Magnesium is required in many functions in the human body. In fact it’s known as the “Master Relaxer” because of its calming effects on multiple systems in the body. Magnesium relaxes our nervous systems, cardiovascular systems, muscles and bowels. In addition to this calming effect, it is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies and thus there is more demands for this mineral than most others.
Stress can deplete your magnesium levels, and let’s face it who does not have stress? If you’re stressed and burning the midnight oil, you may also be consuming more coffee and sugar – which decrease your mineral levels even more. Additionally, certain prescription drugs can deplete your levels of magnesium, like:
- those used for acid reflux, known as proton pump Inhibitors,
- antihypertensive drugs,
- oral contraceptives and
People taking these drugs have been known to have serious laboratory deficiencies. When it shows up in your lab results, then you have a serious case of deficiencies because most people may not be deficient in their lab values yet have a deficiency. This is because magnesium is stored in all our cells and bones, and when levels drop in the blood the body will “borrow” from these saved resources.
Magnesium deficiencies are so common, and especially with women. Monthly surges in hormones place higher requirements for magnesium levels on our bodies. This is why premenstrual symptoms like cramps and chocolate cravings are linked to magnesium deficiency. The signs below are true for both men and women.
Common signs that your magnesium levels are too low are:
- anxiety or depression,
- fatigue or weakness,
- muscle tension,
- pain or cramps,
- low appetite,
- elevated blood pressure and palpitations.
Magnesium is by far (along with probiotics) one of the most common nutrients I recommend because of its involvement in moving the bowels. This is because magnesium acts as an osmotic laxative, drawing fluid into your gut and stimulating bowel movements. With a daily dose of magnesium your body moves from a sympathetic stressed state to the parasympathetic rest and digest state. The trouble in getting ENOUGH is that dietary magnesium is not highly bioavailable – meaning we only absorb about a third of the magnesium provided to us through our diet, in foods like:
- leafy greens,
- nuts and seeds,
- dark chocolate and
However, magnesium deficiency is so rampant partly because even the foods that generally contain higher amounts of this mineral don’t provide adequate amounts due to depleted soils and poor digestive health.
The answer is supplementation, but I often get the question, “there are so many forms, which one is right for me?”. What form of magnesium usually depends on your presenting symptoms and concerns.
- Magnesium Citrate has been commonly used for moving the bowels and its calming effects to help with sleep. You will find this in many mineral formulas. Citrates are great for removing dietary oxalates in people who have a tendency to create kidney stones. Citrate forms of minerals are also supportive for detox. I personally find that citrate formulas can cause more bowel gas when used to help your bowels move.
- Magnesium Carbonate this is typically used in alkalization formulas and with vitamin C to buffer the acidity of the supplement. This form is not often used, but you will find it in the Sanas Alka Practice Formula.
- Magnesium Glycinate is one of my favourites for bowel health, because it does triple duty. The magnesium works as an osmotic laxative while the glycine helps with phase 2 of liver detoxification and is also a powerful molecule that can calm the nervous system down.
- Magnesium Malate is a form of magnesium that helps with pain sensations over the body. It is frequently used for fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Malic acid comes from apple and helps the body to eliminate out aluminum, a detrimental metal that is implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Magnesium Threonate is used mainly for calming the mind. It is one of the newest forms of magnesium. It easily passes the blood brain barrier and rapidly facilitates a relaxed state. I enjoy this magnesium before going to bed after a busy night of work.
- Milk of Magnesia otherwise known as magnesium hydroxide, is typically prescribed by pharmacists to help the bowels move and as an antacid.
My favourites for moving the bowels: Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Malate.
My favourite for relaxation: Magnesium Threonate
My favourite for alkalinization: Magnesium Carbonate.
Not sure how much magnesium to use? Each individual has different nutrient requirements that also may change over time due to changing levels of stress and physical activity. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 300-400 mg per day. We find some patients require more, closer to 600 mg a day, it’s generally safe to determine this level at home by slowly increasing your dose over time. Initially you will replenish your depleted stores, then you will find your “sweet spot” when you experience looser stools. This is because if you consume too much magnesium you may feel relaxed but primarily you will experience loose stools.