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Magnesium question.....

I keep reading about magnesium.  How does one know if they need to take it? I read that 90% of the population is deficient??? If I need it, what is best to take and can anyone advise me on the dosage?
32 Responses
Avatar universal
The normal supplement would be 2:1 calcium to magnesium, which would be 500mg calcium to 250mg magnesium.  The better absorbed forms, such as citrate or malate, would make that 3-4 tabs a day with meals.  But some people need more magnesium.  I take more magnesium because of muscle cramps caused by taking antidepressants, for example.  What's happened in the US is the darned dairy industry.  The federal government started pushing dairy with the Milk Marketing Board over a hundred years ago.  Before that, nobody drank a whole lot of milk.  Some cultures ate yogurt, some kefir, some drank a glass here and there, but that's when this big thing about drinking tons of milk came in.  When you and I were growing up we were told to drink 8 glasses of milk a day.  Problem is, first, milk isn't well absorbed by many people, and while it's high in calcium it's very low in magnesium.  The magnesium and the better absorbed calcium are found in green veggies like broccoli and kale, especially the hard stems.  Most people don't eat much of these in the US, thus the magnesium deficiencies we're finding now -- too much calcium intake pushed by the diary industry and too little focus on magnesium, which has to be in the proper electrical balance with calcium for the maintenance of strong bones.  The other problem is that a large number of medications appear to either leach magnesium out of the body, or interfere with its absorption, and Americans take meds like candy.  If you want to get your nutrient levels tested, the best way is to do it with a holistic nutritionist over a period of time.  A doctor will run your calcium and mag levels whenever you get a physical, but that's just once at that time of day, not a good reflection of how you might balance out over the course of a week or month.  And that kind of testing gets expensive.  Some of the signs of magnesium deficiency are a lack of bone density, irregular heart rhythms or overworked heart, muscle cramps, and irregular bowel movements.  
Avatar universal
Oh, and anxiety.
Avatar universal
Thanks, you've explained this better than any website I could find.
Avatar universal
Thanks Pax, great post. Also did not know low magnesium caused anxiety... interesting.
Avatar universal
magnesium and calcium
The news about magnesium and calcium is far from new.

But for the conventional doctor who routinely suggests that his patients take calcium supplements to promote healthy bones and prevent colorectal cancer, this news is probably a wake up call: Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are usually team players, not loners.

  Dietary sources of calcium are typically accompanied by magnesium. So when supplementing with calcium, magnesium supplements should be taken as well. (Foods high in magnesium include leafy green vegetables, whole grains, bananas, apricots, meat, beans, and nuts.)

A new Vanderbilt University study underlines just how important the calcium/magnesium combo is.

The Vanderbilt team reviewed dietary data collected during the Calcium Polyp Prevention Study. I first told you about this research a few years ago. For four years, 930 subjects with colorectal polyps took a 1,000 mg calcium supplement daily or a placebo. Colonoscopy exams showed that subjects in the calcium group generally had fewer polyps compared to the placebo group. Calcium also significantly lowered the risk of advanced polyps.

Scrutinizing the dietary data along with the original results, researchers found that calcium reduced the risk of colorectal polyp recurrence only when the ratio of calcium to magnesium intake was low, before and during treatment.

A calcium- to-magnesium ratio of 2:1, But everyone is unique: Biochemical individuality means it could vary quite a bit for different people. This one's not black and white.

Add to that, most of us would be hard pressed to figure out our exact intake of any individual nutrient on a daily basis. And figuring out actual absorption of nutrients would be even harder. Bottom line: Ensuring an ample intake of dietary and supplemental calcium and magnesium is the key – provided your doctor agrees, of course.

In addition, a good multivitamin appears to help the cause.

A five-year American Cancer Society study of more than 145,000 subjects showed that regular multivitamin use for more than a decade reduced colorectal cancer risk by 30 percent, compared to subjects who didn't take multis.

Plant Life four flavonoids (plant compounds) that may significantly reduce colorectal cancer risk when intake is high:

   1. Flavonols (tea, onions, and broccoli)
   2. Anthocyanidins (blueberries and other berries)
   3. Isoflavones (beans, lentils, chickpeas, and clove)
   4. Flavones (citrus fruit)
Avatar universal
Good post, but beans, lentils and chickpeas?  Last I checked, those were all beans!  And of course you left out soy and red clover, both legumes too that have the highest levels of isoflavones, but that would put you on record supporting soy.  Just kidding.  My own opinion is that it's probably not the isoflavones that play the large role, it's more likely the soluble fiber in legumes.  But what do I know?  I still eat tofu at least three time a week!  
458072 tn?1291415186
I have read, and experienced, that if one takes to much magnesium, the body will throw it off through diarrhea.

I am now taking magnesium 500 mg, 3-4 times a day with NO problems. I am also taking 15,000 u of vit d and I am feeling better than I have in a long time.  The magnesium is helping me as I have high cortisol levels at night, and it is helping with the anxiety that that produces.

