A while ago I was out at dinner with friends and we had a great conversation about the wonders of magnesium – so much so we ended up nick-naming it magic-nesium! From everything to providing light and colour to pyrotechnics to feeding your garden to managing anxiety, migraines, headaches and muscle cramps, this mineral is truly magnificent! It also works with calcium to help maintain good bone density – 50% of magnesium in the body is stored in our bones! Of all the minerals I prescribe, magnesium is definitely top of the list and most often indicated.
Just can't get enough!
Magnesium is apparently lacking in New Zealand soils, along with selenium, iodine and zinc. In addition, coffee, stress and high exercise all burn it up! Research indicates many of us are lacking in this fundamental mineral with some conditions or situations making us even more depleted, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), type 2 diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and pharmaceutical diuretics.
Do I need to supplement?
Factors outlined above which cause depletion may be enough of a reason to consider supplementing. Certain conditions also indicate you could benefit from magnesium supplements, most commonly:
- restless legs
- cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure & heart palpitations
- pre-menstrual syndrome and period cramps
- muscle spasms & weakness
Another interesting thing about magnesium is that it can be both relaxing and energising! This is because it relaxes muscles, but it is also plays a vital role in making energy in the body by being a key nutrient in the ‘Krebs cycle’ which is a bio-chemical process the body undergoes constantly to convert food into energy.
Given that magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body it is not surprising this is such a highly sought after nutrient supplement that is used to treat such a wide range of conditions from anxiety to high blood pressure to PMT! If any of these sound like you, magnesium is worth a try, I have seen so many beneficial results with it. If your symptoms persist or don't completely clear up, there may be something else going on. We are complex beings!
How much should I take?
The daily supplemental dose generally ranges from 400mg - 1200mg.
It can take a few months for magnesium levels to be restored in the body so although you may feel results straight away, it is a good idea to keep taking it for at least a few months. Generally speaking, going for the magnesium chelates is going to give you superior absorption, although the citrate is pretty good too - but can cause loose stools (see below for more info). Also look at your diet and find ways of increasing magnesium in your diet – it is highest in leafy greens, avocados, nuts, seeds, cacao and dark chocolate, bananas, etc. I’ve provided some links to readable articles at the bottom of this page if you want to learn more.
All supplements come with a recommended dose on the bottle, however you may need to take more than this to get results. Although it doesn't happen too often, the most common side effect from taking magnesium is loose stools – if this happens cut back the dose, take in smaller doses throughout the day instead of one big dose at night, or try a different brand or type. Many brands will be specific for certain things such as insomnia, or muscle cramps, and will usually contain appropriate ‘co-factors’ - which are basically other nutrients that help make it work more effectively.
Here are some guidelines in dosing to give you an idea:
- Constipation: 400-800 mg magnesium citrate before bed
- Insomnia: 600-1200 mg before bed
- Migraines & menstrual migraines – 600 mg daily. May take up to 3 months to see results.
- Muscle cramps, eye twitches, restless legs: 600-1200 mg magnesium glycinate daily until the symptom is completely gone, then 600-1000 mg daily for several months.
- Period pain and/or PMT: 800-1200 mg daily for 3 days before your period starts, and for the first 2 days of your period
- Restless legs: make sure to take at least 600mg magnesium glycinate before bed each night.
- Sugar and/or chocolate cravings: 600-1200 mg magnesium glycinate daily
Which magnesium should I take?
It seems magnesium supplements could benefit just about everyone one way or another, but there are so many different types on the market, I want to help you understand which one is best for you.
TYPES OF MAGNESIUM'S
Foods high in magnesium
Remember that levels in food directly reflects soil quality, and the same food can vary in nutrient content depending on where it is grown and when it is harvested.
If you think you might be low in magnesium, start by trying to get some of these foods every day:
Cacao*, dark chocolate*, leafy greens, beans, black beans, edamame, avocado's, grains (poorly available), bananas, quinoa, nuts and seeds, natural yoghurt.
*PS - take care with chocolate and cacao if you suffer from migraine's - these foods aggravate migraine's and headaches in lots of migraine sufferers.
Magnesium Amino Acid Chelates — the highly absorbable magnesium's
The chelates (some examples below) are bound to multiple amino acids (proteins) and are very useful to restore magnesium levels as they are very absorbable. They tend to be my first go-to, although they tend to be a little more expensive, you will find them in good quality supplements in health stores in over-the-counter products or through your practitioner in practitioner-only products. Most products will contain a range of magnesium types, just make sure the majority is what you're looking for.
Magnesium glycinate is very absorbable and will get your magnesium levels up relatively quickly. It is less likely to cause laxative effects than some other magnesium supplements.
Usual dose is around 600 – 1000 mg daily.
Magnesium malate – energising, muscle soreness
Magnesium malate boosts energy levels and relaxes and soothes tense muscles. Also may help fibromyalgia patients.
Magnesium Orotate — these supplements have orotic acid, magnesium orotate is especially beneficial for cardiovascular support, also good for athletes.
Magnesium Chloride Oil
This has become increasingly popular recently, you can buy it in gels, roll-ons and sprays. It is useful for those who have digestive disorders that prevent normal absorption of magnesium from food and supplements. I'm not sure that it is as effective as the above for restoring levels in the body. You can also use it directly on sore muscles and to increase energy and endurance. Can feel a bit irritating on the skin.
Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts)
Epsom salts baths are epic! Put about half a cup in a bath, and soak for up to 20 minutes. Very relaxing. Alternatively, you can just soak your feet in a foot bath. Mix in calming essential oils such as lavender or chamomile for an even more relaxing experience.
THE LAXATIVE Magnesium's
If you are looking for a gentle laxative as well as a magnesium supplement, one of these may be just the ticket! These are best taken in the evening because this promotes a regular morning bowel movement, a healthy routine to get in the habit of. These should obviously be avoided if you tend to have a loose bowel.
Magnesium Citrate — laxative
This is the most highly recommended laxative magnesium. This has a laxative effect at higher doses - about 800g, at a lower dose it is helpful for supporting digestion and preventing constipation.
Magnesium Oxide – laxative
A non-chelated form which is poorly absorbed and not as effective as other types for restoring levels in the body. However, it is useful as an osmotic laxative, which means it softens stools by drawing water into the bowel. It is found in cheaper magnesium supplements.
Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) are a strong laxative that tends to produce a large volume of liquid stool and abdominal distention. Not recommended, or certainly should not be used too often – rather, the underlying causes of chronic constipation should always be investigated and treated more holistically through diet and lifestyle considerations such as adequate fluid intake, exercise and a diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegies. Fibre such as psyllium or ground flax seed is often helpful, as well as herbs specifically for stimulating bile production and promoting liver function such as dandelion or yellow dock root.
Sources & further reading: