Magnesium - It’s Elemental
Magnesium: What is it?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood and the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant .
Why do I need it?
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, provides energy, keeps heart rhythm steady, and supports a healthy immune system. Magnesium is required for the proper growth and maintenance of bones. Magnesium is also required for the proper function of nerves, muscles, and many other parts of the body. In the stomach, magnesium helps neutralize stomach acid and moves stools through the intestine; dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines and excreted through the kidneys. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis . There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Since magnesium is required by the body to properly digest foods, supplementing with it can help.
People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes (black beans, kidney beans), whole grains (brown rice), vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds). Other sources include dairy products, meats, chocolate, coffee, chlorophyll, seaweed, raw cacao, dried pumpkin seeds, and almond butter. Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.
If you eat a balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, legumes and unprocessed flour, you should have no problem reaching your recommended daily allowance of magnesium. But when manufacturers process foods, such as flour, the magnesium content can drop 80 to 90 percent, according to "Prevention Magazine's Nutrition Advisor." So whenever possible, choose fresh foods that have undergone minimal processing.
Some people use magnesium for diseases of the heart and blood vessels including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of “good” cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, heart valve disease (mitral valve prolapse), and heart attack.
Cancer rates have risen dramatically throughout the past century, and are expected to nearly double within the next few decades. But maintaining healthy magnesium levels in your body can greatly decrease your risk of developing cancer. A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that for every 100-milligram (mg) increase in magnesium intake, a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer drops by about 13 percent.
Magnesium is also used for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, leg cramps, diabetes, kidney stones, migraine headaches, weak bones (osteoporosis), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), altitude sickness, urinary incontinence, restless leg syndrome, asthma, hay fever, multiple sclerosis, and for preventing hearing loss. Magnesium deficiency is directly linked to causing insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to diabetes.
Magnesium is considered a powerful detoxifier as well, especially since your body's "master antioxidant," glutathione, requires magnesium in order to function properly. Heavy metals, environmental chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, and various other toxins are greatly inhibited from taking hold inside the body when magnesium is present.
Some people put magnesium on their skin to treat infected skin ulcers, boils, and carbuncles; and to speed up wound healing. Magnesium is also used as a cold compress in the treatment of a severe skin infection caused by strep bacteria (erysipelas) and as a hot compress for deep-seated skin infections.
Learn Different Types Of Magnesium Oral Supplements
The best forms of magnesium are magnesium taurate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, magnesium orotate and magnesium oil. Magnesium is available in chelated (bound to) combinations such as alpha-ketogluconate, aspartate, glycinate, lysinate, orotate, taurate and others.
Chelated magnesium is far better absorbed than magnesium oxide but is more expensive. Complementary medicine practitioners rely on chelated magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate, taurate and orotate (magnesium plus amino acids) to treat serious cases of magnesium deficiency. These kind of magnesiums have less laxative effect on the intestines than magnesium citrate, so they are recommended if you tend to have loose stools.
Magnesium taurate is a combination of the amino acid taurine and magnesium that has special properties for the heart. Taken together in this combination, magnesium and taurine have a synergistic effect, stabilizing cell membranes, making this form of magnesium highly absorbed. Magnesium taurate does not have great laxative effect and is the recommended form of magnesium for people with heart problems. It appears that the amino acid taurine is important for heart health and may prevent arrhythmias and protect the heart against the damage caused by heart attacks. Magnesium taurate requires oral supplementation for six to twelve months to restore intracellular levels.
Magnesium citrate is probably the mostly widely used magnesium supplement because it is inexpensive, easily absorbed and only has a mild laxative effect. The best form is magnesium citrate powder mixed in water that can be taken everyday.
Magnesium malate combines magnesium with malic acid, a weak organic acid found in vegetables and fruit, especially apples. The weak bond with magnesium makes it readily soluble in the body. Malic acid is a key component of several energy making chemical reactions in the body. Researchers have used magnesium malate successfully to treat the chronic fatigue, pain and insomnia of fibromyalgia. Dimagnesium malate increases the amount of magnesium available to the body; it has the same properties as magnesium malate.
Magnesium oxide appears to have high amount of elemental magnesium. One 500 mg capsule of magnesium oxide contains 300 mg of elemental magnesium. But little of that amount is available to the body because it is not absorbed and therefore not biologically available. One recent study reported 4 percent absorption rate of magnesium oxide. This means 12 mg of 500 mg capsule are absorbed and 288 may stay in the intestines, acting like a laxative. Imagine how much favorable the result would be if a more absorbable form of magnesium were used.