I think the key with the magnesium is to not take it all in at once. Another form of getting magnesium is to soak in epsoms salt. I am too ADD to lay in the tub for any length of time. After about 5 minutes its like, ok....enough of this. You can also soak your feet in it, which is what I do from time to time, while watching tv or being on the computer. That is easier on your liver as it does not have to process it.
Avatar universal
Make sure, everyone, that if you take supplemental magnesium you also take some supplemental calcium, and keep a good watch on your other electrolytes as well.  Just as too much calcium leaches out magnesium, too much magnesium leaches out calcium, and all electrolytes must be in balance with one another, including zinc, etc.  Also watch your boron and silica levels, which are essential for building strong bones and work with calcium, so again, make sure you don't overdo anything unless you have the underlying deficiency that requires that.  Now, to get extra magnesium, you have to take less calcium than the normal person requires, but you still want enough calcium to protect your heart and bones.  Be careful out there.
757137 tn?1347196453
The emphasis on milk appears to be a northern European bias. It is not just American. In the Far East there is no cheese or milk. In the Middle East there is some fresh cheese and lots of yoghurt - no milk. Southern Europeans don't like milk, and some can't tolerate it. None of these non-milk peoples are noted for melting bones.
Avatar universal
The above post is largely true, but they do drink milk in the Middle East.  It just isn't cow's milk, and they don't drink a lot, but they do put in in their tea on a regular basis and the nomadic tribes drink camel's milk, though they also use a lot of kefir, a drink somewhat like yoghurt.  Americans didn't drink very much milk either until the Dairy Milk Marketing
Board was created by the federal gov't in the early part of the 20th Century to help the dairy industry.  It worked, to our detriment.  The only people who drink a lot of mild are the Scandinavians and some tribes in India who have the enzyme to digest milk.  But even they eat yoghurt and cheese more than drinking milk.  It's a marketing ploy, folks, that has nothing to do with our health.
757137 tn?1347196453
I am not looking to one-up you, but I lived and worked in the Middle East for almost two decades. They drink their tea without milk (except for a very few Lebanese who try to mimic Europeans). I have never seen a Middle Easterner ever drink a glass of milk - cow, sheep,  goat, or camel. The nomads of Iran, Syria, or any others that I have known of do not drink milk. Maybe some of the Saudis do. I don't know. I don't know what the habits are in North Africa.
Avatar universal
Don't mind one-upping me at all.  I need to learn just like anyone else.  Personally, I don't consider Iran as part of the Middle East.  I know we call it that, but it's really just the East and it has always focused East until very recently.  It was the Arab nomadic tribes and the ancient Hebrews and the herders who drank the milk.  Not so many of them left now, to be sure, but when you're riding through deserts you have no choice but to drink the milk of your animals.  As for the tea, I was thinking of India and places influenced by India.  My bad.  (That's where Europeans got it from -- after conquering India).  You should try Tibetan tea -- mix it with yak butter.  Awful stuff.
757137 tn?1347196453
Thank you for being so gracious. The Middle East is normally defined as that area bordered on the west by the Mediterranean and Red seas (including Turkey) and extending to Iran and Afghanistan in the east. Confusion may arise since neither Afghanistan nor Iran are Arab nations. But then neither are Turkey and Israel. The Middle East is a geographic designation. You have inadvertently hit on much of my life's work. At one time I wrote articles on the area for an encyclopedia, and as part of an economic development project investigated Iranian nutrition. All I can say about their diet is that we should be so lucky  
Avatar universal
It is true that most people are deficient in magnesium. Unfortunately, our society has become so reliant on fast food that we don't get enough magnesium. Magnesium can be obtained through eating fish, fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. Otherwise you can supplement your diet with a magnesium supplement. Always double check the ingredient list, the supplement should only contain magnesium nothing else added.
Because most people dont get sufficient amounts of magnesium through their diet it is normal for most people to need magnesium. Their are some definite symptoms of magnesium deficiency, however these symptoms can be related to several other causes as well. Muscle fatique, tension, tightness, headaches, low energy, mood swings, can all be caused by magnesium deficiency. The recommended dosage for magnesium is 600mg a day. You want to make sure that you don't take too much magnesium as it can cause diarrhea. You can take magnesium up to the point that your stool is soft. Magnesium is a great all natural muscle relaxer.

I hope this helps!

