Magnesium is an alkaline earth mineral that is essential to life of all forms. The discovery of the healing qualities of magnesium is rather interesting. Magnesium was first discovered outside of the Greek city of Magnesia. Magnesium has been used as a curative since ancient times and happens to be the most powerful relaxation mineral available.
High concentrations of magnesium in the water in Epsom, England, and its effect on injuries, led to the discovery of Epsom salts in the 1600’s. Richard Willstatter won the Nobel prize in 1915 for describing the nature of the structure of chlorophyll in plants, noting magnesium as the central element. This shows that if our soils are magnesium deficient, our food likely is as well (this is a separate topic in itself).
All life on Earth requires magnesium for ideal health. Plants require magnesium because it is the metallic ion in chlorophyll. Magnesium is isolated through the electrolysis of magnesium salts in seawater. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant element in the human body. Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems. These systems regulate biochemical reactions. By doing so, they perform many tasks. These tasks include protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, controlling blood glucose levels and blood pressure.
Magnesium helps to relieve a myriad of problems! Some of these problems are muscle cramps, twitching, stiffness, constipation, irritability, insomnia, headaches, migraines, anxiety, kidney stones and acid reflux, just to name a few. Magnesium is required for cellular energy production and membrane stabilization. It supports bone, brain and heart health. It reduces inflammation and aids in calcium absorption. As you can see, magnesium is crucial for optimal health!
Sadly, almost everyone (up to 80% of the population) in the United States is severely deficient in magnesium. This is due in large part to our diets being severely deficient. Highly processed foods dominate U. S. grocery store purchases. A nation-wide analysis of U.S. grocery purchases revealed that highly processed foods make up more than 60% of the calories in food we buy. These items tend to have more unhealthy fats, sugar and salt than less-processed foods. This does not even include the food consumed at restaurants!
Humans need a lot of magnesium. The minimum recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium is 300 milligrams per day. This is very low, but most people only get 200 milligrams per day or less. The optimum intake of magnesium is between 400 milligrams and 1000 milligrams daily. Magnesium is easily lost from the body through urine and sweat, therefore it needs to be replenished constantly. This is especially the case after a strenuous workout or any high stress, traumatic event.
Coffee, alcohol, sugar, salt and cola all deplete the body of magnesium. These things should be avoided or used in moderation. Heavy menstruation, antibiotics and some other medications, chronic diarrhea and intestinal parasites all contribute to magnesium loss.
Early signals of magnesium deficiency are loss of appetite, headaches, nausea, tiredness and weakness. In the case of severe deficiency, more intense symptoms may be experienced. These may include numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, behavioral changes, abnormal heart rhythm and coronary spasm. A deficiency can also lead to insulin resistance.
Magnesium and calcium have an intrinsic relationship. There must be a balance between these two minerals. Magnesium is critical for heart health. Excessive amounts of calcium without a counter balance of magnesium may lead to a heart attack and sudden death. Vitamins K2 and D3 need to be incorporated into the magnesium/calcium combination for maximum efficiency. This is because all four of them work synergistically.
Magnesium is an integral part of hospital emergency room supplies. It is one of the life saving items on the “crash cart” because of its vital role in heart health and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is regularly used in the acute treatment of eclampsia during pregnancy. It is also used to calm seizures, spasms and severe constipation.
There are over 3500 medical references to magnesium deficiency symptoms, but the importance of this mineral is highly ignored by most medical doctors. Magnesium is not considered a pharmaceutical drug, but this low toxicity nutrient is more powerful than pharmaceuticals in many cases.
About 60% of the magnesium in the body is found in bone. The rest is found in muscles, soft tissues and fluids, including blood. Only about 1% of the body’s magnesium is in the blood’s serum. This makes a blood serum test for magnesium deficiency inaccurate. The cells of a healthy heart contain ten times the amount of magnesium found in blood! The best ways to test for magnesium deficiency are red blood cell testing and sublingual epithelial testing. The absolute best way to know if you are low on magnesium is to check your symptoms though.
Magnesium in food
Magnesium can be found in many delicious foods! Foods that are high in magnesium include dark chocolate, kelp, brown rice, wheat bran, wheat germ, buckwheat, millet, rye, tofu, soy, figs, dates, spinach, collard greens, pumpkin seeds, shrimp, avocado, parsley, garlic, some fatty fish, bananas, legumes and barley. Keep in mind that this is a partial list!
Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts and filberts are very good sources of magnesium as well. One ounce of nuts provides 82 milligrams of magnesium. Seeds are an abundant source as well. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds is almost 50% of the required daily allowance!
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world and they provide up to 9% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium each. Dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium. The darker, the better! With 64 milligrams in a 1-ounce serving, that’s 16% of the recommended daily intake (and a good excuse to treat yourself).
One medium avocado provides 58 milligrams of magnesium, making up 15% of the recommended intake. The legume family contains nutrient dense plants such as lentils, chick peas, beans, peas and soybeans. A one cup serving of cooked black beans contains an impressive 120 milligrams of magnesium! Tofu (also known as bean curd) is a staple in the vegetarian diet. A three and a half ounce serving contains 53 milligrams.
