Every single nutrient the body needs is important and required. But Magnesium could arguably be one of the most important.

Every chemical reaction in the body requires an enzyme system for the reaction to take place. These enzyme systems consist of three parts – a specific protein molecule, a smaller organic compound which is usually a vitamin, and lastly, a charged mineral or electrolyte, such as zinc, copper, manganese or magnesium. Magnesium is critical in more than 300 chemical reactions in the human body! Magnesium (and potassium) are the most abundant cations found in the cells of the body. Ninety-nine percent of your body’s Magnesium is found in bone, muscles and soft tissues. The other 1% is located in plasma and red blood cells.

Magnesium plays a fundamental role in cell energy transfer, storage and use and in protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Systemically, Magnesium lowers blood pressure and alters vascular resistance. Almost every enzymatic process which uses phosphorous as an energy source requires Magnesium for activation. Magnesium is also involved in nearly every aspect of biochemical metabolism. The list of fundamental roles goes on and on….

Known to be extremely important for proper electrical charges to the heart, Magnesium is so much more. And there are many forms.

Different Forms of Magnesium

Magnesium Oxide
Magnesium Oxide (MgO) is basically Magnesium bonded to Oxygen. This is the least absorbed form of Magnesium, but also has one of the highest percentages of elemental Magnesium per dose. It is a general purpose Magnesium, and is a good muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and in a high dose, a laxative.

Magnesium Citrate
One of the most common forms of Magnesium, it is bonded to citric acid, which increases the rate of absorption. This is the most common form used in laxative preparations.

Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate
In this form, Magnesium is bonded to glycine, an amino acid. The glycine is a relaxing neurotransmitter and enhances Magnesium’s abilities to calm.

Magnesium Taurate
A less common form, this form is typically taken for cardiac conditions and heart function in general. Magnesium helps the heart muscle relax, in addition to the blood vessels that feed the heart to open and deliver more blood to the heart itself. Taurine is an amino acid that is known to feed cardiac muscle and enhance the quality of contractions of the heart so if you’re taking Magnesium for heart function, this is potentially the best form.

Magnesium Sulphate
This form is known best as “Epsom Salt,” and is useful in baths for muscle relaxation, absorption of Magnesium through the skin, as a laxative, plant fertilizer and many other things.

Magnesium Chloride
Used in lotions, gel and oil preparations, the oral form is very useful in electrolyte and hydration problems. As a positive and negative electrolyte, it helps pull fluids through cells and prevents Third Spacing.

Magnesium L-threonate
The form effectively crosses the blood brain barrier and is being studied for uses such as patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive issues. Studies have shown that this form creates improvement in learning abilities, working memory and both short and long term memory. It also enhances sleep quality.

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency can affect every organ and system of the body.

Skeletal Muscle:
Twitches, cramps, muscle soreness and tension, back and neck aches, jaw (TMJ), chest tightness or not being able to take a deep breath, Osteoporosis
Smooth Muscle:
Difficulty swallowing, lump in throat, menstrual cramps, urinary spasms, difficulty with bright lights, loud noise sensitivity (stapedius muscle tension)
Central Nervous System:
Anxiety, insomnia, hyperactivity and restlessness, constant movement, agoraphobia, panic attacks
Cardiovascular System:
Angina (spasms of coronary arteries), high blood pressure, mitral valve prolapse, arrhythmias
Elevated C-reactive protein

Symptoms many times are co-mingled and can ‘seem’ like a rare or chronic illness. For example, a person may be uptight and have panic attacks, have restless leg at night, sore muscles and joints, heart palpitations, and suffer vibratory sensations like electrical zaps that are accompanied by a racing heart.

So, how do you know for sure you have a deficiency?

Many of these symptoms can be indicative of a more severe illness, but it’s easy to up your Magnesium intake to see if the problem seems to be corrected, or at least, if the symptoms improve. If you have combinations of these symptoms that come and go, you may suffer a Magnesium deficiency. Physicians can test for a Magnesium deficiency, but lab tests are of limited help. Magnesium is found primarily in the cells, so serum (blood) tests do not give a proper and complete picture. The blood level may be normal, even though the cells are not getting an adequate supply. This is because the body maintains serum levels at the expense of intracellular levels. If the serum levels change, this will cause heart irregularities, triggering the body to attempt to keep serum levels constant. It will use up Magnesium from inside the cells and even the bone, or order to achieve this. )This gets more complicated, as when electrolytes, including Magnesium, are not in cells, electrical impulses and fluid cannot move throughout the body – see client handout on hydration and electrolytes).
There are also Red Blood Cell Magnesium tests that are somewhat better, and there is also a Magnesium Loading Test which is quite an extensive and time consuming procedure.

Where Do I Get Magnesium?
As I always say, unless you have a physiological condition that prevents you from absorbing and utilizing a nutrient, or are suffering from a severe deficiency that needs immediate treatment before following a maintenance routine, a proper diet (tailored to your condition) is the best way to get any nutrient. This is because you then receive proper proportions of every nutrient and every combination so that they all work together synergistically.

