Magnesium is one of the most abundant intracellular cations in the body, second only to potassium. Foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate are loaded with magnesium, but more than half of the U.S. population’s diet does not meet the recommended allowance for magnesium. So, how does magnesium impact normal body functioning? What can be done to support healthy levels of magnesium? I take a closer look at the answers to these questions, and more, below.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in human biochemistry and general health. Present in all cells of the body, magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is also necessary for glycolysis, which is the first step in converting carbohydrates into energy—playing a highly important role in the body’s ability to maintain healthy energy levels. In addition, magnesium contributes to structural bone development and is necessary for the synthesis of DNA, RNA and glutathione. It also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, critical to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, neurological health and cardiac function. Further, magnesium is considered a calming nutrient and helps support proper sleep. Research from the Biochemistry and Neurophysiology Unit at the University of Geneva Department of Psychiatry indicates that higher levels of magnesium help provide better, more consistent sleep.The United States Department of Agriculture has reported that 57 percent of the U.S. population does not meet the recommended dietary allowance for levels of magnesium. Some people are at a greater risk for magnesium deficiency due to lower intakes or medical conditions that limit magnesium absorption from the gut or increase magnesium loss. Having one or more of the following conditions puts people at greater risk of magnesium deficiency: gastrointestinal diseases, type II diabetes, or alcohol dependence.
How do I choose the right magnesium supplement?
To combat deficiency problems and enhance the benefits of magnesium, people will supplement their magnesium production orally. However, some forms of magnesium are better suited for diet supplementation than others. Some forms of magnesium that are highly absorbable include chloride, orotate, gluconate, glycinate aspartate, ascorbate and glycerophosphate. Magnesium glycerophosphate actually becomes soluble only when it reaches the intestinal tract and, as a result, can be absorbed rather than eliminated as waste.
Some magnesium salts such as magnesium carbonate can attract water and create what is called a “hydration shell.” This compound of hydrated magnesium can become a barrier to absorption and could result in laxative effects. Highly absorbable forms of magnesium, however, are protected from forming such a hydration shell and won’t trigger laxative effects.
How do I maximize the benefits of taking magnesium?
To maximize the benefits of magnesium supplementation, I recommend combining magnesium with a number of other natural supplements.
For starters, I recommend combining magnesium with taurine. Taurine, an amino acid and required building block of protein, is great for energy. It is created by the body and is essential for cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, retinal and central nervous system functioning. Taurine can be sourced from foods like meat and fish, but also via supplements. Together, magnesium and taurine normalize cell communication. Taurine also promotes absorption by fixing magnesium in the cell, maximizing intracellular magnesium concentration.
Whole organic beetroot juice
Thanks to their high concentration of nitrates, red beets have a positive influence on performance capacity, reducing fatigue and improving stamina. In the body, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which increases muscle oxygenation and the contractile force of the muscles. In one study, dietary inorganic nitrates had profound effects on basal mitochondrial effects in humans.
B vitamins—that is, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and pantothenic acid—are indispensable for the body’s energy supply, and for the optimal functioning of the muscles and nervous system. This group of water-soluble vitamins also stimulates the production of neurotransmitters. Niacin, specifically, also supports a natural way to lower your cholesterol levels. Studies show niacin has the ability to boost your HDL levels, sometimes up to 30 percent.
Bamboo shoot extract
Bamboo is a rich source of easily absorbed organic silicon, a trace element that promotes the absorption of calcium by the skeleton and restores the physiologically normal calcium-magnesium balance. It does this by stimulating the calcium absorption by osteoblasts. As a result, sufficient magnesium remains in the cell. Because low cellular magnesium levels increase stress sensitivity, optimizing magnesium levels is the best support when experiencing stress.
As a functional medicine practitioner and nutritionist, I see a lot of patients with a variety of conditions related to magnesium deficiency. For those patients needing blood sugar support, I recommend increasing magnesium intake to support blood sugar regulation. I also recommend magnesium supplementation for patients experiencing headaches, as magnesium supports the healthy inflammatory pathways. In my chiropractic patients, I treat muscle spasms with a combination of magnesium and calcium—recommending a two-to-one ratio, respectively. This combined approach helps with muscle relaxation. Finally, as with all vitamins, I recommend that my patients take magnesium with food—and away from coffee, as coffee can strip vitamins of their essential nutrients and inhibit their intended absorption.
If you’re one of the 57 percent of Americans with a magnesium-deficient diet, you may want to consider the benefits of magnesium supplementation. Together with taurine, beetroot juice, B vitamins, and bamboo shoot extract, magnesium supplementation can naturally boost energy levels, improve stamina, and support muscle and nervous system functioning. Talk to your functional medicine practitioner today to assess whether magnesium supplements would benefit you.
By: Robert G. Silverman, DC, MS, CNS, CCN, CSCS, CKTP, CES, CIISN, DACBN, DCBCN, HKC, FAKTR
Related Biotics Research Products:
Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, Cragg GM, Levine M, Moss J, White JD, eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:527-37.
Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, Mass: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:159-75.
Jia F et al. Taurine is a potent activator of extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors in the thalamus. J Neurosci. 2008 Jan 2;28(1):106-15.
Carlisle EM. The nutritional essentiality of silicon. Nutr Rev. 1982 Jul;40(7):193-8.