How to Increase Your Magnesium Intake (And Why You Need To)First Published: March 28, 2013 Last updated: June 20th, 2016 Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes 6 comments
Magnesium, a simple metal you may think at first. You may have memories of burning it in science class back in school. You will be surprised to learn that magnesium is one of the most important minerals that your body uses – it works in over 300+ reactions and processes in your body. You may also be surprised to learn that while reading this article right now, you are most probably deficient in it.
The truth is, over the past 100 years we have been getting less and less of this essential mineral in our diets because of over farming and large scale farming using fertilisers with no magnesium content. The soils our vegetables grow in have been depleted of Mg (Magnesium) and while the vegetables you buy from the shops may look colorful and pretty, the truth is that they contain very little minerals and nutrients these days.
In my text, I may use the reference “Mg” – this means magnesium in it’s short form.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency
Some of the most common signs of magnesium deficiency are below. This is generalized and may not contain all of the symptoms. The symptoms below can also be caused by other health factors, but these are related to Mg deficiency.
This is usually physical anxiety with high blood pressure, tachycardia (racing heart) but also related to thought based anxiety as magnesium helps the body utilize and generate Serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter for balancing mood.
This is usually because asthma is caused by some kind of irritation or sensitivity to environmental toxin and magnesium helps to detoxify the body by binding to the toxins and flush them out of your body.
Angina can be present in a magnesium deficiency as the veins and arteries tense up because of either too much calcium or not enough magnesium. There is a debate about calcium : magnesium ratio and it’s thought that the ratio back in our early days as humans was actually 1:1 – modern day we’re seeing ratios of up to 7:1 – that’s 7 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium; it’s no wonder we’re suffering with many cardiovascular problems.
- Heart arrhythmia / palpitations
Similar to angina, magnesium helps to regulate heart beat and muscle contraction and relaxation. It also helps to get the electric signal to the heart correctly and down the right path.
Magnesium helps to open cells in the body to allow influx of glucose. Without magnesium, glucose stays in the blood and cannot get into cells where it belongs. This results in an increase in serum glucose (blood glucose levels) and possible long term diabetes without the magnesium deficiency being rectified.
Similar to the anxiety bullet point above, Mg helps the body to properly utilize and create serotonin, a very important neurotransmitter that regulates mood. When serotonin levels are low, you may experience depression, brain fog, anxiety and a general feeling of being “on edge”. Increasing serotonin levels can improve mood, make you feel “lighter”, happier and also help you sleep more easily.
- High Blood Pressure
One of the main benefits I’ve had while taking magnesium is the profound effect it’s had on my blood pressure. I’ve always had slightly elevated blood pressure and have always put it down to my anxiety and stress. Once I started taking magnesium, I noticed that my blood pressure is much more regulated and my morning hypertension and racing heart seem to have subsided. Magnesium helps the veins relax so the pressure inside them isn’t as high. The same way beta-blockers work (or calcium channel blockers), except magnesium is the mineral that is MEANT to do this, not toxic medications prescribed freely by your doctor.
- Body Temperature Control
I used to suffer with a strange problem… every evening when I got into bed and ready for sleep, my body would heat up. I would feel hot and have to sleep on top of the bed sheets to stay cool. This was the case even in a cool room with the window open. Since starting magnesium therapy, I’ve noticed that this has completely subsided and I feel “cooler” in bed now – even with the windows closed and under the sheets.
These are also caused by the tense blood vessels in your head. If you’ve had every test going to find the cause of your headaches and haven’t found the cause, magnesium could be your saviour.
- Muscle spasms or twitches
This was a problem for me. I would regularly have muscle spasms and twitches all over my body. Once day it may be on the top of my arm (and it would twitch on and off all day) and then next it could be my buttock. I also used to get twitches in the corner of my eye. These have almost cleared up now with supplementing.
- Many more symptoms
There are many more symptoms of magnesium deficiency. They could be fatigue, kidney stones, osteoporosis, infertility and even poor memory.
You may notice that most of the symptoms above are related to anxiety, depression and cardiovascular problems. However, magnesium is used in over 300 processes in the human body and if you’re having problems with any of the above or anything else that you may feel related, your first step should be starting a Mg supplementation programme.
