Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, energy production, and bone health. High-energy organs in your body include the heart, brain, and liver. Despite its importance, magnesium deficiency is quite common and can have significant effects on our overall health and well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the prevalence of magnesium deficiency, discuss dietary sources rich in magnesium, and delve into different forms of magnesium supplements available on the market. So let’s dive in!
Section 1: Understanding Magnesium Deficiency
How common is Magnesium Deficiency?
Magnesium deficiency is more prevalent than you might think. In fact, it is estimated that around 50% of people in the United States and Europe are not meeting their daily magnesium requirements. Factors such as poor diet, certain medications, digestive disorders, and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to this deficiency. People with certain medical conditions and athletes require higher amounts than minimum daily recommendations.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Recognizing the symptoms of magnesium deficiency is crucial in addressing the issue promptly. Common signs include muscle cramps, fatigue, irritability, restless leg syndrome, poor sleep quality, and irregular heartbeat. Additionally, low magnesium levels may increase the risk of developing conditions such as osteoporosis, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Let’s focus on a few specific organ systems.
Muscle twitches, cramps, and tremors are signs of magnesium deficiency. If the deficiency is severe, enough seizures or convulsions may occur. Studies suggest these symptoms are caused by a greater flow of calcium into nerve cells, which overexcites or hyper-stimulates the muscle nerves. Just remember that there are other very common causes for involuntary muscle twitches including stress or excessive caffeine. Other causes include a side effect of some medications or a symptom of neuromuscular disease such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, or myasthenia gravis.
There are mental health conditions such as apathy with mental numbness or lack of emotion associated with low magnesium. Stress, depression and anxiety may be other signs of magnesium deficiency. One study suggests magnesium supplementation with a form of magnesium that is well absorbed into the brain may help (see supplementation section below). Magnesium supplementation may help with sleep as well. Magnesium contributes to the regulation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and GABA, which are involved in mood regulation and anxiety management.
Magnesium deficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disorder characterized by weak bones and an increased risk of bone fractures. Inadequate amounts of magnesium directly leads to weaker bones and lowers calcium levels, which is the main building block for the bones. Other nutrients that help support the bones include vitamin D and K.
Severe or persistent fatigue along with muscle weakness may indicate magnesium deficiency. Fatigue is a broad term and often refers to both physical or mental exhaustion and weakness. If rest and magnesium supplementation do not help with muscle weakness or fatigue, other considerations including infection, electrolyte abnormalities / low blood count, or thyroid issues may need to be examined.
Animal studies show that magnesium deficiency may increase blood pressure and promote high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for heart disease. Human studies may be on going but research reviews show that magnesium supplements may lower blood pressure, especially in people with high blood pressure.
Many people with asthma have magnesium deficiency. It has been shown that is common in people with severe asthma. Inhalers with magnesium sulfate can help reduce mild asthma symptoms while an intravenous form of magnesium sulfate can be effective for severe exacerbations. Dietary magnesium supplements may depend on the type and amount of absorption.
People with irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia may have magnesium deficiency the source or one of the sources for the problem. Arrhythmias can be without symptoms or be noted as palpitations that may be felt as pauses between heartbeats. In severe cases of arrhythmias, there may be an increased risk of stroke or heart failure.
Here is a table for the National Institutes of Health on the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium. Please note certain medical conditions may need adjustments and athletes may need more.
Section 2: Dietary Sources of Magnesium
To maintain adequate magnesium levels, incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet is essential. Here are some excellent sources of dietary magnesium:
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are not only rich in essential vitamins but also boast a good amount of magnesium. Adding these greens to your salads, smoothies, or sautés can provide a healthy dose of magnesium.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are fantastic sources of magnesium. Snacking on a handful of these nutrient-dense treats can boost your magnesium intake.
Opt for whole grain options like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread to increase your magnesium consumption. These grains also provide other valuable nutrients and dietary fiber.
