Making Sense of Magnesium

Mar 27, 2024 | Mental and Emotional Health, Sleep, Supplementation

Magnesium is an essential mineral present throughout your body. It plays a crucial role in the natural functioning of every cell, and is involved in more than 600 biochemical reactions in your body.

From improved exercise performance to enhanced sleep quality, magnesium offers numerous benefits that can help improve overall well-being. With its ability to protect against metabolic syndrome, reduce inflammation, support heart health, and even prevent or treat migraine attacks, bolstering your body’s available magnesium should be considered as part of your daily routine.

Is Magnesium Deficiency Common? if so, Why?

According to a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Other studies show anywhere from 50% to 80% of the total population is magnesium deficient.

The standard diet in the United States contains only approximately 50% of recommended allowance, meaning as much as half of the total population is magnesium deficient.

There are many factors that contribute to magnesium deficiency in the American population, including that:

  • Processed foods are low or completely lacking in key nutrients, including magnesium
  • Mass commercial farming processes have resulted in nutrient-depleted soils, meaning the nutrient density of the plants we eat is also significantly reduced (studies show that plant nutrient density is 50% less than it was 50 years ago).

Testing for deficiency can be challenging because 60% of the body’s magnesium is stored in bones, with the remainder found in muscles and soft tissues. Only a small portion of your body’s magnesium is found in fluids such as blood, which is why magnesium blood tests aren’t always helpful.

How Much Magnesium Do I Need?

The recommended allowance for magnesium is:

  • 420 mg per day (males)
  • 320 mg per day (females)

These allowances vary based on age and gender.

Can I Take Too Much Magnesium?

Too much magnesium from foods isn’t a concern for healthy adults. However, the same can’t be said for supplements. High doses of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

In addition, the magnesium in supplements can interact with some types of antibiotics and other medicines. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re considering magnesium supplements, especially if you routinely use magnesium-containing antacids or laxatives.

Magnesium overdose (hypermagnesemia) is rare because the kidneys routinely shed excess magnesium. Hypermagnesemia is most often seen in people with poor
kidney function after they take medications containing magnesium, such as laxatives or antacids.

Magnesium... Pills, Lotions, Sprays and Gels! What's Best?

As awareness of magnesium’s importance grows, we see an increasing number of options for adding this mineral into our bodies. Some current forms you’ll find include oral options, such as pills and powders, as well as transdermal and topical options, including sprays, lotions and gels.

When we need supplements, it is fair to say that most of us automatically turn to oral supplement options first. Although there are great benefits to oral supplementation, there are also some advantages that are unique to transdermal and topical options.

They’re rapidly absorbed. Apart from magnesium sulfate, when applying magnesium oil or magnesium spray, there is a rapid absorption rate that is believed to exceed the absorption rate of oral supplements. There are several digestive issues that may prevent or affect the absorption of magnesium when ingested, but with transdermal options, this issue seems to be bypassed.

They can be more easily tolerated. Like with certain foods, some of us may not tolerate the ingestion of oral supplements. For some, it may be an absorption issue. This is because magnesium is believed to have laxative properties and if taken incorrectly, may cause ongoing problems. So, for those with digestive issues, or who need rapid results, magnesium sulfate, magnesium chloride flakes, and magnesium oil may be better tolerated by the body.

They’re targetable. For symptoms such as muscle soreness and cramps, a topical application allows you to target the supplement directly, instead of waiting for it to arrive via the bloodstream.

As far as a ‘best’ option, that’s a question of individual preferences, tolerances, considerations and lifestyle. That said, you can certainly combine multiple options! For instance a daily oral supplement plus a transdermal lotion before you go to sleep, and a topical spray for targeted muscle soreness or cramping when needed. Simply adjust dosages as needed.

Why Are There So Many Different Types of Magnesium Supplement?

Magnesium is a highly reactive mineral, which means it most commonly exists in combination with another atom or molecule. What the elemental magnesium is combined with can have significant impacts on how well and how quickly the magnesium is absorbed by your body.

These forms of magnesium have poor bioavailability and can be ineffective at bolstering magnesium levels:

  • Magnesium Oxide – Often used to relieve digestive symptoms, such as heartburn, indigestion and constipation.
  • Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt) – Frequently dissolved in water to treat stress and sore muscles.

These forms of magnesium have good bioavailability, meaning your body is able to access the magnesium effectively:

  • Magnesium Bisglycinate – Often used for its calming effects to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
  • Magnesium Chloride – Easily absorbed orally and used to treat heartburn, constipation, and low magnesium levels. Also, applying it topically may help relieve muscle soreness but not boost your magnesium levels.
  • Magnesium Citrate – Used to raise magnesium levels and treat constipation.
  • Magnesium Lactate – Effective as a dietary supplement and possibly gentler on your digestive system. It may be more suitable for those who don’t tolerate other forms or need to take especially large doses.
  • Magnesium Malate – Easily absorbed and may have less of a laxative effect than other forms. It’s occasionally recommended for chronic conditions like fibromyalgia.
  • Magnesium Orotate – May bolster heart health by improving energy production in your heart and blood vessel tissue.
  • Magnesium Taurate – Used for managing high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
  • Magnesium Threonate – May support brain health, potentially aiding the treatment of disorders like depression, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss.

Disclaimer: This information is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider before making any health-related decisions or taking any actions that may affect your well-being.