Magnesium, Essential to Health

Sometimes in medicine tough problems have simple solutions. Those of us who practice integrative medicine have a profound respect for the wisdom of these bodies we inhabit. We see over and over that despite all the things that can go wrong in these wondrously intricate bodies, more often than not things go right. We see that our bodies have an innate drive to heal, to be right and balanced. We find that if we can re-supply a key ingredient that is missing, or take away an ingredient that is foreign or in oversupply, the body’s innate wisdom will often take over and set things into harmonic, healthy balance.

One of these simple solutions for tough health problems is to re-supply to an ailing body an essential mineral nutrient such as magnesium. I’ve seen blood pressures drop, migraines dissolve, asthmatic’s wheezing calm down, irregular heart rates regulate, energy levels perk up, frayed nerves soothed, pains in legs ebb away, all with intravenous infusions of magnesium given in our office.  Similar benefits can be had with the re-supplementation of oral magnesium–it just takes longer.

Thousands of studies over the past 40 years have shown that other health conditions influenced by magnesium deficiencies include heart disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, constipation, angina, anxiety, muscle spasms, cholesterol imbalances, noise-induced hearing loss, osteoporosis, Raynaud’s, PMS, and TMJ.

Magnesium supplementation can provide an impressive array of health improvements simply because it is an essential nutrient to more than 300 critical metabolic reactions and many of us are deficient in this mineral. Deficiencies can be due to lack of intake because of refined foods or because of factors that reduce absorption or increase the excretion of magnesium (alcohol, surgery, diuretics, high calcium intake, coffee, sodas, insulin, refined carbohydrates and stress).

Some studies have suggested that 25-50% of the US population has sub-optimal dietary magnesium. Simple blood tests will often miss all but the worst magnesium deficiencies because magnesium is primarily found inside the cell, not in the serum. A more sensitive test of one’s magnesium status is the levels of magnesium within the red blood cell or within cells scraped from the inner cheeks.

The Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium in adults is 270 to 400mg per day, with higher requirements for teenagers and pregnant or lactating women. To get as much magnesium as possible in the diet, eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, nuts, meat, and fish. Magnesium is generally very well tolerated but anyone with kidney disease should talk to their medical practitioner before taking any extra magnesium supplements.

The most common but benign side effect of taking magnesium supplements can be looser stools.There are many forms of magnesium.  If you take magnesium supplements that are “chelated” versus oxide, chloride and sulfate forms, there’s less chance of loose stools. If muscle soreness or fatigue is a predominant symptom try magnesium malate1250mg twice a day; if anxiety is a prominent symptom you might try magnesium glycinate 300mg twice a day; if palpitations are prominent consider using magnesium taurate; magnesium l-threonate (Magtein) particularly supports cognition and brain health.

Usually it takes at least 6 weeks to achieve significant elevations in tissue magnesium concentrations. Vitamin B6 increases the intracellular accumulation of magnesium and works together with it in many bodily functions.

Calcium is the nutritional headliner but keep in mind that if magnesium levels are low then calcium cannot be properly utilized by the body. Vitamin D also needs magnesium to absorb calcium. Some experts recommend getting adequate magnesium before starting calcium supplements. Then aim for a 1:1 to a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium.

Balance your supplementation with a good multivitamin/mineral so as to not throw other minerals out of kilter. Most importantly, balance is best achieved by eating organically raised foods, rich in vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and natural proteins whether they be plant or animal derived.