Magnesium is a macro-mineral, meaning our bodies need it in high amounts. It is one of six essential minerals that we can only obtain through our diet or, supplementation. There are many food choices that naturally contain magnesium. Such as spinach, avocados, nuts and seeds. Unfortunately, modern agriculture practices significantly deplete soil nutrients, so even those who consume a healthy diverse diet, still come up short on their magnesium levels. If fact, the data shows that about half of all Americans are magnesium deficient. This opens the door for a wide range of bodily dysfunctions.
For that reason, supplementing with magnesium products has become an important self-care routine. Although it is commonly taken to help relax muscles, magnesium plays a key role in hundreds of other processes throughout our bodies.
Magnesium is a supreme regulator. It maintains homeostasis (balance) between the inter/extra cellular exchanges, as well as the mineral levels within our cells. Particularly, the ratio between calcium, sodium and potassium. Maintaining a proper balance of these mineral ions facilitates healthy electrical conductivity. Which in turn affects all nerve impulses, including muscle contractions, and heart rhythms.
Adequate levels of magnesium allow for soft tissue relaxation. This enhances muscle integrity, and cardiovascular health. Low levels of magnesium can produce a hyperactive nervous system causing muscle tightness and cramps, anxiety, sleep disorders, heart arrhythmia, and raised blood pressure.
Magnesium is also needed for proper calcium absorption. Low magnesium leads to excessive calcium levels in the blood. This can progress to the hardening of tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and arteries (heart disease). This becomes a real concern for those prescribed daily calcium supplementation for bone health. In order for calcium to be properly absorbed and transported into the bones, there must be adequate levels of magnesium and vitamins D & K present.
Personally, I feel we can easily get enough calcium from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Foods like leafy greens contain high levels of calcium and magnesium combined with an array of other nutrients that allow for proper absorption and usage.
For more info on proper nutrients for bone health, check out this video by Dr Eric Berg: Osteoporosis is not a calcium problem
Enzymes are molecules that allow for thousands of cellular chemical reactions to function efficiently. Along with hormones, they carry the instructions to sustain life. Magnesium acts as a co-factor, regulating over 300 enzyme processes. It basically acts as a switch, turning on or off the enzyme as needed. If the presence of magnesium is low, enzymic activity can spiral out of control.
Cell reproduction is an on-going, life sustaining function. In seven years, every cell we presently have in our bodies, will have been replaced. DNA is the molecule within the chromosomes of every cell that hold the blueprint instructions to build an exact duplication of its home cell. Studies show that low levels of magnesium slow down the production of DNA, which can hinder the reproductive and healing processes. Magnesium also plays role in the healthy production of RNA, which is the material used to make our DNA.
All our cells have a built-in generator. It is called the mitochondria, and it converts glucose, fatty acids and amino acids into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the fuel all cells use to carry out their functions. In order to be utilized, ATP must combine with magnesium. In fact, the active form of ATP is labelled MgATP. Without sufficient amounts of magnesium, we cannot metabolize usable units of energy. This leads to cell/tissue/organ dysfunction.
FORMS OF MAGNESIUM
Our bodies do not absorb magnesium in its pure form well. In order to be used as a supplement, magnesium must be bonded to another substance to be more bioavailable. Magnesium compounds in supplements come in a wide range of forms, and the absorption rate varies from form to form. Although all the magnesium compounds have a generally similar effect, each form offers extra support for specific functions in our bodies. The following briefly describes the most popular forms:
Magnesium citrate, one of the first forms of magnesium to be marketed, is very easily absorbed in the digestive track. This compound binds magnesium to the same citric acid that you see in most vitamin C supplements. It tends to pull water into the intestines, softening stool. It is often used to relieve mild to moderate constipation. It is also marketed as an overall sedative, however, there are other forms that may be more suitable for that effect.
Malate is basically malic acid, which is a natural substance we produce, and can be found in many fruits and vegetable. Some studies show a connection between poor malic acid production and fibromyalgia. Thus, magnesium malate is often taken by those diagnosed with that condition. Overall, magnesium malate is the form most taken to target muscle health. It enhances muscle performance and helps with muscle fatigue. Studies also show that magnesium malate has metabolic assisting properties, that aids energy production. It is also highly absorbable.
Magnesium chelated with the amino acid glycine is called magnesium glycinate. The chelation process allows this form to be possibly the most bioavailable. Meaning that it absorbs into the cells very easily, and there’s less excretory waste than most other forms. Like magnesium, glycine has calming properties. Therefore, combining the two together has shown to be highly effective for those suffering with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and headaches.
Magnesium mixed with threonic acid (derived from vitamin C) creates the salt, magnesium L-threonate. This form of magnesium is highly absorbable, and is said to be able to pass the blood-brain barrier. For that reason, it elevates the level of magnesium in the brain, which helps to improve cognitive functions. This form of magnesium is often used to help improve memory loss, and protect against neurological illnesses like Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. However, more studies (human) are needed to determine its true benefits.
The effects of magnesium taurate in humans could be researched more fully. However, the data so far points to its ability to lower blood pressure, thus having cardiovascular health benefits. The studies also show that it can help control blood sugar levels. This form is compounded with the amino acid taurine. Taurine has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps with the development of bile salts. Therefore, the combination could be used to aid digestive health.
Magnesium sulfate is a compound with sulfur and oxygen. This form is a powerful dilator that can quickly relax soft tissue (muscles and vessels) to allow for an influx of circulation. It is commonly known as Epsom Salt, and used as a soak to relax sore/tight muscles. It is also used to relieve severe constipation. Because of its high absorbability, using magnesium sulfate is a good way to quickly raise magnesium levels. Transdermal magnesium products pass easily through our skin, bypassing the digestive systems. This makes them a highly effective.
NOTE: This is not an exhausted list of the different forms of magnesium available. These are however, the more bioavailable forms.
There are generally no ill side effects from taking magnesium. However, most of the forms will produce some negative effects if over consumed. The main effects are dizziness, lethargy, and weakness. Extremely loose bowels (diarrhea) is also common if over dosing, especially with the magnesium citrate and sulfate forms. It’s important to follow the suggested dosage on the label, or by a healthcare professional.
WHICH FORM TO TAKE
Knowing what each forms properties are, allows us to choose one that addresses our specific needs. There are now products on the market that supply multiple forms. Using a quality, magnesium supplement containing multiple forms is a good way to get umbrella coverage for different needs. As always, do your due diligence by thoroughly reading labels HINT: look out for ‘other ingredients’, researching products, and talking to knowledgeable professionals.
THIS ARTICLE IS FOR IMFORMATIVE PURPOSES ONLY. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE CONSULT WITH YOUR PRIMARY CARE PROFESSIONAL BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES TO YOUR HEALTHCARE REGIMEN.