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Nutrition 101: Magnesium

Magnesium and your body

Magnesium is an essential mineral that your body uses in over 300 enzymatic reactions. Enzymatic reactions are the chemical changes that occur in your body to perform life sustaining actions such as breaking down food particles, building muscles, and destroying toxins.  Studies have shown Magnesium plays an important role in protein synthesis, hormone production, DNA stabilization, energy production, cardiovascular health, glucose metabolism, muscle function, nervous system health, tooth enamel production, and cellular division.

How much do you need?

In healthy adults magnesium requirements are as below

  • Men 400mg per day
  • Women 350mg per day
  • Women 360mg per day during pregnancy and breast feeding


Signs you may not be getting enough

Eating a balanced diet rich in wholefoods like seeds and nuts will ensure your daily magnesium needs are met. Deficiencies can occur if your dietary intake is less than your daily needs or in certain conditions including use of diuretics, frequent exercise, altered nutrient absorption, and during periods of high physical and / or mental stress.

  • Tired and weak muscles
  • Muscle ticks, spasms and cramps (think twitching eyelids etc).
  • Restless legs
  • Irregular heart rhythms.
  • Tension headaches and Migraines.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Menstrual cramps and period pain.
  • Calcium and potassium deficiency.


Magnesium rich foods to include in your diet

Pepiatas 592mg Magnesium per 100g. Linseeds 392mg Magnesium per 100g. Sunflower Seeds 370mg Magnesium per 100g.
Brazil Nuts 350mg Magnesium per 100g. Chia Seeds 335mg Magnesium per 100g. Tahini 320mg Magnesium per 100g.
Almonds 266mg Magnesium per 100g. Cashews 250mg Magnesium per 100g. Black Rice 143mg Magnesium per 100g.


What about Magnesium supplements?

Magnesium is one of the most widely used minerals in human health, so its no surprise that a vast range of magnesium supplements are available. Supplementary magnesium can be beneficial for treating a deficiency and for boosting your intake if you find it difficult getting enough from dietary intake alone.  Key things to consider when buying a magnesium supplement include:

  • Is powder or tablet form better?
  • Which type of magnesium is the most beneficial (amino acid chelate, orotate, glycinate, citrate, taurate, malate, to name a few).
  • What is the appropriate dose?
  • Are there side effects?
  • Does magnesium interact with any medications you are taking?
  • What are the other ingredients in the supplement?


Magnesium Powder vs Tablets

Powdered magnesium supplements are generally considered to offer superior absorption over tablets or capsules and often contain more Magnesium per dose.  This means that less doses per day are required to achieve a therapeutic effect.  A common downside to powdered magnesium that I experience in clinic is clients complaining about the taste.  It may take you a few different brands to find one that is palatable and in some cases tablets may be the best option if you can’t drink the powdered variety.   Tablets also might be more suitable for people needing to take smaller amounts of magnesium throughout the day.


Which type of magnesium is best?

To enhance absorption supplemental magnesium is often made from magnesium molecules bound to another nutrient.  As an example magnesium chelates and glycinates use amino acids as the binder, while magnesium citrate uses a citric acid binder.  Why is this important?  Because the nutrients bound to the magnesium can alter its therapeutic properties and absorption rates.  Magnesium citrate for example is often used as a laxative because its osmotic effect draws water into the intestine.  Magnesium orotate is often preferred for cardiovascular health due to its affinity for transporting magnesium to active binding sites in the heart muscle.  Magnesium chelates are considered to be the most effective for helping muscle recovery post exercise, stress adaptation and energy production.


What is an appropriate dose?

Recommended daily intakes provide a general guideline for the amount of magnesium the average person needs based on gender and age.  However these guidelines don’t take into account individual specific factors such as medications, diet, and lifestyle.  Therapeutic doses range from 300mg per day to 800mg per day and chronic use can be harmful. Therefore it is always recommended that you seek professional advice before deciding to take a magnesium supplement.  


Are there side effects?

High doses of 1000mg or above can cause diarrhoea with any type of magnesium, while certain types such as citrate can also cause diarrhoea at lower doses.  Chronic use can cause confusion, dry mouth, flushing, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, thirst, tiredness, and nausea.  Magnesium is almost completely removed from the body by the kidneys and therefore supplementation is not suitable for people with chronic kidney disease or renal impairment.


Does magnesium interact with medications?

Magnesium can interact with the action of antibiotics including tetracycline and should be taken at least 2 hours apart.  Magnesium ions can also complete with calcium binding sites in the body and therefore concurrent use with calcium channel blockers such as anti-arrhythmic heart medications is not recommended without professional supervision.


What about the other ingredients?

Often supplemental magnesium will include beneficial co-factors such as vitamin B, Calcium, Potassium, and Selenium to enhance the therapeutic effects.  These nutrients are quite commonly added to multi-vitamins and other health supplements so it’s always important to check the dosages in each supplement to ensure you are not exceeding the daily recommended dose.  Some supplements contain sugar and flavouring to enhance taste  while tablets can contain binders like lactose which may cause adverse reactions in sensitive people.

If you suspect you have a magnesium deficiency

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency it is always good to seek professional advise from your GP or a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist or Dietitian.  In most cases magnesium deficiencies can be rectified by ensuring an adequate intake of magnesium rich foods in your diet.  In addition to the above listed foods, eggs, figs, kelp, dark leafy greens, legumes, and wholegrain cereals are all rich in magnesium.  We have some yummy recipes for magnesium rich foods in our news and recipes page.

If you do decide to supplement make sure you do some research to ensure that you are getting the best form of magnesium at the right dose for your unique health needs.


Want personalised advice?

If you would like to know more, please reach out to speak with our Naturopath Carly via our contacts page.


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