The foods to include in your diet for ensuring Magnesium include:
•Whole grains
For example, ½ cup of Oat Bran contains 96 mg of Magnesium
•Nuts and seeds
For example, one ounce of Almonds has 78 mg of Magnesium
•Green leafy vegetables (magnesium is found in the molecules in the chlorophyll)
For example, ½ cup chopped (raw) spinach contains 78 mg. of Magnesium

Foods that contain very little Magnesium:
Refined foods, such as white sugar and white flour, has most of the magnesium removed from them (as are most nutrients removed from these products).

It should be remembered that intestinal and gut flora condition are critical to how these numbers are interpreted by the body. Poor intestinal health and gut flora lead to poor absorption, which leads to many deficiencies. In addition, supplementation with other minerals can result in competition for mineral digestive enzymes, and can impair mineral absorption. (As an example, doses of Zinc over 142 mg per day can inhibit Magnesium absorption). This is another reason it is extremely important to have a practitioner or other professional assist you in developing a specialized nutrition and wellness plan for your unique condition.

Treatment of Magnesium Deficiency
If you have a chronic deficiency due to a physiological problem, or have a slight deficiency due to bad diet (that you are going to correct!), oral magnesium supplements can be quite useful. Consideration will be made by your Nutritionist/Practitioner regarding the form that will be most beneficial to you, but two good forms overall are Magnesium Chloride, which is particularly good for electrolyte-related symptoms, and Magnesium Taurate which is very useful for cardiac and nervous system disorders.

Although the optimum dose is 123 mg. per day, a therapeutic dosage could be between 400 and 1000 mg of elemental magnesium. When purchasing your Magnesium, be sure you pay attention to the “elemental’ amounts of Magnesium. Although in persons with a healthy kidney it is difficult to reach a toxic level of Magnesium, it should be noted that ‘too much’ can result in diarrhea (after all, “Milk of Magnesia is a laxative!”). Clients with chronic kidney failure need diligent monitoring by their practitioner or physician, as their kidneys have difficulty eliminating Magnesium, and a toxic level is easily reached. Toxic levels of Magnesium manifest as depression of the entire nervous system leading to coma and even death. Although this is extremely rare, therapeutic doses of 100 (elemental) mg are considered safe.

Non-enteric coated supplements are absorbed at a much higher rate; enteric coated pills are absorbed 67% less than non-enteric coated supplements.

Magnesium and Medical Disorders
The following medical disorders need particular attention to prevent Magnesium Deficiency. In fact, oral supplementation can be beneficial for clients who have:
Angina pectoris
Cardiac arrhythmias
Coronary artery disease
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Musculoskeletal disorders
Mitral valve prolapse
Panic disorder
Diabetes Mellitus
Gastrointestinal problems such as Chron’s Disease, IBS, etc.
Adrenal, Thyroid, Parathyroid, and other Endocrine disorders

For some conditions, such as acute heart attacks, Magnesium is given as an intramuscular injection or as an intravenous drip. Studies have shown it reduces complications and mortality rate of heart attacks. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers also seem to respond well to Magnesium given by injection. Any chronic deficiency seems to respond well to injection, because of the superior absorption. Low Red Cell Magnesium results also warrant Magnesium injection, and alleviates stress on the calcium/magnesium ion pump and therefore, helps mitochondria work better.

Physiological Reasons for Magnesium Deficiency
Calcium and Magnesium compete for absorption (just like Zinc and Iron, and other pairs). Too much calcium in the diet will BLOCK Magnesium absorption. The physiological requirement ratio for calcium to Magnesium is about 2:1. Another reason why proper diet, especially one tailored to your own medical conditions, is important. Too much dairy will induce a Magnesium deficiency, as the ratio in dairy is approximately 10:1.

Poor intestinal health/Gut flora.

Chron’s Disease, IBS and other Gastrointestinal illnesses increase the amount of Magnesium excreted by feces.

Diabetes Mellitus causes excess secretion of Magnesium by the kidneys, through the urine.

Tea contains Tannin, which binds all minerals, including Magnesium. Do not drink tea with your foods but have it between meals.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause a Magnesium deficiency. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to utilize Magnesium.
Just like anything that is so critically important, Magnesium can be quite complicated. If you have spent years eating poorly, have abused your body, or have chronic or frequent illnesses, it is very important to work with a holistic nutritionist or other practitioner to develop a Wellness Plan to get your body in proper condition to absorb and utilize nutrients, and to start getting most of your nutrients from your regular diet. If you have health problems, a Wellness Plan constructed by a practitioner will focus on these issues. It takes years before you start seeing symptoms of poor eating, so be patient when repairing it. It can take weeks, months, and years. Some effects are seen within 4 weeks, some within 4 months, and soon you will feel like the ‘you’ you either used to know, or have always wanted to be.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP.

Mrs. Baker is a musician and recording artist, a mother of one, and resides in Muskogee, Oklahoma with her husband and their kitties.