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas offer a double benefit: they are rich in both magnesium and plant-based protein. Incorporating legumes into your meals can enhance your overall nutrient intake.
Yes, you read that right! Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (70% or more) can be a delicious source of magnesium. Enjoy a square or two guilt-free while boosting your mineral intake.
Section 3: Magnesium Supplements
When dietary sources alone are not sufficient, to meet your magnesium needs because of time constraints, a sensitive digestive tract, or to treat symptoms with optimal absorption, supplements can be a practical option. More active individuals and athletes may need more magnesium as well. Here are nine different forms of magnesium supplements:
This form of magnesium is highly bioavailable, meaning the body easily absorbs it. Magnesium citrate is often used to support digestion and relieve constipation. It works by attracting water into the intestines, softening the stool, and promoting bowel movements. This gentle yet effective mechanism makes magnesium citrate a popular choice for relieving constipation and restoring regularity. Magnesium citrate can also promote healthy gut motility, ensuring that food moves through the digestive system at an appropriate pace. This aids in the efficient breakdown of nutrients, absorption, and waste elimination, supporting overall digestive function.
Magnesium glycinate is known for its calming properties, making it an excellent choice for individuals with anxiety or difficulty sleeping. The body also easily absorbs it. Magnesium glycinate has shown promise in reducing anxiety symptoms by promoting a state of calmness. It interacts with the GABA receptors in the brain, enhancing GABA activity, which helps inhibit excessive neuronal activity and promote relaxation. This calming effect can contribute to a reduction in anxiety symptoms and an overall sense of tranquility. Consistency is key when incorporating magnesium glycinate into your routine. Establish a regular schedule for taking the supplement to ensure a steady supply of magnesium in your system. Additionally, consider taking magnesium glycinate in the evening, as its calming properties can support relaxation and sleep quality.
This form of magnesium is bonded to malic acid, which can support energy production and reduce muscle pain and fatigue. Magnesium malate is often favored by individuals with fibromyalgia. Magnesium supports energy production, muscle contraction, and the reduction of inflammation. Magnesium malate, a specific form of magnesium, offers unique benefits for relieving muscle-related symptoms. Magnesium malate has shown promise in alleviating muscle pain by promoting muscle relaxation and reducing inflammation. It supports the proper functioning of muscles and helps ease tension, reducing discomfort and improving overall muscle health. Magnesium malate plays a key role in energy production, helping convert food into usable energy for the body. By supporting optimal cellular energy production, it can help combat fatigue and enhance overall vitality. Establish a regular schedule for taking the supplement to ensure a steady supply of magnesium in your system. Consider taking magnesium malate with meals to enhance absorption and minimize any potential gastrointestinal discomfort.
Although magnesium oxide has a lower absorption rate, it contains a higher percentage of elemental magnesium. It is commonly used to address magnesium deficiency and alleviate symptoms like heartburn. Magnesium oxalate can help relieve heartburn by neutralizing excess stomach acid. It acts as an antacid, reducing the acidity in the stomach and minimizing the burning sensation in the chest. This can provide significant relief from the discomfort of heartburn. Magnesium oxalate supports proper digestion by assisting in the breakdown of food and improving overall digestive function. By promoting efficient digestion, it helps reduce the likelihood of acid reflux and subsequent heartburn episodes. In addition to its acid-neutralizing properties, magnesium oxalate has anti-inflammatory effects. It can help reduce inflammation in the esophagus, providing further relief from the discomfort associated with heartburn.
Magnesium L-threonate is known for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it a promising form for cognitive support and brain health. It may help improve memory and cognitive function. A formulation that was studied by MIT researchers that was found to increase memory by 100%. Magnesium threonate has shown potential in enhancing brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning and memory. It promotes the growth and strengthening of connections between brain cells, facilitating the formation and retrieval of memories. Magnesium threonate supports healthy neurotransmitter function, particularly in regions of the brain associated with memory and cognition. By optimizing neurotransmitter activity, it can enhance cognitive performance, including attention, focus, and information processing speed. As we age, cognitive function may decline. Magnesium threonate offers neuroprotective benefits, helping to counteract age-related cognitive decline. It supports brain health by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, and the buildup of harmful amyloid plaques associated with cognitive disorders.