458072 tn?1291415186
I still recommend the dermal absorption route. Especially if one is already taking many supplements. Cuts down on the livers job, the stomachs job, and absorption is more complete.
Avatar universal
Hi mammo,  if you drink milk or have cream (I do) you have quite enough calcium.  The magnesium is probably depleted quite a lot here.  
If you buy a very good quality magnesium  is will cure any depression that  anyone has, a million times better than anti-depressants.  Magnesium in Epsom Salt form also lowers blood pressure.
Here in England, we do not eat so many fast foods as in U.S.A. - but lots of people on low incomes do alas.    
I always eat lots of fruit and veg. (organic is a must)  don't push chemicals into your body - it cannot deal with them, it was never designed to do so.
When my daughter went to America last year on a trip, she was amazed at how little vegetables were with the meals served in her hotel,  nor was fruit on the breakfast side table.  
Wake up U.S.A,.   (with love and  the best intentions from U.K.)
Avatar universal
How long do you have to soak in epsom salt to get the magnesium? Mammo do you have to eag the magnesium to lower blood pressure or soak in it?
Avatar universal
I've been giving  my son epsom salt foot soaks in the evening for a while now, to help him fall asleep (he has a lot of health problems, anxiety, muscle aches and shakes). It works!
I use half a cup of the salts to about a gallon of water, for at least 20 minutes. Half a cup is a lot, but my son had a few tests that showed magnesium deficiency, so I know that he needs it. You could try a quarter cup to start and see if it helps. You do not have to eat it! Soaking will lower blood pressure.
Avatar universal
I guess I'm an outlyer here.  I don't think the type of magnesium in epsom salts is well absorbed internally into the blood stream; it's best digested.  On the other hand, soaking your son's feet in anything will probably help him fall asleep.  It's the TLC, better than any remedy out there.  And of course, hot water is relaxing by itself, and epsom salts are relaxing as an external application.  I guess the only way to really know would be to get bloodwork done to see if the application of epsom salts is raising magnesium levels, but transdermal application of minerals isn't considered the optimal way to get them into the bloodstream so they can do everything they're supposed to do; that requires the digestive system to break apart the chelation and take the magnesium to all the places the body needs it, particularly the blood vessels, muscles, and heart.  Anyone want to be a guinea pig here?
Avatar universal
Hi!  The magnesium in epsom salts is already in the sulfate form, so it does, in fact, absorb  into the body through the skin and is ready to go to work, without having to be broken down by digestion. My son won't take magnesium in pill or liquid form, and how much he is able to absorb through digestion is in question, so it's either the foot soaks, or magnesium sulfate transdermal cream (more expensive).
Apparently, there are some people who cannot convert the sulfur in sulfur-containing amino acids (like cysteine or taurine) to the needed sulfate form, due to a blocked sulfation pathway, or other problem with deficiency of the phenol sulfur-transferase enzyme (PST).
Sulfate ions may not be getting absorbed well from the gut, so supplying the nutrients already in a sulfate form gets better results.

But whatever, my little guinea pig is sleeping better.
Avatar universal
I don't see why the sulfate form would be any better than any other form.  In fact, digested, it isn't.  The reason the sulfate form is used for injections and topically is because sulphur absorbs through the skin very well whereas magnesium doesn't, so the sulphur is there to carry the magnesium to a specific spot in cases of emergency deficiency or specific muscle cramps.  This isn't to say that if it's working, great with me, or that I'm against epsom salts, just that the best way to get one's magnesium needs is through a balanced diet.  And the magnesium in food isn't a chelated sulfate.  Neither are any of the most recommended supplements.  But sulfate just being one of dozens of possible chelations and the body having to shed any of those chelations in order to utilize the magnesium where it's needed, I still don't see long-term benefit in using it topically vs. eating it the way nature intended.    I have to take excess magnesium because medication I take interferes with its absorption -- this is a common problem.  Otherwise, I wouldn't be supplementing it at all beyond my multi because I eat a lot of green vegetables and whole grains, excellent sources of magnesium, and I avoid dairy, an excess source of calcium.  But to each his or her own; that's what makes baseball, and I always say there's a lot more information than fact out there.  So while I'm the outlyer here, I can't claim to be right or you to be wrong.  It's fun to discuss, though, and you've given me an angle on it I really hadn't confronted before in anyone.  Thanks for the insight.
Avatar universal
I don't think the sulfate form is better than other forms of magnesium. I just wanted to share that it is possible to get magnesium by soaking in epsom salts. This isn't new information. People used to go to mineral springs and natural sulfur pools for rejuvenation therapy with various illnesses. These were natural sources of magnesium and sulfate.

You said you take extra magnesium because you have an absorption problem. That's the right thing to do. But my son will not take a magnesium supplement (or many other supplements) in any oral form, so I make him get extra magnesium the only other way I can - by soaking in it. If he would eat properly he would get more magnesium that way, but he will not eat fruit or many vegetables, and he has a carbohydrate metabolism problem.

Oral magnesium supplements are great. I take them myself. I have a stubborn, sick child who is sick and tired of taking nasty tasting supplements and has self-limiting food choices, so I do whatever I have to do to get needed nutrients into his body.
458072 tn?1291415186
As I posted earlier, the dermal route is the best route for epsoms salt. It is really better for you than drinking it. It will not give you diarrhea as it bypasses the stomach and goes straight to the blood system. And taking it this way bypasses the liver as well, giving it a much needed rest.
535822 tn?1443976780
hi Sheila I think it depends where your daughter went ...where I live In California and dalso many states we  do eat a lot of veg and fruits I have them growing in my yard , plums, apricots, oranges and lemons also grapefruit.as a whole I find most  Americans have a healthy diet .Maybe your daughter was a tad unlucky with her hotel ......
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