Greens with significant magnesium content include kale, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens and collard greens. For instance, a one cup serving of cooked spinach has 157 milligrams of magnesium, making up 39% of the RDI. Grandma knew what she was talking about when she told you to eat your greens… Eating healthy is the best way to obtain the nutrition your body needs!
All of these foods also contain many other vitamins and nutrients that work in concert with each other and are vital to optimal health. There are many ways to prepare all of the above foods in order to make eating heathy taste good too! As with all things, organic, non-GMO and minimally processed is the best way to obtain all that these foods have to offer.
Unfortunately, in today’s busy world, eating healthy is not always an option. Family vacations, road trips and traveling for business are wrought with “food deserts”. A lot of times, the last thing anyone wants to do after working all day is to spend hours in the kitchen cooking.
It is easier to order take out or go out to eat. This can wreak havoc on your body in many ways such as stress, headache, bloating and constipation. Luckily, magnesium can also be found in supplement form.
Most everyone would likely benefit from taking magnesium supplements. There are many kinds of magnesium supplements on the market, but many of them are not easily absorbed by the body. It is important to choose the right ones. Magnesium glycinate, magnesium chelate and magnesium malate are the most absorbable forms.
Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that is known for delivery very high levels of magnesium absorption and bioavailability and is one of the most recommended magnesium supplements. It is the best-absorbed form of this mineral and the gentlest on the stomach.
Magnesium malate is made by combining elemental magnesium with malic acid. This is considered a magnesium salt of malic acid. Magnesium malate offers some distinct benefits over other forms of magnesium. Malic acid has been shown to be effective as a heavy metals chelating agent. It is vital in the production of energy and may potentially be a treatment for fibromyalgia related pain.
When magnesium is bonded to an organic compound, as opposed to an amino acid, it is often referred to as a chelate. In general, all common chelated forms of magnesium, including magnesium citrate, are better absorbed than magnesium oxide. Magnesium oxide is the most common form of magnesium used in supplements. Magnesium carbonate is nearly insoluble. When magnesium carbonate is taken orally, stomach acid converts it to magnesium chloride. In doing so, this allows 20% of the available elemental magnesium to be absorbed.
Magnesium oxide contains the most elemental magnesium at 60% but only 23% of this can be absorbed. It is very important to read labels. Magnesium oxide, magnesium carbonate and magnesium gluconate should be avoided. These are the cheapest and most poorly absorbed forms.
Magnesium sulfate is commonly known as Epsom salts. It works by replacing magnesium in the body and increasing water in the intestines. Magnesium sulfate can be used orally as a laxative to relieve occasional constipation, and to treat low levels of magnesium quickly. It should not be taken in pill form, due to poor absorption. The “salts” can be diluted in water and drank. Be sure to use “salts” that are not infused with scents or essential oils.
Magnesium hydroxide is the form found in Milk of Magnesia. This is an over-the-counter type of laxative known as an oral osmotic. It works by drawing water into the colon from the body’s tissues, so it is important to drink a lot of water when using this form of magnesium. Magnesium hydroxide can also be used to ease heartburn and sour stomach. It is available in liquid and pill form. There are many other forms of magnesium as well. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely the most common forms.
*Warning – If you have kidney or heart disease, magnesium supplementation should be taken under the supervision of your doctor.
Try an Epsom Salt Bath
An Epsom salt bath can help with many ailments. It provides the body with magnesium and hydration. It draws toxins from the body through the pores in the skin. This is helpful in detoxification as well as easing a fever brought on by a cold or the flu. In the case of a cold or the flu, add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm (not cold) bath and soak for 20-30 minutes. This is safe for children as well, but they should only soak for 10-15 minutes. For detoxification, add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a hot bath. Make the water as hot as you can stand without burning yourself. Soak as long as you can or until the water cools.
Epsom salt baths are especially useful to relax sore, achy muscles after a long day or a hard workout. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for a variety of other benefits. Lavender is the most popular for relaxation. Rosemary and Eucalyptus oils would be beneficial, in the case of a cold or the flu, due to their purifying qualities.
Any way you look at it, magnesium is mandatory for a properly functioning system. So many common ailments can be relieved by increasing daily magnesium intake. Many severe issues can be mitigated by magnesium as well. Magnesium is truly the ultimate relaxation mineral! Who doesn’t need to relax more? In this constantly on the go, high stress, high impact world we live in, we all could use some help relaxing.
Your health is in your hands. Start incorporating more magnesium into your daily routine. Either by food or by supplement or both. You will start to notice a difference almost immediately! You will sleep better and be in a better mood. Your aches and pains will decrease and you will have more energy. Your friends, neighbors and co-workers will even notice the difference! Sometimes, it’s the small things that can make a world of difference.
Best of Health,
Daniel Lonquist, DC, CCST, CCWP