Magnesium taurate is a combination of magnesium and the amino acid taurine. It is often used to support cardiovascular health and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Magnesium taurate supports blood pressure regulation by promoting vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels. It works by helping blood vessels relax and expand, reducing resistance to blood flow and contributing to healthy blood pressure levels. Magnesium taurate offers protective benefits for cardiovascular health. It helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the blood vessels, preventing damage to the arterial walls and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Magnesium is crucial for the proper functioning of cardiac muscles. It helps maintain normal heart rhythm, contraction, and relaxation, promoting optimal cardiac performance. To support blood pressure goals, take magnesium taurate consistently. It is generally recommended to divide the dosage throughout the day to maintain a consistent level of magnesium in the body. A personalized assessment is needed to determine the ideal timing and dosage for your specific needs.
Magnesium chloride is commonly used in topical applications such as magnesium oil or bath salts. It can be absorbed through the skin, making it an effective option for individuals with sensitive digestion or difficulty tolerating oral supplements. Factors such as food intolerances, gastrointestinal disorders, or compromised gut health may contribute to poor nutrient absorption. Transdermal absorption of magnesium chloride allows for direct delivery of magnesium into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system. This method ensures efficient absorption, making it an ideal option for individuals with sensitive digestive tracts. Transdermal absorption of magnesium chloride provides a convenient and effective means of replenishing magnesium levels. It can help address symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency, such as muscle cramps, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Magnesium chloride applied topically has the ability to relax muscles and alleviate tension. It can be beneficial for individuals experiencing muscle stiffness, soreness, or stress-related symptoms. Transdermal magnesium chloride can be applied in various forms, including sprays, lotions, or bath salts. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for application methods and recommended dosage. Start with a lower dosage and gradually increase as needed.
Also known as Epsom salt, magnesium sulfate is often used in baths to promote relaxation and relieve muscle soreness. It can be absorbed through the skin and provide a soothing effect. Relaxation is crucial for muscle recovery and overall well-being. Promoting relaxation can help reduce muscle tension, alleviate soreness, and improve flexibility. Transdermal absorption of magnesium sulfate allows for direct delivery of magnesium to the muscles. This method ensures efficient absorption and enables the magnesium to directly interact with the affected muscles, providing targeted relief. Magnesium sulfate helps relax muscles by reducing muscle contractions and releasing tension. Magnesium sulfate has a calming effect on the nervous system, promoting deep relaxation. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and promote a sense of overall well-being, enhancing the mind-body connection. One of the most popular methods of transdermal magnesium sulfate absorption is through a bath soak. Dissolve the recommended amount of Epsom salt in warm water and soak in the solution for 20-30 minutes. Allow your muscles to absorb the magnesium and experience the soothing effects For localized muscle soreness; you can create a topical paste by mixing magnesium sulfate with a small amount of water. Apply the paste to the affected area and gently massage it into the skin, allowing the magnesium sulfate to be absorbed directly into the muscles.
Magnesium orotate is a combination of magnesium and orotic acid, which is believed to enhance magnesium absorption at the cellular level. It is commonly used to support heart health and athletic performance. Magnesium orotate offers superior bioavailability and enhanced cellular absorption compared to other forms of magnesium. The orotate molecule acts as a carrier, facilitating the entry of magnesium into cells more efficiently. This enhanced absorption ensures that magnesium is readily available for essential cellular functions. Magnesium is involved in numerous physiological functions, including energy production, muscle contraction, nerve function, and protein synthesis. Adequate magnesium levels are essential for maintaining optimal health and performance. Magnesium orotate has been shown to benefit heart health by supporting cardiovascular function. It helps maintain normal heart rhythm, regulates blood pressure, and supports the health of blood vessels. These effects can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Magnesium orotate can support athletic performance by promoting muscle relaxation, reducing muscle cramps and fatigue, and optimizing energy production. It may contribute to improved exercise performance and enhanced recovery. It is generally recommended to divide the dosage throughout the day to maintain a consistent level of magnesium in the body. Timing the supplementation around meals can help improve absorption.
