Magnesium’s ability to support the mind and body is staggering in its effects.
The significance of this robust element in the maintenance of overall health would be difficult to overstate, and the medical supplement community has come to embrace it as an essential mineral to the human diet.
Magnesium is a key player in more than 300 separate enzymatic reactions that occur throughout the body. You’ll find magnesium in all of the body’s tissues—notably in the muscles, bones, and brain. Given that this mineral is vital and ubiquitous, you’d expect that it would feature prominently in the wellness prescriptions of America’s healthcare experts, but surprisingly this is not the case.
On the contrary, most Americans are magnesium deficient. It is estimated that some 80 percent of the U.S. population does not achieve sufficient amounts of magnesium in the diet to achieve ideal levels in the body.
How magnesium helps
Magnesium directly affects the body’s ability to maintain strength and balance. It bolsters the immune system, warding off illness and providing the body with tools to better react to stress. Because it is a primary regulator of biological enzymes and is used for the transport, storage, and utilization of energy, it must be continually supplied and replenished on a daily basis.
Serotonin production. Magnesium is a serotonin precursor, used to create the neurotransmitter that sends signals from the brain to the body. People with insufficient serotonin levels can experience depression, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and migraines.
Muscle relaxant. The mineral is essential for muscle relaxation and pliability. Thanks to magnesium, your muscles aren’t constantly contracting. Magnesium passes through cell membranes and bonds with receptor sites by way of ion transport, facilitating muscular tension and relaxation.
Sleep improvement. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors help the mind respond to stress and achieve a state of calm. Magnesium stimulates these GABA receptors in the brain, reducing racing thoughts and thereby decreasing symptoms commonly associated with insomnia.1
Stress and tension reduction. The sympathetic nervous system controls the synthesis and release of norepinephrine, which governs the release of cortisol in response to stress.2 As magnesium can metabolize cortisol while preventing stress hormones from entering the brain, it is an effective supplement for those who need to reduce stress and tension.
Tension headache reduction. Insufficient magnesium levels are associated with severe tension headaches—including migraines. Magnesium can regulate serotonin levels, prevent blood vessel spasms, and help ward off damage to nerve endings.
Cardiovascular improvement. Magnesium deficiency has long been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular illness, which is why proper levels are essential for heart health. Supplemental magnesium has been found to have beneficial effects on an array of cardiac conditions including arrhythmias, atherosclerosis, and hypertension.
Energy production. Magnesium is vital in maintaining healthy adenosine triphosphate (ATP) function. In the event of magnesium deficiency, cellular energy production is compromised, ultimately affecting cell structure itself. Magnesium is a crucial component of nerve transmission, cellular reproduction, and protein synthesis. The body relies on magnesium to metabolize nutrients into energy.3
Blood sugar regulation. Blood-sugar imbalances and diabetes are often caused by a person’s inability to regulate glucose levels. And magnesium deficiency can result in resistance to insulin when combined with metabolic syndrome and prediabetic conditions.
Although dietary supplements have been part of the chiropractor’s toolkit for nearly a century, magnesium has largely remained behind the scenes. It is past time for a reassessment.
As there are several thousand journal references to magnesium deficiency, the medical community has comprehensively documented the importance of this mineral to human health and the risks of its dietary deficiency. Because people do not naturally produce enough magnesium, supplementation is strongly indicated.
Making the right selection
The magnesium supplements available on the market come in many forms, from many suppliers. Choosing the best supplement for you and your patients means having to sort through questions involving strength and bioavailability.
Magnesium bisglycinate is generally thought to be the most highly absorbed form of magnesium. It is composed of magnesium ions that bond to the amino acid glycine, forming the compound glycinate.
Glycine facilitates the absorption of magnesium inside the GI tract by way of the transport systems employed by intestinal cells to absorb amino acids.4
Without this active mechanism, minerals generally diffuse before penetrating the gut wall, making them less available to cells. This is typically why many supplement companies overcompensate for poor absorption rates with excessive magnesium dosages, which can lead to diarrhea and various bowel disorders.
Bioavailability refers to the amount of magnesium that can be readily absorbed by the body. Magnesium manufacturers routinely use oxide in their mineral compounds, as oxide is high in elemental magnesium. It is also highly stable, however, so it does not dissociate. In other words, it has poor bioavailability (less than 4-percent absorption).
Consider the limitations of most magnesium products on the market today:
- Magnesium oxide: Poor bioavailability at 4 percent; produces a laxative effect.
- Magnesium citrate: High bioavailability, but creates abdominal discomfort; produces a laxative effect; higher acidic content.
- Magnesium sulfate: Also known as “Epsom salt”; limited bioavailability; creates a laxative effect.
- Magnesium carbonate: Strong laxative effect; moderate bioavailability; conversion is dependent on higher stomach acid levels.
- Magnesium taurate: Some individuals find taurate difficult to digest and use due to its tightly woven chemical structure.
Many magnesium products are buffered with magnesium oxide to boost their elemental magnesium content. But higher magnesium dosages do not necessarily translate into higher bioavailability or effectiveness. Your patients won’t come to you knowing the difference, so it’s your responsibility to recommend the proper forms and dosages for optimal health.
Put the power of magnesium to work for your patients.
Brian A. Lemma is the co-founder of Renaissance Nutraceuticals, an innovative nutritional supplement company. Renaissance Nutraceuticals was created in accordance with the principles of functional medicine, using unique and synergistic nutritional blends intended to return the mind and body to a homeostatic condition. He can be reached through renaissancenutraceuticals.com.
1 Doyle M. “Help Me Sleep: Magnesium Is the Secret for Sleep Problems.” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/marek-doyle/help-me-sleep-magnesium- secret-to-sleep-problems_b_3311795.html. Published May 2013. Accessed Oct. 2015.
2 Czapp K. “Magnificent Magnesium: The Neglected Mineral We Cannot Live Without.” The Weston A. Price Foundation. http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/magnificent-magnesium/. Published Sept. 2010. Accessed Oct. 2015.
3 Center For Magnesium Education & Research. “Why Magnesium is Important & How It Works.” http://www.magnesiumeducation.com/how-magnesium-works-why-it-is-important. Updated Oct. 2015. Accessed Oct.2015.
4 Mercola J. “Benefits of Magnesium Far Greater Than Previously Imagined.” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/17/magnesium-benefits.aspx. Updated Oct. 2015. Accessed Oct. 2015.