Stressed out? Trouble sleeping at night? Muscle spasms? Blood sugar problems? If you have these symptoms, then you are probably deficient in magnesium.
Nicknamed the “calming mineral,” a lack of magnesium is one of the most common mineral deficiencies that I see in my patients. The body tends to burn through it when the person is stressed out. And who isn’t stressed out these days? We live in a world of constant busyness and an environment that is continuously hitting us with stimulation. From the traffic to work to home, our daily lives are pulling us in many different directions and keeping us on the go.
We make things worse when we drink our beloved coffee or other caffeinated beverages and alcohol. But, unfortunately, we cannot replace magnesium fast enough. Our best food sources for it are dark leafy greens, nuts and chocolate; however, our bodies are not absorbing magnesium at the same rate that we are losing it. And apart from us health nuts, most people are not eating enough greens in their diet every day.
Magnesium is responsible for many functions in the body. The “calming mineral” nickname is well-deserved. Magnesium also helps us sleep and alleviates those painful muscle spasms we get. Magnesium is also in charge of helping to retain calcium in the bones. When we are deficient in magnesium, calcium is free to wander, which then leads to calcification of the tissues and osteoporosis.
Magnesium also plays a major role in balancing blood sugars. As we are witnessing, diabetes is skyrocketing all over the world. Would this be the case if magnesium deficiency were not so widespread?
Other common symptoms we see are anxiety, PMS, low energy, irritability, muscle tension, migraines, abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure.
So, how do we remedy this? Besides ensuring that you eat plenty of greens every day, this is a good mineral to take in supplement form. However, before you run out and get a bottle, you must understand that magnesium supplements are not properly absorbed by our digestive system. Nor is the oral route the best way to get large amounts into the body.
If taking by mouth, you will want to ensure that you purchase a form that is actually absorbed in the gut. For example, magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride cannot be absorbed in our GI tract, so if you purchase capsules or tablets with these forms of magnesium, you are wasting your money, as they will just come out in the toilet.
When it comes to oral supplements, the best forms are magnesium glycinate, citrate, malate and threonate. Magnesium glycinate is a great one to take if you have trouble sleeping, especially if you have issues with mental chatter, rumination or obsessing about tomorrow’s to-do list: it is very effective at calming the mind down. Magnesium citrate is a good version to take if constipation is the biggest complaint, as it helps draw water into the colon to increase bowel movements.
I would choose magnesium malate for someone who has heart disease or muscle problems. And lastly, magnesium threonate is the most easily absorbed oral form, but also the most expensive. This magnesium is best for cognitive function and memory as it can actually reach the brain.
And while magnesium oxide, chloride, and sulfate are not absorbed in the GI tract, they are fantastic forms for topical absorption or intake through the skin. You can use these forms in a full bath soak, as with Epsom salts, or a foot bath, a lotion or an oil.
Magnesium oil is perfect for putting on a painful body area. The oil is quite concentrated, so it is best to limit it to small areas, as some people may experience itching. The lotion is less concentrated as compared to the oil and is excellent for using on the whole body.
Whatever form you choose to purchase, most people notice the benefits fairly quickly. The best time of day to take magnesium is during the evening before bed. Daytime use may lead to daytime fatigue.
If you would like to be tested for magnesium deficiency, make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor who can properly guide you on the correct supplementation for your body’s needs.
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Dr Robin Tauzin
A naturopathic doctor who trained in both conventional and alternative medicine in the United States, Robin is the chief wellness officer at Al Mansoori Specialized Engineering in Abu Dhabi. There she oversees the health monitoring management system, conducts individual consultations with employees for disease prevention using diet and lifestyle modifications and organizes wellness events.