by Leia Mulroy | Clinical Nutritionist
Have you ever wondered why so many practitioners recommend Magnesium?
Magnesium is involved in 354 enzyme and chemical reactions in the human body.
With 35% of the body’s total Magnesium stores are found in the muscle and 50% in
the bone. No wonder its called the miracle mineral!
Where is Magnesium found?
Naturally, Magnesium is found in dark leafy vegetables such as kale, dandelion greens and spinach, as well as beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains, all of which take their Magnesium from the soil. Unfortunately, the majority of our soils are magnesium depleted and have been contaminated with harmful insecticides and pesticides. This is why choosing organic produce is so important.
What does Magnesium help with?
Magnesium is present in every cell in our body. With one of the most important
reactions is its involvement with energy production. In our cells, energy is referred
to as, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).
ATP is the major unit of energy produced in the body, but ATP is actually Magnesium–ATP.
All enzymes that create or use ATP, aka – Energy! require Magnesium. Deficiency of Magnesium means that energy cannot be produced and tiredness and fatigue can result.
Other major functions of Magnesium include:
Supports normal psychological functioning and neurotransmission of the
Low levels of Magnesium result in hyper excitability of the nerves and can cause
random neurotransmission firing. This can alter sleep patterns, cause restlessness,
anxiety, and affect concentration and learning. High stress depletes magnesium
stores and is linked to an increased rate of depression.
Contributes to normal muscle function and muscle contraction including
the heart muscle.
The part played by Magnesium in skeletal muscle is similar to that of nerves,
acting as a calcium channel blocker, helping to regulate muscle contraction and
relaxation. Decreased levels of Magnesium can result in muscular spasms and
cramps, and has also been linked to heart arrhythmia’s and hypertension.
Maintains healthy bones and teeth
Magnesium is needed for the absorption, transport and metabolism of calcium.
Calcium is required for the parathyroid hormone that regulates bone breakdown
and activating the enzyme required for the production of new bone. Low levels of
Magnesium in the blood and a low Magnesium:Calcium ratio have been
associated with an increased risk of periodontal disease and poor tooth integrity.
Supports healthy electrolyte and mineral balance
Electrolytes are minerals in the body that have an electrical charge. Calcium,
Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chlorine and phosphate are all electrolytes.
Levels of electrolytes can become too low due to sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea or
even over hydration. Deficiency of Magnesium can disrupt the balance of these
essential minerals leading to imbalances in our cells causing muscle cramps,
spasms, headaches, restlessness and fatigue.
How do I know if I’m Magnesium deficient, and what other factors deplete our bodies of Magnesium?
Magnesium deficiency can occur with out any notable symptoms. Chronic stress,
busy day to day lives and dietary excess of caffeine and sugar can slowly leech
away our magnesium stores. Not to mention other equally important nutrients such
as B vitamins, Zinc, and Iron.
Particular symptoms you may notice include:
- tight or cramping muscles
- trouble sleeping
- sugar cravings
Lifestyle and dietary factors can also greatly effect a persons ability to store and absorb magnesium. These include:
Acute and chronic stress can result in decreased stomach acid
production and can result in decreased absorption of Magnesium. Chronic stress
can also deplete our cells storage of magnesium as they are put under strain to
keep up with the stressful demands of the body.
Commonly consumed antacids such as Mylanta as well as reflux medications like Nexium, neutralise hydrochloric acid, decreasing Magnesium absorption. Chronic antibiotic use can also lead to gut dysbiosis and a depletion of magnesium stores.
An imbalance of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, caused by
such conditions like IBS, leaky gut, gluten and casein sensitivities, funguses &
parasites, can impact the bodies ability to absorb, metabolise and store minerals
such as magnesium, zinc and iron.
Black tea, rhubarb, spinach, grains such as barley and wheat, legumes, and soy contain varying amounts of these natural phytochemicals which can block the absorption of magnesium, as well as other important minerals. Fortunately, heating and certain cooking methods of some of these foods can inhibit these phytochemicals, thus
supporting magnesium uptake and storage.
Diets high in sugar, trans fats, caffeine and alcohol
Oxidised fatty acids alter our cell wall integrity, making them more rigid and prevent important minerals and nutrients from entering. Diets high in refined sugar produces a high inflammatory response putting our bodies under stress and demand for more nutrients to cope. Large consumption of caffeine and alcohol cause cell depletion with their diuretic effect by removing these minerals from our much needed muscles, bones and cells.
What forms of Magnesium are used in supplements, and which ones are best absorbed by the body?
All Magnesium supplements are a combination of Magnesium with another
substance such as a salt. The amount of Magnesium and its bio-availability alter the
effectiveness of the supplement. In short, the amount of Magnesium that your
tissues can use readily is based on how soluble the Magnesium product is and the
amount of elemental Magnesium that is released.
Highly bio-available forms of Magnesium include:
Magnesium Amino Acid Chelates | such as Magnesium bisglycinate, this bond
binds the magnesium and the glycine together protecting the Magnesium from
making stronger attachments to other binding agents such as phytates and
tannins, as mentioned previously.
Magnesium Citrate | Weak bonds provide a high bioavailability. Magnesium
citrate works by attracting water through the tissues by osmosis. Great option for
anyone wanting gentle support to safely move the bowels.
Magnesium Ascorbate | Bound to Ascorbate acid, this form is a source of both
vitamin C and Magnesium. It is a neutral salt having a significantly higher
gastrointestinal tolerance than some of the other forms.
Magnesium Chloride | Due to this form being bound to a chloride ion, it may be
helpful to support adequate hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach. This may
support proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients by raising the gastric acid
Other types of Magnesium forms include:
Magnesium oxide | Poor bio-available gut absorption. Common in poor quality
supplements simply because it is cheap however, only about 4% of its elemental
magnesium is absorbed, equivalent to about 12 mg out of a 500 mg tablet.
Magnesium sulphate | Also known as Epsom salts. It contains Magnesium;
Sulphur and Oxygen.
How do I know what type of supplement to choose?
Magnesium supplements come in many shapes and sizes. These include powders, tablets, capsules, transdermal creams and even bath salts. They all have there own special way of being absorbed and assimilated by our bodies and results will vary with each individual.
With so many variables out there, I always recommend seeking professional advice
before starting any new supplement. Specified treatment aims, medical conditions
and personal compliance, can all effect the type of supplement that may be right for