Magnesium is a vital mineral that our bodies need for literally hundreds of functions. It is needed for energy production and to maintain normal nerve and muscle function. It can help regulate other nutrients in the body such as calcium, potassium, zinc and vitamin D. It supports a healthy immune system, helps maintain a healthy heart rate and helps keep bones strong. It also helps to regulate hormones and glucose levels and is involved in more than 300 enzyme systems in the body. Despite its importance in so many biochemical functions in the body it is believed about 80% of the western population is magnesium deficient (Dean 2017, Mercola, 2013, National Institute of Health, 2016).
Whilst some people can maintain the required levels of magnesium by regularly consuming foods high in magnesium (see below), others may need to add in additional sources of magnesium in order to maintain healthy levels of the mineral in their diets. Factors that may prevent you from obtaining enough magnesium from your diet include:
Medications Certain medications (including some antibiotics and diuretics) taken long term can decrease the available magnesium in your body (Arayne, Sultana & Hussain, 2005) and (Sarafidis, Georgianos & Lasaridis 2010).
Ageing As we age, magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and renal excretion of magnesium increases (Musso, 2009). Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases or take medications that alter their magnesium levels and can further increase risk of magnesium deficiency.
Gastrointestinal Diseases Gluten sensitivity, Chron’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases that result in diarrhoea and fat malabsorption leads to a loss of magnesium in the body (Rude, 2010).
Type 2 Diabetes Type 2 diabetics and insulin resistant individuals are at risk of magnesium depletion due to increased urinary output (Chaudhary, Sharma & Bansal, 2010) and (Tosiello 1996).
Types of Food Minerals and other nutrients are transported from the soil to the plants that grow in the soil. Non-organic foods grown with the use of pesticides and fertilizers have depleted magnesium levels due to the lack of magnesium in the soil that they are grown in (Davis, Epp & Riordan 2004).
What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Dr Carolyn Dean (2014) lists these as the 22 most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Anxiety and panic attacks
Liver disease leading to liver failure
Nerve problems symptoms of vertigo and confusion
Obstetric and gynaecology conditions
What foods have magnesium in them?
Foods that are high in magnesium include dark leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, peas and beans, whole grains, soy products, yoghurt or kefir, dark chocolate and milk. Unfortunately due to farming practices our soil has low levels of magnesium in it and many people need to rely on magnesium supplements as well as magnesium rich foods in their diet (Medline Plus, 2016).
What magnesium should I take?
Below is a description of types of magnesium and how the body absorbs them. You can take magnesium orally via tablets, powder or in liquid form. You can also use it topically as an oil, spray or gel that you can rub into affected areas. You can put magnesium into your foot-bath or bath at home. You can also go to a float tank – which is a tank filled with saturated Epsom salts (Mercola, 2013).
Generally speaking, topical forms of magnesium are quicker and more easily absorbed than oral forms. It is important to talk to your health practitioner about which type is best for you.
Magnesium can’t be taken by itself as a molecule and therefore needs to be bound to something else in order to make it stable. As a result, the biggest difference in magnesium products doesn’t come from the magnesium itself but from the molecule that it is bonded to. The molecule that it is bonded to can affect the size, function and uptake of magnesium into your body.
Magnesium citrate Magnesium citrate is the most popular oral magnesium supplement and is made with a combination of magnesium and citric acid. The citrate helps improve the absorbency of the magnesium and therefore it has a lower concentration than other forms of magnesium supplements. It is inexpensive and easily absorbed which may be why it’s a common ingredient in many of the tablet, capsule and powdered forms of magnesium available. Magnesium citrate is often used to induce bowel motions and may therefore be helpful for some forms of constipation.
Epsom salts – Magnesium sulphate Magnesium sulphate, also called Epsom salt is a great way to absorb magnesium sulphate through your skin. You can use it in footbaths, or soak in a full bath and your skin will absorb both the magnesium and sulphate. Sulphate ions are thought to help detoxify many substances from the body including food additives such as artificial colourings, flavours and preservatives and some medications. (O’Reilly & Waring, 1993). Toxic build up is thought to be one of the major contributors to Autism, inflammation and chronic disease which is why many health practitioners are now recommending patients with conditions such as Autism, chemical sensitivity, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease take regular Epsom salt baths (Grandjean & Landrigan, 2014).
We do NOT recommend that you take Epsom salts orally unless under the guidance of a suitable health practitioner as there are varying qualities of Epsom salt available on the market (many of them not intended for internal use) and it is easy to overdose.
Magnesium bath flakes – Magnesium chloride Magnesium chloride only has around 12 percent elemental magnesium, however due to its different molecular structure it has a far better absorption rate than Epsom salts. This means that your body will get more magnesium per a cup of Magnesium chloride than it will from a cup of Epsom salts. Magnesium chloride may be helpful for muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, general body tension and general stress.
Magnesium salts are for topical use only and we do NOT recommended you take them orally.
Magnesium taurate Magnesium taurate is easily absorbed and it contains no laxative properties. It is a combination of magnesium and taurine that combined have a calming effect on the body. Taurate is converted to Taurine (an amino acid) in the body and has been linked to improved heart health and a reduction in blood pressure (Web MD, 2017).
Magnesium glycinate Magnesium glycinate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium. It is believed to be one of the safer oral options for correcting a long-term magnesium deficiency as the glycine is thought to help transport the magnesium directly to your cells and therefore it less likely to have laxative effect on the body.
Magnesium oxide – Magnesia Magnesium oxide is a common ingredient in many of the cheaper, over the counter supplements available in supermarkets and chemists (possibly due its low manufacturing cost). It has a high percentage (60%) of elemental magnesium but has a low (4%) absorption rate meaning you need to take a lot more of this form of magnesium to get the same benefits as some of the options discussed previously. It is commonly used for constipation and relief of acid reflux. Like many other oral forms of magnesium, magnesium oxide can have a laxative effect when taken in high doses.
Magnesium carbonate Magnesium carbonate contains 45% magnesium and has antacid properties making it a popular alternative for people who suffer from acid reflux or heartburn. When taken in high amounts, magnesium carbonate has a strong laxative effect.
Magnesium L-threonate – Magtein Magnesium L-threonate is a newer form of magnesium supplement that combines magnesium with L-threonic acid (a metabolite of Vitamin C that is believed to increase uptake to cells). Our brains store large amounts of magnesium in its tissues and research has shown that it plays an important role in a number of brain-related conditions including depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addictions, acute brain injuries, seizures, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. (University of Maryland Medical Centre, 2017), (Rao et al., 2008), (Lake, 2013) & (Vink, 2016). In comparison to many other forms of supplements, Magnesium L-threonate has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier resulting in some researchers believing it may play a role in improving learning ability, improving short and long-term memory and decreasing cognitive decline.
Where can I buy magnesium?
Adequate levels of magnesium may help with a lot of musculoskeletal complaints that Osteopaths regularly see. Holistic Osteopathy and Geelong Holistic Health stock a range of different magnesium products to help with your symptoms and can also point you in the best direction for where to get other forms of magnesium that may be more suitable for your particular condition.
We are lucky that in Geelong we also have float tanks at the Wellness Studio in Belmont that gives a relaxing experience as well as giving your magnesium levels a boost. During the float you have a weightless soak in 360 kilograms of concentrated Epson salts (magnesium sulphate) dissolved in 1000 litres of water warmed to skin temperature. Epsom salts are a highly absorbable form of magnesium known to act as an anti-inflammatory and to help with many conditions. When you float your whole body is immersed in the salts making it a great way to absorb magnesium.
If you think you have a deficiency please talk to your Osteopath or other health care provider about what supplements may help you. Like other forms of natural supplements magnesium can decrease the absorption and effectiveness of some medications including several common antibiotics, some statins, anti-diabetic drugs and medications prescribed for atrial fibrillation. As always, if you are taking any prescribed medications please check with your GP or pharmacist before taking any form of natural medicine supplements. In many instances, your doctor or pharmacist may advise you to take your oral or topical magnesium supplements several hours before or after your medication.
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