Dosage of magnesium can vary from case to case, but with a normal pair of kidneys, you can take up to 5000mg (5g) per day – although I advise against this as it’s way too high and not really the “normal” the body expects. Somewhere between 400mg – 1500mg per day is better, and whatever feels right for your body. You must listen and feel your body, it always lets you know what’s “right”. If you have kidney problems of any kind, it’s very important you do this under consultation with a medical doctor as high doses of magnesium can be toxic in patients that are unable to eliminate excess Mg – you could end up with a case of hypermagnesemia (although very rare).
If, like me you’ve been deficient since a very young age, you may have to take several sources of magnesium either from pills, oils, baths as a combination to increase your intracellular magnesium.
Somewhere between 400mg – 1500mg a day is the recommended dose.
You should also remember that the dosage on the supplement isn’t always what the body receives. Read below for more information on the best forms…
Supplements – getting more magnesium
There are countless ways to increase your intake of this miracle mineral, listed below are the most effective ways.
Supplements in pill/capsule form
An easy way to increase your magnesium intake is by taking regular pills/capsules. There are many different types, and it should be noted that many of them are useless. For example, magnesium oxide (the most common pill available) only has about a 3-4% absorbability, so if you was to take 300mg magnesium oxide, you body would only receive 10.5 mg of usable magnesium.
The preferred form of magnesium in pill form is either magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate. In fact, the best form is magnesium taurate because it’s bound to taurine which is great for the cardiovascular system and for it’s detoxifying properties.
Recommended pill/capsule supplements and dosages
Taking pills/capsules can usually increase bowel movements or makes your stools very soft and sometimes presents diarrhea. You want to avoid diarrhea as this actually depletes you of magnesium. The key is to take as much as needed without causing diarrhea – you will get a feel for it and must listen to your body. You can usually work up your tolerance over time. A good starting point is 400mg daily for the first two weeks then 800mg daily. You may need less at first and increase slower if you are having the diarrhea effect.
Here are a few options:
- Magnesium Glycinate
- Magnesium Citrate
- Magnesium Taurate
Avoid magnesium oxide like the plague. Not only does it not absorb properly, it’s also very bad for your stomach lining and digestive tract and can cause damage with prolonged use.
“Magnesium Oil” is essentially hydrated magnesium chloride. While it’s called an “oil”, it doesn’t contain any oil – it’s just the way it feels when you apply it to your skin. This is a great way of getting magnesium into your body – via the skin – it’s called transdermal magnesium. The solution soaks into your skin and all that’s left behind is the salty chloride crystals that you can wash away with a quick shower of rub down.
There are many different types of oil that you can buy, but the one you are looking for should be manufactured using magnesium from the Zechstein seabed. Some of the others, such as oils that use the dead sea as their source can contain some impurities including heavy metals and toxic elements.
You can apply the oil all over your body, from head to toe. When I first started using the oil, I noticed that it stang quite badly and also produced a hives like rash. Apparently this is normal and the reason it happend in my case was because I applied it before bed and left it on all night. After some research I learnt that I only had to leave it on until it was dry and “salty” and could wash it off after that. Apparently, it takes about 20-30 mins for the entire magnesium content to be absorbed and you can wash your skin after that.
You can apply it as often as you wish, and there is less risk of toxicity using this method as your body will only absorb what’s needed.
In my opinion, the only oil worth purchasing (the best) is the Ancient Minerals brand.
Angstrom or Ionic Magnesium
While the capsule/pill form only gives up to 30-40% absorption, angstrom (or ionic) magnesium provides up to 99% absorption and does not ever produce loose stools or stomach problems. Because the magnesium is “ionic”, it means it’s small enough to pass straight into the body without being broken down or digested. It is ready to use straight away by the body and gets to work immediately. People with bowel problems usually turn to angstrom and some people even say it’s as good as intravenous (IV) Mg therapy.
There are many different concentrations of this type, usually they come with a concentration in ppm (parts per million) format. I purchased my first bottle in 350 ppm in a 16 ounce bottle. The conversion to work out how much active magnesium in a bottle is 1 ppm per 1 litre = 1mg/l. So for example, my 350 ppm 16 ounce bottle (0.5 liter) works out to contain 175 mg per bottle using the formula 350 ppm for 0.5l. So another example is that a 9000 ppm bottle at a volume of 1 litre would contain 9,000 mg of active magnesium.