Section 4: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: Can I get enough magnesium from my diet alone?
A: While it’s possible to meet your magnesium needs through diet, many individuals struggle to consume enough magnesium-rich foods. People with certain medical conditions or athlete may need more magnesium. Supplementing with magnesium can help ensure you reach optimal levels.
Q2: Are there any side effects of taking magnesium supplements?
A: Magnesium supplements are generally safe for most people when taken as directed. However, high doses may cause digestive discomfort, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. It’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase as needed.
Q3: Can magnesium supplements interact with medications?
A: Magnesium supplements can interact with certain medications, including antibiotics, diuretics, and medications for osteoporosis or heart conditions. If you are taking any medications, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting magnesium supplements.
Q4: How long does it take to see the effects of magnesium supplementation?
A: The effects of magnesium supplementation vary depending on the individual and their specific needs. Some people may notice improvements in symptoms within a few days, while others may require several weeks. Consistency is key when taking any supplement.
Q5: Can I take multiple forms of magnesium supplements together?
A: It is generally safe to combine different forms of magnesium supplements. However, if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, it’s always best check in with your primary care provider for personalized advice.
Q6. Is it safe to take magnesium daily?
A: According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, the dietary allowance for magnesium in adults over 18 years old starts at 400 mg for males and 310 mg for females but decreases to 350 mg if you’re pregnant or 310 mg if you’re breastfeeding .Meanwhile, research has shown that daily consumption of upwards of 400–500 mg of magnesium through food and supplements combined (or just through food if you can) may be necessary to have an impact on sleep quality.
Q7. Are there any potential side effects of using magnesium citrate for constipation relief?
A: While magnesium citrate is generally safe for most individuals, some people may experience mild side effects such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, or nausea. It is important to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase as needed to minimize the risk of these side effects.
Q8: Can I obtain magnesium oxalate through dietary sources alone?
A: Magnesium oxalate is not typically found in dietary sources. While magnesium is present in various foods, magnesium oxalate supplements provide a concentrated and easily absorbable form of the mineral for targeted heartburn relief. However, incorporating magnesium-rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains into your diet can still contribute to overall magnesium intake and support digestive health.
Magnesium deficiency is a common issue that can have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being. By incorporating magnesium-rich foods into our diets and considering supplementation when necessary, we can ensure adequate magnesium levels and support various bodily functions. Remember to choose the form of magnesium supplement that aligns with your specific needs but a personalized health care assessment may be needed to adjust for the amounts and dosages. Certain medical conditions may require different forms, amounts, and routes of administration. More active individuals and athletes may need more magnesium. Prioritizing magnesium intake is a simple yet powerful step toward optimizing your health.
- National Institutes of Health. (2020). Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
- Nielsen, F. H. (2018). Magnesium, inflammation, and obesity in chronic disease. Nutritional reviews, 76(4), 295-307.
- Schwalfenberg, G. K., & Genuis, S. J. (2017). The importance of magnesium in clinical healthcare. Scientifica, 2017.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2020). FoodData Central. Retrieved from
The Real Gut Doctor
Helping clients with compassionate and comprehensive medical care for over 25 years with 5 board certifications in functional medicine, gastroenterology, internal medicine, anti-aging/ regenerative medicine, and obesity medicine. IFMCP, ABIM Gastroenterology, NPAS Internal Medicine, ABAARM, ABOM.