The health benefits of Magnesium:
(Before I begin discussing the health benefits of magnesium, let me clearly state that I’m not a doctor, and not “prescribing” magnesium. These are solely my opinions, based on my research; take it or leave it as you see fit!)
Magnesium is a vital mineral that is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. When our body is low in magnesium we can experience any of the following:
- Muscle cramps, tics
- Anxiety, depression
- Backaches, Headaches
- High Blood Pressure
- Pregnancy Issues (such as leg cramps)
- Sleep disturbances
It is actually more common than you may think to have low magnesium. While magnesium is thought to be prevalent in many foods, the soil that the food is grown in has a large impact on its nutrient levels. Many foods are as nutrient rich as we would like to believe!
(For a more in-depth, scientific discussion on the biochemical processes, I like this article from Wellness Mama . I also like this article from Nature + Nurture .)
Magnesium, Calcium and Vitamin D
These three nutrients work synergistically and if one value is too high, it throws the others off. Said differently, if you have a very high calcium intake then you’ll need more Magnesium and Vitamin D. Many people take Calcium supplements without considering that a healthy balance of all three nutrients are needed to thrive!
Vitamin D is also needed to assimilate Magnesium (and vice versa). I personally like good old sunshine and I have a Vitamin D immulsion that my pediatrician recommends for my son, which I occasionally take if I haven’t been outside. I know a lot of people like the CALM drink as well (but it contains calcium…that’s great if you need calcium, not great if you don’t!).
The Health Benefits of Magnesium During Pregnancy
I definitely needed more magnesium while pregnant (and I already take quite a bit). I was having horrible leg cramps at night, and when I increased my magnesium intake by another 200mg, my cramps all but disappeared.
There is some speculation that having healthy magnesium stores assists with morning sickness during pregnancy. I’m not 100% convinced that magnesium levels are the sole indicator of whether or not someone will have morning sickness, however I will say that I was a little woozy off and on during my first trimester but I never puked, so it definitely doesn’t hurt!
How do you know if you need more magnesium?
Well, to start, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of deficiency listed above, it’s a good idea to try a supplement (unless you have a medical reason that would contra-indicate). I think almost anyone can benefit from magnesium supplementation.
How do you know if you take too much?
Magnesium taken orally will cause digestive upsets if you take more than you need. That essentially means loose stools. If you are experiencing loose stools after taking magnesium, then cut your dosage. Start small, with about 200mg, and see how your body reacts.
I have found that if I took too much magnesium I got shaky. It’s a good idea to really observe yourself for any undesirable changes. Always start slow and work your way up. If you start with 200mg and don’t see any improvement with your overall feeling of health and vitality, then trying going up another 100mg or so.
I started taking magnesium after a period when I was extremely fatigued, dizzy, and just felt sick. (I was convinced I had to be pregnant, but I wasn’t!). My regular doctor found nothing wrong with me except for a heart murmur…my thyroid levels were fine, and everything checked out. I did my own research and simply started taking Herbal Infusions (as a multi-vitamin replacement) and magnesium taurate (I chose magnesium with taurate due to the heart murmur).
I also added grains back into my diet, because I had been eating Paleo prior to that. This was when I found that cutting grains out was not in my best interest! I added back oats and quality grains (such as sprouted grains) and just focused on what my body was asking for a that time (lots of vegetables such as mushrooms, bell pepper, squash, etc).
I immediately started feeling better, so now I take magnesium faithfully!
What kind of magnesium to take and how much:
Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, and won’t cause digestive upsets. For this reason, I make my own magnesium lotion! You can make your own and use that. I rub a small amount on my son’s feet at night before bed, too. This is my favorite way to take magnesium!
Another way to take magnesium through your skin is with Magnesium Oil Spray. Honestly, I don’t care for this method because it stings like the dickens and I really don’t have twenty minutes to sit around and let the oil absorb into my skin (and then you are supposed to take a shower afterwards). What I do use it for is muscle cramps. This is particularly good if you have leg cramps due to pregnancy or exercise. Just spray right onto the affected muscle and rub in until absorbed.
I also take 250mg magnesium taurate (as mentioned above) and also 100mg of magnesium malate/citrate. I use this brand. The 250mg of Magnesium Taurate is the one I take every day, without fail. If I didn’t use my magnesium lotion that day then I take 100mg of magnesium malate (sometimes 200mg). Yesterday I took two showers (and used the lotion twice), so I skipped that 100mg altogether. Remember, just watch for the loose stools! *Please note that you should consult your doctor if you have any sort of heart condition before taking Magnesium Taurate.
(If you want a more in-depth look at the different types of Magnesium, I found this article on Mommypotamus .)
During pregnancy, I had to take a least 500 mg orally to prevent the cramps. I was hesitant to take so much since I feel like I already take a lot, but my midwife urged me to try it and of course she was right! After having my son, I decreased my oral dose by about 200mg (back to my original dosage).
The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for magnesium is 350-400mg/day, however if you are exercising a lot, pregnant, or otherwise losing a lot of electrolytes, then you’ll probably need more. It’s estimated that we only receive approximately 120mg/day per 1,000 calories of food, so supplementing with 200mg (to start) is a good place to start.
If you are like me, you prefer to eat your vitamins from whole foods! Here are some great sources of magnesium:
- Leafy, green vegetables
- Nuts, seeds
- Yogurt (and other high quality dairy)
- Whole Grains
- Bananas, Figs, Dried Fruit
- Dark Chocolate
Herbs that are high in Magnesium:
- Stinging Nettle
There are many other herbs high in Magnesium, but I listed some of my favorites. Stinging Nettle is the basis for an herbal infusion, and you can easily add a small handful of oatstraw to the infusion. Or you can drink Turmeric Milk, Licorice Tea (personally, I hate licorice and refuse! Refuse, I tell you!). I have encapsulated kelp and taken it that way (I’ve also encapsulated turmeric).
In case you weren’t convinced of the health benefits of magnesium and if you need to supplement, check out the following:
Other factors that would indicate a magnesium deficiency (source: Nutritional Herbology):
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Living in a hot climate (a lot of sweating=electrolyte loss) or use of diuretics
- Antibiotic use, chemotherapy
- Excessive fat or protein intake (Paleo or Keto diet, anyone??)
Other interesting tidbits:
According to Nutritional Herbology, Type A individuals (that’s me!!) are more likely to release more fatty acids into the blood under equal stress than a Type B individual (because we stress out, you know!). This results in a net loss of serum magnesium. Interesting, huh?
So there you have it! My synopsis on the health benefits of Magnesium. If you are interesting in learning more, I have heard great things about the book The Magnesium Miracle.
What are your experiences supplementing with magnesium?