From that, you can work out what you need to take – however with the high dosage (9,000 ppm) bottles, I highly recommend sticking to the label advice – as you don’t need to take as much because it’s 100% absorbable.
There are many different kinds, with higher concentration (in a smaller bottle that you may dilute) – or larger bottles in less concentration.
There are a few I recommend:
- Liquid Ionic Magnesium Mineral Supplement (32 fl. oz.) at 3,000 ppm
- Liquid Ionic Minerals Magnesium
- Trace Minerals Research Ionic Magnesium
Taking a magnesium bath is a great time to relax, detoxify and absorb this wonderful mineral. There are several ways you can do it. You can use magnesium chloride flakes, magnesium chloride oil and epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) in a bath of hot water.
I’ve found that epsom bath salts (Mg sulphate) work great in increasing my magnesium levels for instant relief from stress or high blood pressure, however I’ve read from research that magnesium sulphate is actually quite short lasting and is not as beneficial as magnesium chloride although I don’t know the exact science behind it.
For the epsom salts, it’s best to get a big bag (of cheap) salts
You can also use magnesium chloride flakes or oil in the bath, possibly with a longer beneficial effect. You can pick up the Ancient Minerals products at reasonable prices. All of the Ancient Minerals products have been sources from the Zechstein seabed (pure).
You can bathe as often as you wish, but I find 3-4 times per week adequate.
As I mentioned above, it’s becoming harder and harder to obtain enough from food. The soils are depleted and it’s not looking to improve anytime soon. You can get some magnesium from food, but it’s best to also use the methods above along with magnesium rich foods for maximum benefit.
Some foods high in this mineral (with estimated dosages) include:
- Bran – Rice, wheat and oat bran are high in magnesium. One cup of rice bran can give up to 900 mg of magnesium, wheat bran up to 350 mg per cup and oat bran up to 200 mg per cup.
- Coriander (cilantro) – can contain lots if organic. Spread it liberally on anything you want to herb. Around 700 mg per 100g of dried herb.
- Pumpkin seeds – around 500 mg per 100g serving of pumpkin seeds. I hate them uncooked so I toast them and add a little salt. I actually tried to create a pumpkin seed smoothie once – it was horrid.
- Dark chocolate – the darker the better (the higher the cocoa content). Preferably 90% cocoa. There is about 500 mg of magnesium in 100g of cocoa powder.
- Other foods include flax seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, many dried herbs, sunflower seeds and even unrefined sugar molasses instead of refined white sugar.
What to Expect
I’ve only had great experiences from my magnesium regime. So far, I have lowered my blood pressure and have better control with it. I have stopped my muscle twitches and spasms, am sleeping much easier and can drift into sleep easier and I wake up with more energy which lasts the whole day. I have better body temperature control and also have noticed my head to be clearer. It has helped with my depression a little… I was on Celexa (Citalopram) for many years as discussed in this post, but am free of it now and the magnesium has definitely helped the transition phase.
You have to be patient with magnesium – don’t expect results overnight (although you may actually feel some relief). Building up your stores of this mineral takes time, and if you are very deficient, it could take longer. Be persistant and if you don’t see results right away, don’t throw it away – stick with it. From what I have mentioned above, you should stick to a plan that contains all of the elements including the baths, the oil and the supplements – use them all together for maximum benefit.
Most people will notice a huge difference after just one to two weeks… I noticed it in days.
Magnesium isn’t a cure all, but deficiency of it is possibly the cause for thousands of problems people have been labeled with and treated by symptomatic drugs that usually do more harm than good.
Dr Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor who swears by magnesium and its benefits (and the problems a deficiency or even lack of causes) has written a book called, “The Magnesium Miracle”. The book covers the whole magnesium debate in details, with factual cases, research and even dosing for specific conditions. The book is possibly the most complete source of information on this topic and it perfectly readable by people who have no medical knowledge – it’s a must read.
I’ll keep this blog post updated with any new information that comes to me or I feel appropriate to share. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below, all are welcome and I will always try my best to reply fully.