Types of magnesium to avoid
Do not use magnesium glutamate; it breaks down into the neurotransmitter glutamic acid, which without being bound to other amino acids is neurotoxic. Glutamic acid is a component of aspartame, which should also be avoided.
Also avoid magnesium aspartate; it breaks down into the neurotransmitter aspartic acid, which without being bound to other amino acids is neurotoxic. Aspartic acid is a component of aspartame,which also should be avoided.
What happens if I don’t get enough magnesium?
A chronic lack of magnesium in the body yields many consequences – including low energy levels. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and irritability.
If you experience frequent upset stomach, loss of appetite or diarrhea, you might be in the early stages of magnesium deficiency. But these symptoms are vague and might be indications of other medical issues such as a gastrointestinal problem. Long-term magnesium deficiency symptoms include apathy, confusion, depression, irregular heartbeat, irritability, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions, poor coordination, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
Research on red blood cells has shown that lower levels of magnesium can make the cells more fragile – leading to a decrease in available red blood cells. Red blood cells are vital for increasing your energy levels because they deliver needed oxygen to tissues. The body primarily derives energy from carbohydrates and fats from food sources. Magnesium is essential for the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates for energy. Adenosine triphosphate, a type of protein that provides energy for metabolism, primarily exists as a magnesium complex in the body.
A 2002 study also revealed that low magnesium levels disrupt the body’s efficiency for using energy stores. The researchers assessed the effects of dietary magnesium restriction during exercise in postmenopausal women. They found low magnesium levels led to higher oxygen use and higher heart rates during exercise. Athletes sometimes use magnesium to increase energy and endurance. This suggests magnesium helps to optimize the use of oxygen in order to burn calories and feel more energized, and a lower level of magnesium hinders that process.
Few people suffer from extreme magnesium deficiency, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, even if they obtain less than they need from their diets. People who are prone to nutrient deficiencies -- such as those with gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism or kidney disease -- might suffer from extreme magnesium deficiency. Dietary intake of magnesium may be low particularly among women, African Americans and the elderly. Other factors that can lower your magnesium levels include taking diuretics, drinking too much coffee, alcohol or soda, consuming excessive salt, experiencing heavy menstrual periods, sweating excessively and experiencing prolonged stress.
How much magnesium do I need?
Magnesium is widely available in different foods – especially green vegetables, cereals, and fruits. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for young adults is around 400 mg/day for men and 310 mg/day for women. For adults over 30, the RDA is 420 mg/day for men and 320 mg/day for women. However, despite how easy it is to find magnesium, studies have shown that between 68-75% of American adults are magnesium deficient according to “The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Good Health”.
How to take magnesium
Take your first dose of magnesium when you wake up in the morning and the last dose at bedtime. Magnesium is most deficient in the early morning and late afternoon. Most people find magnesium as good as a sleeping pill to help them get a good night’s rest.
Since magnesium is required by the body to properly digest foods, it can help alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort and disease. Magnesium acts as a coenzyme in the digestive tract, which means it helps break down food and assimilate nutrients into your body. Magnesium also aids in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, as well as triggers the healthy production of bile in your liver.
Magnesium can be taken with or without meals, but it is preferable to take it between meals for better absorption. Magnesium requires stomach acid to be absorbed. After a full meal, your stomach acid is busy digesting food and may not be available to help absorb magnesium. Also magnesium is an alkaline mineral and acts like an antacid: taken with meals, it may neutralize stomach acid and impair digestion.
If you develop loose stools while taking magnesium, it does not necessarily mean you are absorbing enough and losing the rest; it may mean you are taking too much at one time. NEVER TAKE YOUR DAILY MAGNESIUM ALL AT ONCE. Spread it out through the day; four times a day is best if you have been experiencing diarrhea. If that does not do the trick, you probably need to cut back the amount you are taking or switch to another type or brand of magnesium.
If you are taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement, remember to check the amount of elemental magnesium on the label and count it in your daily total. For the average person, oral magnesium, even in high doses, has no side effects except loose stools, which is a mechanism to release excess magnesium and an indication to cut back. Excess magnesium is also lost through the urine.