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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Rodgers

Magnesium: Why We Need Magnesium

Magnesium (Mg) is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate several biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.

An adult body contains approximately 25 grams of magnesium, with 50 to 60 percent present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues. Magnesium homeostasis is primarily controlled by the kidneys, which typically excrete about 120 mg of magnesium into the urine each day. Severe magnesium deficiency is rare, but chronic insufficiency appears to be shared among the general population and even more among those suffering from several chronic diseases or stress.

Risks Associated with Low Magnesium Levels?

Assessing magnesium status is difficult because most magnesium is inside cells or in bone. The most used and readily available method for assessing magnesium status is the measurement of serum (blood) magnesium concentration. However, serum levels correlate with total body magnesium or specific tissue concentrations.

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, etc. Severe magnesium deficiency is typically uncommon as the kidneys limit urinary excretion but can also result in low calcium or potassium levels.

Who is at risk for Low Magnesium levels?

The following groups of people are more likely than others to get too little magnesium:

  • People with gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s or celiac disease

  • People with type 2 diabetes

  • People with long-term alcoholism

  • Elderly

Benefits of Magnesium Supplementation?

It is estimated that about 75 percent of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily magnesium intake, which is 360 milligrams for women and 400 milligrams for men, which could result in deficiencies. As we established, magnesium is vital for the proper functioning nearly 300 chemical reactions in the body. Here are a few critical functions magnesium is responsible for:

  • Bone health: While most research has focused on the role of calcium and bone health, a 2013 study correlates magnesium with aiding in the creation of new bone tissue, which could be related to magnesium's ability to regulate calcium and vitamin d levels. Thus, magnesium supplementation could be a practical and low-cost preventive measure to help against osteoporosis.

  • Diabetes: Research has linked high magnesium diets with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes; this may be because magnesium plays a role in glucose (blood sugar) control and insulin metabolism. Low magnesium levels can worsen insulin resistance, a condition that often presents before diabetes. Secondly, people with diabetes often suffer from increased magnesium loss through urine. Research is still developing on how magnesium could benefit in lowering blood glucose levels.

  • Migraine Headaches: Magnesium deficiency is related to factors that promote headaches, including neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction. Those who experience migraines may have lower magnesium levels in their blood and body tissues. However, research on the use of magnesium supplements to prevent or reduce symptoms of migraine headaches is still developing. Three of four small, short-term, placebo-controlled trials found modest reductions in the frequency of migraines in patients given up to 600 mg/day of magnesium.

  • Cardiovascular Health: The body needs magnesium to maintain the health of muscles, including the heart. Research has found that magnesium plays a vital role in heart health and reducing the risk of morbidity and mortality in at-risk patients. One of the most notable cardiovascular health correlates with the risk for cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Anxiety and Premenstrual Syndrome: Magnesium levels may play a role in mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, but research is still developing. There is speculation that activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a set of three glands that control a person’s reaction to stress. Research also suggests that taking magnesium supplements with vitamin B-6 could improve symptoms for those suffering from premenstrual syndrome.

How Does Chronic Illness and Stress Affect Magnesium Levels?

Stress is commonly described as a trigger that leads to a physiological and psychological response of the body and is no longer viewed as a temporary response to occasional threats but rather an ongoing and which requires our bodies to adapt continuously.

Magnesium is essential in reactions regulating the body’s stress response at several levels, but most notably, magnesium inhibits and regulates the body's response to stress.

Foods Rich in Magnesium?

Many foods contain high magnesium levels, including nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. However, manufacturers also add magnesium to some breakfast cereals and other fortified foods. Keep in mind that the wheat products will lose magnesium when the wheat is refined, so it is best to choose cereals and bread products made with whole grains.

Recommended Oral Supplementation and Their Side Effects?

Oral magnesium supplementation is relatively safe for the general public but does not come without side effects. The most common side effects of oral magnesium supplementation are abdominal discomfort, nausea, and diarrhea. We have seen these side effects most with magnesium citrate. However, reactive magnesium glycinate tablets are typically well tolerated by patients.

Potential Drug Interactions with Magnesium?

Magnesium supplementation may also cause some drug interactions. Medications that may interact with magnesium supplements or affect magnesium levels include (this is not an inclusive list):

  • Oral bisphosphonates that treat osteoporosis, such as alendronate (Fosamax)

  • Tetracycline antibiotics such as doxycycline

  • Quinolone antibiotics, including levofloxacin (Levaquin) and Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

  • Diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix)

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) such as Nexium

Before starting any other oral vitamin or mineral supplementation, we recommend discussing your care plan with your primary care provider to ensure safety.

When Is IV Supplementation of Magnesium a Good Idea?

IV supplementation of Magnesium may be beneficial for patients who suffer from chronic migraines, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and more. The most notable benefit of IV magnesium is the reduction of gastrointestinal upset, which is nearly 100 percent bioavailable.

Although the current magnesium intake through our diet seems sufficient to avoid severe magnesium deficiency in most of the population, it might not be adequate to provide optimal health and risk reduction of chronic diseases. If you have questions regarding magnesium supplementation or are interested in IV magnesium supplementation, call Reform ABQ for a consultation.

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