and sodium transport are the ions used to produce a regular heartbeat. It’s via this interaction that magnesium is related to heart health and nerve health. Studies show that magnesium deficient animals exhibit higher total cholesterol & triglycerides as well as atherosclerotic lesions. Magnesium balances calcium in muscle contraction and aids in the relaxation of muscles. A deficiency of magnesium can interfere with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses. This can lead to irritability and nervousness, headaches, dizziness, twitching, muscle weakness, PMS, and cardiovascular issues.
Magnesium is also important in relation to immunity and cellular health. It is crucial for the growth of white blood cells and decreasing the level of cell damaging free radicals in the body. When magnesium levels are low then the white blood cells are lowered resulting in a deficiency of one’s non-specific immunity. Inflammation can occur with a low magnesium diet due to the buildup of free radicals. Several antioxidants need magnesium to optimally function. In particular, glutathione requires magnesium for its synthesis. It is the antioxidant effects of magnesium that help to decrease signs of aging and inflammation.
Because of its varied roles, magnesium deficiency has varied symptoms including muscle pain, spasms, restless leg syndrome, headaches and migraines, insomnia and trouble staying asleep, fatigue and feeling week especially during exercise, depression, anxiety, trouble focusing and/or brain fog, thyroid and other hormonal imbalances and more.
Even though it can be found in many foods, most adults are still deficient in magnesium. Taking a quality supplement can help feed your cells and allow your body to function optimally. Supplements come in many forms; magnesium glycinate, citrate, malate, threonate, oxide, and/or chloride. When considering supplemental forms, the type you take should fit your need. Overall, magnesium glycinate or citrate-malate has the best bioavailability, but it’s not going to be the most helpful for bowel movements (straight magnesium citrate is best for BMs) or mood needs (like magnesium threonate or taurate). If you are having fatigue and chronic low energy than magnesium malate can be stimulating; too much so for some. This is not the form to take if you have insomnia (take glycinate for sleep).
Magnesium is most bioavailable from food sources. Most dietary magnesium comes from vegetables, particularly dark-green, leafy vegetables. Other foods that are good sources of magnesium are legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fruit. Soak your beans, legumes and nuts (and discard that soaking water) prior to cooking or eating to help remove phytates which can decrease Mg absorption.
Caffeine consumption stimulates Mg excretion through the urine, so does sugar and alcohol. The consumption of large amounts of fat, protein, supplemental calcium or vitamin D, cod liver oil, and foods high in oxalic acid decrease magnesium absorption. People who have kidney disease or severe heart disease should consult a physician prior supplementing with magnesium. Most importantly, let medical staff know if you are taking oral magnesium supplements, laxatives, or antacids prior to anesthesia.
My favorite magnesium supplement is Innate Response Magnesium 300 as it is a food-based magnesium complex.