Magnesium is defined as a macro-mineral. What is that means? It means that you have to provide to your body hundreds of milligrams of this nutrient every day. Inside your body, you can find magnesium especially in bones (60-65%) and muscles (25%). This macro-mineral cannot be made in your body and therefore you have to eat foods rich in magnesium to remain healthy.
Why it is Necessary and How Does It Work In The Body?
Magnesium is far more than an essential mineral, it is also a major electrolyte in the body. it is necessary for numerous functions in the body, which include enzyme and hormonal actions, the metabolism of carbohydrates, the production of DNA, cell signalling and migration and ion transport across cell membranes. One of the most important purposes of magnesium in the body is its effect on nerve and muscle tissue function. Magnesium is also important for regulating calcium and sodium balance within cells, which is particularly important for the cells of blood vessels and the heart. This mechanism is known as the ‘sodium-potassium’ pump and is important for maintaining coronary artery muscle integrity, allowing blood vessels to stay relaxed and open, lowering blood pressure.
The health benefits of magnesium include proper cellular metabolism, maintenance of the nerves, fight against several diseases etc. It also absorbs calcium, strengthening the bones and teeth. It is readily available in some of the foods like spinach, tomatoes, beets etc. Deficiency of magnesium might lead to fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, back and neck pain. Therefore, it is important to have a sufficient amount of magnesium.
- Treats asthma
- Promotes heart health
- Digestive wellness
- Relaxes muscles and reduces pain
- Promotes bone health
- Improves sleep
- Prevents PMS
- Eliminates migraines
- Prevents restless legs
- Prevents fatigue
- Promotes mental health
- Counteracts insulin resistance
Treats Asthma by Relaxing Bronchial Muscles
There is a strong correlation between bronchial reactivity and intracellular magnesium. In 1912 German pharmacologist, Paul Trendelenburg found that magnesium relaxed bovine bronchial muscles and found it an effective treatment for patients suffering from acute bronchial asthma attacks.
2g of intravenous magnesium (specifically magnesium sulphate), under the supervision of a registered physician, is now a recognized treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has been used alongside other means to acute asthma attacks. Oral supplementation can be effective as a preventative but the studies for magnesium did use injections Ohn, M., et al., 2014).
Promotes Heart Health and Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease refers to various conditions that concern the health of the heart. These conditions include hypertension, high blood pressure, coronary arterial disease, atherosclerosis and plaguing of the arteries, arrhythmia, stroke, heart attacks etc. High magnesium has been shown to have a strong correlation with balanced levels of cholesterol as well as lowering excess cholesterol levels. Increasing magnesium intake may aid in preventing the formation of plaque located in declining and thickening blood vessel tissues. The less magnesium or a deficiency in this particular mineral increases the tendency of blood clotting. Magnesium contains plaque stabilizing properties, which aids in reducing and/or preventing blood clotting in blood vessels throughout the body.
Magnesium reduces tension in the arteries, leaving them relaxed without it they rapidly increase in tension. Magnesium has also been shown to decrease blood vessel spasms, as well as the prevention of strokes and blockages of brain blood vessels (Ma, J., et al., 1995) (Rosique-Esteban, N., et al., 2018) (Stevanovic, S., eta l., 2017).
Magnesium Promotes Digestive Wellness
Magnesium aids in keeping peristalsis, the movement of the intestinal tract, its relaxation and contraction. This is essential for proper food digestion, nutrient absorption and the elimination of waste. If you are constantly constipated, or experiencing a bout of constipation and diarrhea, supplementing with magnesium and making sure that you are not deficient in magnesium can make a lot of difference (Lipski, E., 2012) (Schwalfenberg, G.K., et al., 2017).
Relaxes Muscles and Reduces Muscular Pain and Inflammation
Muscle cramps and pain are irritating, debilitating and self-limiting. Whether due to surgery, injury, working out or imbalances in the body magnesium can be very beneficial in reducing muscular pain and inflammation and relaxing muscles.
Postoperative strain, which is debilitating as well, has been minimized through the supplementation of magnesium. Muscle cramps and spasms and port operative pain are all reduced via supplementation. Individuals undergoing surgery were shown to have a significant reduction in pain post-surgery when they continuously supplemented with magnesium sulphate before, during and after surgery (Skin, H.J., et al., 2016).
In another study published in The Korean Pain Society magnesium was provided as an addition to local anesthetic, reflecting in a significant decrease in cortisol levels, which are often accompanied by surgery and incidence of great pain. Magnesium supplementation in this study also reduced the period of post-surgery pain (Kamel, E.Z., et al., 2018).
A double-blind randomized controlled study looked at magnesium and pain reduction in chronic lower back patients. The study found that magnesium was effective at managing pain by reducing pain intensity and improving lumbar spine mobility after 6 months of supplementation (Yousef, A.A., 2013).
Supports Bone Health and Aids Against Osteoporosis
Magnesium is the second most commonly deficient mineral, after zinc, in terms of bone mineralization, it is as necessary as calcium. Low levels of magnesium are most common in women with osteoporosis, reflective in abnormalities to bone mineral crystals and an increased chance of fractures. Supplementation of magnesium between 250-750mg done over a 6-18 month period has been shown to increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Magnesium is essential for bone homeostasis, therefore it is imperative as a support for individuals with osteoporosis or other bone issues (Castiglioni, S., eta l., 2013).
Magnesium serum levels are much lower in osteoporosis individuals. Studies have found that supplementation increases bone density and prevents hone loss which can be effective at reducing bone fractures (Mederle, O.A., et al., 2018).
Improves Sleep Quality
Few of us have good quality sleep. Magnesium is a necessary mineral in enzymes and neurotransmitter synthesis, in particular, it is necessary for GABA receptors. Low serum levels of this mineral are often associated with sleep disorders which are alleviated by adequate magnesium supplementation. Supplementing with magnesium citrate taken before bed aids in relaxing both body and mind, stimulating restful sleep (Nielsen, F.H. 2015).
A 2017 published study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at magnesium oxide supplementation for improving sleep quality in post-chemotherapy patients. Many cancer patients suffer from anxiety and difficulties falling and staying asleep during and post-treatment. The study found that magnesium supplementation positively improved sleep quality reduced anxiety and prevented nocturnal leg cramping (Carson, C.A., 2017).
Reduces symptoms of PMS – Premenstrual Syndrom
A deficiency in magnesium is a causal factor of premenstrual syndrome or PMS. Magnesium plays a crucial part in cell function, without it many of our organs and our body as a whole cannot function properly, leaving one feeling moody, bloated, susceptible of depression and in a lot of pain during one’s menstrual cycle.
The combination of magnesium with B6 has been very effective at reducing the symptoms of PMS. A 2010 study that looked at magnesium and B6, found that the best results for relieving PMS were when the nutrients were used together and not separately. Another study that looked at magnesium alone found that after a two month period of supplementation women how had previously experienced PMS symptoms now found relief from water retention or bloating and abdominal pain and cramping. Diet also needs to be addressed as an increase in the consumption of refined sugars and caffeine increase the severity of symptoms and make it harder for magnesium to counteract the difference (Fathizadeh, N., et al., 2010).
Aids in Subsiding Migraines and Headaches
Migraines are the most common neurological disorders, characterized by moderate to severe headaches which can last between 4-27 hours. The blood vessels of the brain have twice as much magnesium within their tissues than any other blood vessels in the body. When magnesium is lacking or deficient brain blood vessels become very sensitive to the decline and can result in spasms. These spasms are often felt as migraines.
Headaches and migraines can occur for various reasons, sometimes they develop as a result of lack of water, the consumption of a food allergen or a result of mineral imbalance, such as a lack of magnesium. Instead of grabbing the pain medication, try drinking water and supplementing with magnesium. For individuals who have recurrent headaches, supplementing with 200mg of magnesium daily can bring great relief.
Magnesium sulphate is more effective and works faster at combating migraines than corticosteroids and caffeine. Caffeine is a tricky substance, it can result in headaches, for others it can inhibit them. Magnesium supplementation has is far more effective than both. (Shahrami, A., et al., 2015) (Baratloo, A., et al., 2017).
Aids in Preventing Restless Legs
Magnesium is an effective treatment for restless leg syndrome, which is often experienced during sleep (Metta, V., et al., 2015). Magnesium is a natural GABA antagonist that aids in facilitating relaxation and promoting sleep. An open clinical trial and a polysomnographic study found that magnesium supplementation positively prevented periodic limb movement or restless legs during sleep (Hornyak, M., et al., 1998) (Schwalfenburg, G.K., et al., 2017).
Boosts Exercise Performance and Prevent Fatigue
Individuals experiencing chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) can have great benefit from supplementation of magnesium as they are often deficient. This mineral is essential for energy production, the conduction of nerves and as well as muscle and bone health. Supplementation has been shown to increase energy levels, improve one’s emotional state and reduce pain.
Beneficial for Promoting Mental Health
Individuals suffering from chronic stress will often find themselves deficient in magnesium, supplementing with the mineral can provide some relief from the stress and mental well-being. Sufficient supplementation of magnesium has been shown to minimize the effects of mild adrenal insufficiency.
The brain requires three times as much magnesium as the rest of the body, through the prevalence of headaches can occur so can the lack of mental wellbeing and poor brain function. An adequate amount of magnesium increase blood flow to the cortex, frontal, temporal as well as the insular region of the brain. Providing the brain with an adequate amount of oxygen and essential vitamins and minerals will allow it to function better and will leave the individual feeling better mentally.
Children and adults with ADHD have been shown to have very low serum levels of magnesium, supplementation has been shown to improve behaviour (Kirkland, A.E., et al., 2018).
Essential Component of Insulin
Magnesium has the potential to counteract insulin resistance, individuals with low levels of magnesium have also been shown to have higher levels of insulin resistance. It supports insulin secretion, glucose transport for insulin-mediated glucose uptake as well as insulin intracellular transcriptional response.
Magnesium is also involved in glucose metabolism in the body, this is why diabetics need to make sure that they are getting enough magnesium in their diet or through supplementation. supplementing with magnesium, between 400-500mg daily has been shown to improve insulin response and glucose tolerance and RBC membrane in diabetics. This amount is higher than the recommended daily amount as that amount of magnesium is needed for healthy individuals (Hruby, A., et al., 2013) (Fang, X., et al., 2016).
Magnesium Rich Foods
Including magnesium-rich foods in your diet will give you many health benefits. Magnesium is necessary to carry out the metabolic functions of the body. It helps in the production of energy and also transporting it. Magnesium is required in the functioning of some enzymes and to synthesize proteins.
Magnesium also assists in the contraction and relaxation of the muscles. Hence, eating a diet rich in magnesium will help your body function properly.
Common Food Sources of Magnesium
Mg per serving
Hemp seeds 100 g
Pumpkin Seeds 100 g
Flax seeds 100g
Brazil Nuts 100 g
Whole Wheat bread 2 slices
Baked Potato 3.5 ounces
Rice, brown rice 1/2 cup
Avocado 1 cup, cubed
Broccoli 1/2 cup cooked
Almonds dried 1/4 cup
Cashews, dry roasted 1/4 cup
Oatmeal, quick oats, 1 cup
Black strap molasses 1 tbsp
Banana, 1 whole
Peanut butter, 1 tbsp
Beet Greens, cooked 1/2 cup
Swiss Chard, cooked 1/2 cup
The recommended dosage
Child 1 – 3 years of age: 40 – 80 mg magnesium per day.
Child 4 – 8 years: 130 mg magnesium per day.
Child 9 – 13 years: 240 mg magnesium per day.
Teenage boy 14 – 18 years: 410 mg magnesium per day.
Teenage girl 14 – 18 years: 360 mg magnesium per day.
Pregnant girl 14 – 18 years: 400 mg magnesium per day.
Breastfeeding girl 14 – 18 years: 360 mg magnesium per day.
Symptoms and Signs of Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is becoming much more common due to a decline in dietary intake of magnesium and a fast-paced and stressful lifestyle. Magnesium deficiency is most common amongst older adults, due to longer lifespans and chronic disease development which both deplete the magnesium greatly.
One of the best ways to prevent a deficiency is to increase dietary intake of magnesium. The recommended daily amount of magnesium is often far to low for a healthy functioning body and optimal health. Symptoms and signs of deficiency include the following,
hyper-excitability- a condition of being excess excitable
Allergies and chemical sensitivities
Aorta strength- the strength of the aorta artery
Attention deficit disorder
Soft tissue calcification- building of the calcium salts in the soft tissues
Who is More Susceptible of a Magnesium Deficiency
Older Adults and the Elderly
As we age our ability to hold on and uptake vitamins and minerals decreases. This is why supplementation of magnesium is very important for elderly individuals. Magnesium deficient conditions in the elderly include cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease (Costello, R.B., et al., 1992).
Alcohol Dependency and Addiction
Excessive alcohol consumption or addiction results in a depletion of magnesium serum levels in the body leading to a deficiency. The loss occurs from urination as well as malabsorption from diet and supplementation, poor gut health due to extensive drinking. Alcohol acts as a magnesium diuretic in the body, this is what leads to its loss through urination. Prolonged alcohol use leads to the loss of most serum levels, which can lead to health complications related to bone, heart and mental health (Shane, S.R., et al., 1992) (Rivlin, R.S., 1994).
Individuals with GastroIntestinal Issues
Chronic diarrhea and poor fat absorption are both symptoms of Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease all of which can result in a depletion of magnesium.
The same can be said for chronic diuretic use, which can also result in malabsorption of magnesium. If one is constantly constipated or has interchangeable periods of constipation and diarrhea it can be a sign of magnesium deficiency as well as a contributing factor in its depletion.
Individuals with Diabetes
Individuals who are insulin resistant or have developed type 2 diabetes will excrete magnesium at a much high rate through urination. This is known as hypomagnesemia and is common in approximately 25% of diabetics. Magnesium is an essential cofactor for numerous bodily function such as carbohydrate oxidation and playing a role in the glucose transport mechanism of cell membranes throughout the body.
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Amanda Filipowicz is a certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) with a bachelor in environmental studies (BES) from York University. She also has certification in clinical detoxification, prenatal and postnatal care as well as nutrition for mental health. She has been working as a nutritionist since 2013 and is a lifelong proponent of eating healthy.