Quite easily my favourite mineral, magnesium is involved in over 350 biochemical processes within the body; with every cell needing some level to function. Due to the significant roles magnesium plays, it is vital for our overall health to ensure that we maintain adequate levels to protect us from an array of chronic health conditions and to help us manage in times of stress.
Unfortunately, our modern day diet and lifestyle sees the majority of the population having below acceptable (as per functional medicine) levels, potentially contributing to the rise in non-communicable diseases we see today. So why is it important? ✨Hormone Balance – Magnesium is involved in both the making and breaking down of hormones to ensure we are kept nice and balanced and avoid hormonal conditions such as: PMS, Oestrogen Dominance and its associated conditions (such as fibroids and endometriosis).
✨Mental health – Depleted with high stress, magnesium helps to keep us calm and to produce neurotransmitters that make us feel calm and happy. (Coincidence that as a population we are becoming more deficient and mental health conditions are on the rise? – probably not). ✨Energy – For any of you that did year 12 bio and remember the Krebs cycle and ATP production, you know that none of these processes can occur without sufficient magnesium. ATP is made in the mitochondria (our little energy houses) and is not biologically active without being bound to magnesium. Feeling tired? ✨Sleep – Magnesium helps to calm and relax us by the stimulating effects it has on our GABA receptors. (GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays an inhibitory role on the nervous system). When we don’t have enough, our sleep can be affected which has a plethora of negative health consequences on our overall health. ✨Bone Health – Our bones need a delicate balance of not only calcium, but magnesium and other vitamins such as vitamin D. So, taking just calcium if you are magnesium deficient can be working against your bones, think about the bigger picture here and consider whether you may need to add some magnesium to the mix! ✨Cardiovascular Health – The number of patients I see that are on blood pressure medications that are magnesium deficient is 100%. Through targeting this deficiency (and others), we are able to dramatically reduce blood pressure and dependence on medications.
*The standard reference range for magnesium is 0.7-1.1 mmol/L, however I consider anything under 1 to be deficient*
✨Blood Sugar Regulation – Your pancreas needs magnesium to produce insulin and manage carbohydrate metabolism.
What leads to magnesium deficiency?
Due to the many significant roles that magnesium plays within the body, it is easily influenced by our day to day and the typical Western diet and lifestyle. It is important to remember that even if we have a healthy diet, if our digestion is not working correctly due to certain disorders such chronic diarrhoea and celiac disease, we still may be deficient in this key mineral.
Here are some of the lifestyle factors that can deplete magnesium levels in the body:
Stress – this chews up magnesium at a rapid rate. Why do you think sleep and mood are affected when we are stressed?
Farming practices – Depleted soils, storage and transport of foods can significantly reduce their nutrient content.
Diet and lifestyle – Too many processed foods and higher intakes of coffee, alcohol and soft drinks can also recue levels of magnesium within the body.
Medications – The pill, anti-depressants and medications taken for reflux (known as PPIs), use up and hinder the absorption of magnesium, respectively.
Blood sugar dysregulation – The body uses significantly higher amounts as more magnesium than normal is excreted when dysregulation is present. The pancreas also requires magnesium to produce insulin.
Heavy metal exposure – The body uses more magnesium to protect itself from the toxic effects of heavy metals.
How much do we need?
Current recommended daily intake (RDI) for magnesium are set by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC), based on nutrient reference values (NRVs) from the Australian Government and are as follows:
Children, pregnancy and lactation RDIs
As a qualified practitioner, I may increase dosages to up to 800mg/day for therapeutic benefit, however this is done through careful analysis of blood work and ensuring it is in the correct ratio to other key minerals. This is often when treating the following conditions:
It is important to also know that there a varying forms of magnesium available and that each can be used therapeutically for different conditions. Here are a few of the most commonly found and what I like to use them for in clinical practice.
Magnesium glycinate – Magnesium is bound to the amino acid glycine which works to calm the central nervous system and promote quality sleep – it is my favourite form for sleep and nervous system conditions.
Magnesium citrate – one of the most commonly used in clinical practice, due to its high bioavailability. I find it has a higher tolerance rate in those with a sensitive digestive system.
Magnesium oxide – Is probably the most common form you’ll see in over the counter supplements, and that’s because it’s cheap. It has a much lower absorption rate and I would only really use this if you are wanting to give yourself diarrhoea…
Magnesium L-threonate – This is one of the most absorbable forms and is what I use when looking to optimise brain health as it can cross the blood brain barrier where other forms can’t.
Magnesium sulphate – aka Epsom salts, is commonly used in baths to help with relaxation and muscle soreness. It can be absorbed transdermally (through the skin) more than other forms.
Magnesium orotate – Commonly used in cardiovascular support and muscle function. It may help with athletic performance due to the orotic acid component.
So where do we get Magnesium from?
Good quality dark chocolate (85%+)
Nuts and seeds – Particularly almonds and pepitas.
Legumes – Particularly black beans
Grains – Brown rice and quinoa
Other factors that affect magnesium levels?
Vitamin D is needed to absorb magnesium, therefore, if you are deficient in D, you may be low in magnesium too. On the flipside, vitamin D requires magnesium to be converted into the form that is used by the body, so with low levels of Magnesium, you may be low in D too. (See how important it is to understand the relationship between vitamins and minerals before we supplement).
In addition, a deficiency in B6, can lead to magnesium deficiency as it increases the rate at which it is excreted. The patients I see with chronically low magnesium levels, typically all require a little bit of B6 too.
Are you getting enough magnesium?