Magnesium is a key mineral needed in great quantities for optimal health. Although magnesium deficiency is common, it is often left undiagnosed by medical/non-naturopathic doctors/physicians. This is mainly because blood test are able to check for magnesium in the blood but not within the cells, where it is more often needed.1 It’s needed in babies, adolescence and adults. As a person ages, they’re often more at risk for various nutritional deficiencies. Magnesium is commonly low in adults who are 65 and older.2 About half of the magnesium in the body is found in the bones and the other half is inside your cells.3 Over 50% of the adult population is likely not getting the needed doses of magnesium that they need for optimal health. If you have children, this is something to be aware of now. Ideally we want to nourish our body daily and be healthy now rather than waiting until we are in a deficiency state.
Main roles of magnesium in the body:
When striving to achieve a healthy lifestyle it is important to understand that magnesium plays multiple roles in the body and is needed by every cell. It is needed for bone and tooth formation, a healthy nervous system, to create energy from glucose, and the synthesis of fats and proteins in the body. It plays a role in over 300 enzyme activities.2 It helps enhance the use of vitamin C.3 Magnesium also helps to regulate muscle contraction as well as blood pressure.4 It is also important for creating energy (ATP) and plays a role in the synthesis for DNA and RNA (genetic material).5 Magnesium can also help with anxiety issues, which are common in people of all ages.6
How can you tell if you’re deficient in magnesium?
Magnesium, like many other nutrients, can become deficient from low intake, gastrointestinal issues that impair absorption, diabetes, or excessive alcohol intake.2 Medications can also effect the magnesium balance in the body. Magnesium is relatively easy to get in the diet, but digestive issues are common that make it hard to use the consumed magnesium.3 Low levels of magnesium are associated with many disease conditions such as diabetes, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease and migraine headaches.4,5 These disease conditions are more likely to be found in the elderly population, which is another reason for possible deficiency. Subclinical (and undiagnosed) magnesium deficiency put you at risk for cardiovascular disease.1
Some common signs of magnesium deficiency include:
- An inflammatory response even with no injury or pathogen present. This can be verified by an elevated CRP (C-Reactive Protein, an inflammatory marker) and is often found when people are getting less than 50% of the RDI for magnesium.7
- Issues with bones such as calcium resorption (this is where bone tissue is broken down and released into the blood), resulting in weaker bones.3
- Kidney issues leading to a depletion of potassium in the cells.8
- Depleted calcium (again, manifested in bone loss as well as issues with muscle and other issues).8
- Neuromuscular issues such as cramping, seizures, dizziness, muscle tremors, wasting and weakness.8
- Cardiovascular issues such as skipped heart beats or irregular heart rhythms.8
- Muscle spasms.9
- Migraine headaches.9
- Anxiety, depression and confusion.1
How much magnesium do you need per day?
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for older adults is 420mg/day for men and 320mg/day for woman. It is likely that these standards are low. Often the RDI’s refer to the amount you’d need to not get disease, rather than to have optimal health.
Some excellent plant sources of magnesium include (with amounts):3
- Brazil nuts- 1 oz (107 mg)
- Quinoa, dry- ¼ c (89 mg)
- Spinach, cooked- ½ c (78 mg)
- Black beans- ½ c (60 mg)
- Navy beans, cooked- ½ c (48 mg)
- Brown rice, cooked- ½ c (42 mg)
***One of my favorite naturopathic ways to practice healthy living habits and get magnesium is through dark leafy greens such as fresh raw spinach (2 c, 48mg), kale (2 c., 62mg), Swiss chard (2 c., 60mg) and parsley (2 c., 60mg). These are all rich in lots of vitamins and minerals including magnesium.10 It’s easy to get more dark leafy greens in the diet even if you have dental/chewing issues by blending them into a green smoothie with some fresh fruit and water.
To be healthy it is ideal to get your magnesium from whole food (so that it goes into the body with the correct ratios of synergistic cofactors that it needs to be used properly in the body). You can also use whole-food based supplementation. For many adults, it’s helpful to do both (food and supplements).
For supplements, taking 300-400 mg/day for women and 400-500 mg/day for men of magnesium lactate. Take with water in the evening as magnesium can have a calming effect, which is helpful for winding down and enjoying good sleep.11 The balance of what you need should be easily gotten from the diet in foods listed above, but magnesium lactate is gentle on the digestive tracts so less likely to cause an upset stomach.12
Soaking in Epsom salts can also be a helpful way to increase magnesium. You can just add 2-3 cups to a hot bath and soak for 20 minutes.
If you are struggling with any of the symptoms above and can’t seem to figure out why, try supporting yourself with magnesium rich foods and supplementing as well. If that doesn’t help, there may be something else going on. It would be my pleasure to help you get healthy now and figure it out!
1. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: A principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Hear. 2018. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668
2. Brown JE. Nutrition Across the Lifecycle. sixth. Cengage Learning; 2016.
3. Escott-Stump S. Nutrition and Diagnosis Related Care. Hong Kong: Wolters Kluwer; 2015.
4. Schwalfenberg GK, Genuis SJ. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica (Cairo). 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/4179326
5. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in prevention and therapy. Nutrients. 2015. doi:10.3390/nu7095388
6. Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress—a systematic review. Nutrients. 2017. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
7. Dibaba DT, Xun P, He K. Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein levels: Meta-analysis and systematic review. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2014.7
8. Stipanuk MH, Caudill MA. Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. Fourth. Elsevier; 2019.
9. Razzaque MS. Magnesium: Are we consuming enough? Nutrients. 2018. doi:10.3390/nu10121863
10. Gene discovery reveals importance of eating your greens. Sci Dly. 2013.
11. Nielsen FH, Johnson LK, Zeng H. Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep. Magnes Res. 2010. doi:10.1684/mrh.2010.0220
12. Robinson CM, Karet Frankl FE. Magnesium lactate in the treatment of Gitelman syndrome: Patient-reported outcomes. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2017. doi:10.1093/ndt/gfw019