Magnesium is one of the most underrated and most important minerals in our body. Magnesium is responsible for over 600 enzymatic responses in the body and unfortunately the current standard American diet does not provide the required amounts of magnesium.
Approximately 60-65% of Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium. Magnesium can help regulate blood pressure, help with migraines, DNA repair, nerve firing, anxiety, pain, digestive issues and so much more. As I was doing my research for this post, I went down a rabbit hole learning about all the things magnesium can help with (I’m only going to cover a little in this post unless you wanted it to be 100 pages long!). Magnesium is also incredibly important for vitamin D absorption in the body- it helps vitamin D convert to its active force which is what helps it work in our body. Vitamin D is important to help keep us healthy and help strengthen our bones.
When we are deficient in magnesium those 600 enzymatic responses that it is responsible for can be negatively impacted. So, why are we so deficient ? How do we know if we are deficient and how much should we be taking in a day? Magnesium is something people didn’t have to worry about as much in the past because the soil, water and plants were filled with magnesium. Due to the high turnover of crops and the new ways of farming the soil has become less rich with magnesium and we would need to eat three times the amount of dark leafy greens as they did 50-100 years ago. Current standards (that are over 20+ years old) state that women over the age of 30 should be getting 320 mg of magnesium and men over the age of 30 should be getting 420 mg of magnesium.
Because magnesium is involved in so many different processes it’s hard to pinpoint specific signs and symptoms to help you know you are deficient. It can show up as anxiety, constipation/digestive issues, migraines, high blood pressure, nausea, fatigue, muscle cramps, loss of appetite and many other ways. Blood tests can often confirm magnesium deficiency, but can often be incorrect. Doctors perform a test of serum magnesium and not red blood cell magnesium (where most magnesium is stored). Oftentimes people get incorrect readings and magnesium deficiencies don’t show up. Because so many people are magnesium deficient, doctors often don’t have an issue with people supplementing with magnesium without a blood test (although I would always speak to your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet).
What kind of foods can I eat to increase my magnesium levels? You can definitely give it a shot eating magnesium rich foods, but if you’re deficient I would probably say it would be challenging to get enough from food. The Cleveland Clinic has a wonderful website with recommended foods to increase magnesium. It includes (but is not limited to): pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, black beans, dark chocolate, avocado, potato and kidney beans.
There are TONS of different forms of magnesium and again, it would take me days to go through all of them. Here are the top 5 I believe are important to know:
- Magnesium Glycinate: This is one of the more common forms of magnesium. It is great for sleep, stress and anxiety and it doesn’t have a laxative effect. This is perfect for right before bed.
- Magnesium Citrate: This is something you might have heard your doctor mention for constipation relief. This is not a form you would want to take regularly as it can deplete your body of fluids and other minerals. I’ve heard doctors recommend this before colonoscopies and I’ve personally used it once (and let me tell you- it definitely works!)
- Magnesium Oxide: This is commonly used for digestive issues such as constipation, heartburn, indigestion and GERD. It will not be as forceful as taking magnesium citrate with getting things moving, but it will get the job done. Some recent studies have also shown that this form of magnesium can help reduce the number/prevent migraines- especially those who have sensitivity to light or experience auras.
- Magnesium L-Threonate: This form can help improve memory memory and focus as well as help treat anxiety, depression and PTSD.
- Magnesium Sulfate: This is one of my favorites as well and one I recommend all the time. It is found often in epsom salts and is absorbed into the skin. It is used for migraines, relaxation, painful muscles and in some cases a deodorant. Many people have recently gotten on the trend to spray magnesium under their armpits to help reduce odor and it does help! I always love recommending patients take epsom salt soaks, but if you can’t, magnesium cream will have the same effect on soothing those sore muscles.
If you’re wondering how much magnesium you should be taking, I always recommend starting slow and increasing from there- 100mg and increase slowly. If you’re taking one type of magnesium I recommend taking vitamin B6 with it to help increase absorption into the body. I personally recommend Magnesium Breakthrough by BiOptimizers. I’ve been taking it for over a year and I notice a big improvement in my sleep, digestion and focus. While it can be a bit pricey, they often run sales and this supplement has six different forms of magnesium to help make sure you cover all of your bases. They occasionally recommend more, but I take two at night and sleep like a baby.