Magnesium is absolutely essential for your good health
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
First published in the Here & Now Magazine July 2004 & since updated
Back in 1990, when I first started out in the world of naturopathy and was doing my clinic hours with a G.P/Naturopath in Sydney, the main observation I noted was in his use of magnesium. He prescribed it to nearly every client who came in, so I thought there must be a good reason.
In my naturopathic studies in we are taught about so many different things, all seeming important, but magnesium (Mg) really stood out as it still does for me today.
Mg has many uses, but the reason it is prescribed so frequently is that our bodies use magnesium up heavily during times of stress. This can be any type of stress, whether it is stress on the body from allergy or illness, mental or emotional stress, or even general stress such as job problems, money, relationships or kids.
We all have some stress in our lives – it’s part of being alive. Unfortunately stress depletes our reserves of magnesium. When we’re low in magnesium, stress affects us more easily, thus further depleting our levels, which creates a vicious circle of further depletion.
The most common symptoms of sub-clinical magnesium deficiency are restlessness, mood disturbances, personality changes, anorexia, nausea, anxiety, depression, headaches, restless legs syndrome, muscle aches and twitches…and the list goes on. Many who are magnesium deficient are unaware that their symptoms are related to the deficiency.
Where is magnesium located in the body?
99% of magnesium in the body is inside the cells (intracellular) and 1% outside the cells (extracellular). Approximately half the magnesium is stored in the bones and most of the remainder in the muscles and soft tissues.
When a body is under stress, magnesium is drawn from the muscles and soft tissues, and as they get depleted, magnesium is drawn from the storehouse – the bones. The depletion needs to be replenished, otherwise the body suffers from illness, disease, weak bones and much more.
Because most of the magnesium is in the cells instead of in the blood, a blood test to determine magnesium levels in the body is, in general, an inaccurate estimate. But there are better ways to determine if you need magnesium. For example, a live blood screening may show signs of what the body needs; and a hair mineral analysis is a great indicator of magnesium levels, along with other minerals and toxic metals.
What are some common sources of magnesium?
Good sources include kelp, nuts, esp. almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and hazelnuts, seeds, especially sunflower and their sprouts, tofu, legumes (brown), whole grains, dark green vegetables, seafood and chocolate. Incidentally a chocolate craving is a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Other rich sources are concentrated super greens such as chlorella, barley and wheat grass. You may already consume a lot of these foods which will certainly help to keep up your levels of magnesium, but if you have any ongoing stress of any description then it may pay well to supplement with extra magnesium.
What are the best forms of magnesium supplements?
There are over 20 different types of magnesium but not all forms are available in Australia, nor are all forms equal in their bioavailability and absorptive qualities. Forms available in Australia that offer good to excellent levels of oral absorption include magnesium in the form of aspartate, chelates (bound to amino acids), citrate, fumurate, glycinate (sometimes called bisglycinate or diglycinate), lactate, malate, orotate, phosphate, picolinate, succinate and threonate. My favorite is diglycinate form as it appears to give the best repeatable results.
I don’t recommend the following forms of magnesium for supplementation, although they do have other uses. Magnesium sulphate and hydroxide are used primarily as laxatives, as they are rarely absorbed, but rather are hydrophilic (draws water to itself). Magnesium Hydroxide is also used in antacid preparations. Magnesium acetate and chloride are both used in food preparation, particularly in non-alcoholic beverages and in some supplements as a filler/binder.
Some medical uses for magnesium (prescribed)
Following are conditions where magnesium may be prescribed…
ADD, ADHD, adrenal exhaustion, alcoholism, angina, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, autism, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, Celiac disease, Chronic fatigue syndrome, cholesterol (high LDL), colitis, coronary thrombosis, dental caries, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, environmental toxin poisoning, epilepsy, oedema, fractures, gastric reflux, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, immune system depletion, inflammatory bowel disease, insomnia, irritability, kidney stones, migraine, muscle weakness and excitability, multiple sclerosis, myocardial infarction, nephritis, nervousness, neuritis, obesity, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, PMS, psoriasis, radiation therapy, restless legs syndrome, serotonin synthesis, tremors and vomiting.
What can deplete or antagonise magnesium?
The conditions listed above will not only require supplemental magnesium. but will often cause depletion in magnesium reserves. Other circumstances that deplete magnesium include alcohol, caffeine, sugar, saturated fat intake, excess sweating, stress, surgery, insomnia, ketoacidosis.
The following can also deplete or interfere with absorption of magnesium. Excess calcium, copper, fluoride, iron, lead, mercury, phosphorus, zinc, oxalic acid (e.g. spinach), phytic acid, vitamin D, ammonium chloride, thyroxin, pharmaceutical diuretics, oral contraceptives, beta-blockers. IBS, renal and hormonal diseases, parathyroid gland disorders, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, Paget’s disease, and malabsorption.
Magnesium is absolutely essential to good health in humans, not only as a structural component of the body, but as a functional agent in fueling hundreds of enzyme reactions. Magnesium influences virtually all biological processes in the body, and is an absolute must for the control of stress of every day life.
As I say to clients magnesium helps to bring the mountain back to the molehill. The stress may still be there, but the way you handle it may differ significantly if you have adequate levels of magnesium in your system.