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The Wonder Nutrient: Magnesium

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Considered the wonder nutrient, magnesium has been recognized as a co-factor for more than 300 important enzymatic reactions within our bodies.

Depleted quickly during stress and poorly absorbed, particularly in those with poor gut health, many can be missing out on the benefits of adequate magnesium levels. Furthermore, certain medications such as diuretics to lower blood pressure and proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), used to reduce acid reflux and heartburn can deplete magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Magnesium is crucial for energy production, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. It is essential for muscle relaxation and contraction, and therefore plays an important role in heart health. (Remember the heart is a muscle).

This wonder mineral promotes calm and can have stress relieving effects on the body. It's essential for a blissful sleep and a good mood!

Brain and nerve function, digestion, and hormone regulation require magnesium.

It is even important for bone health, possibly more so than calcium, as calcium without magnesium makes bones hard but brittle.

Common signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Muscle and joint aches and pains

  • Muscle cramps

  • Headaches

  • Brain fog, poor memory or cognitive function (especially when under stress)

  • Anger and irritability (tantrums in children)

  • Fatigue

  • Poor sleep and insomnia

  • Sugar cravings

  • Chocolate cravings (chocolate is high in magnesium)

More serious conditions linked to magnesium deficiency include:

  • Heart / Cardiovascular disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Calcification of soft tissues like arteries and ligaments

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Nerve damage

  • Sensitivity to light and sound

  • Osteoporosis and poor bone health

  • Seizures

  • ADHD

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

  • Infertility

  • PMS (premenstrual syndrome)

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Musculoskeletal problems

  • Kidney disease

  • Asthma

How do you assess your magnesium levels?

Because only 1% of magnesium is in the blood, a standard serum blood test is not very reliable. Measuring the magnesium level within red blood cells however is more accurate. Since this test is not funded in New Zealand, you will need pay for it. Make sure you request a red blood cell magnesium test. Functional medicine practitioners recommend your levels fall with an optimal range of 6.0 - 6.5 mg/dL or around 2.5 - 2.7 mmol/L.

How do you increase magnesium intake and which supplements are recommended?

Magnesium is a supplement I believe everyone should be taking. Research has indicated that magnesium deficiency could be as high as 80% of the population!!!

Please be aware, not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Each type also has a slightly different targeted purpose (indicated in brackets).

Recommended supplement intake of magnesium for an adult is usually around 300 mg per day.

Good forms of magnesium include:

For some of my favourite brands, click the links provided or view the full list here.

Magnesium L-threonate (brain health, memory)

Magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate (general purpose, sleep, cardiovascular)

Magnesium taurate (cardiovascular / heart health)

Magnesium citrate (constipation)

Magnesium citramate or citra-malate (muscle aches / fibromyalgia)

Magnesium orotate (athletic performance & endurance)

Magnesium chloride (ionic magnesium)

Absorption of magnesium in our gut can be challenging for most and worsens with age.

So absorption through our skin is another way to increase magnesium levels. Use Epsom salts, magnesium bath salts or magnesium flakes in your bath or as a foot soak. Or use a magnesium chloride spray or lotion on the skin daily.

Avoid supplements containing:

Magnesium oxide, magnesium sulphate, magnesium phosphate, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium aspartate and magnesium glutamate.

Magnesium rich foods include:

  • Green leafy vegetables - such as spinach and kale

  • Fruit - such as figs, avocado, banana and raspberries

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Legumes - such as black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans

  • Vegetables - such as peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts

  • Seafood - such as salmon, mackerel and tuna

Getting adequate levels of magnesium can be challenging even with a top notch diet. So if you want to aid sleep, reduce sugar cravings, improve mood, support bone and heart health, plus avoid muscle aches and pains, magnesium supplementation should definitely be considered.


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