Discover the Many Benefits and Uses of Magnesium
Feeling tired or stressed? There might be more to blame than your busy schedule, and the answer could be as simple as getting enough magnesium. Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, yet dietary surveys of people in the United States consistently indicate that many consume less than the recommended daily amounts of magnesium.
Magnesium supplements can be an everyday health hack, especially during colder seasons. Read on to learn all about the many uses and health benefits of this major mineral.
What Does Magnesium Do For the Body?
Magnesium helps regulate a diverse range of biochemical reactions, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation and even blood glucose control.1 It's essential for energy production because the primary energy source for your cells (an enzyme known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP) can’t function without the help of magnesium.
Magnesium is involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA and contributes to the healthy development of bones. It's also involved in transporting calcium and potassium to your body's cells, important for the healthy functioning of nerves and muscles (including the heart).1
Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium supports overall health and wellness. It helps support your bones and your heart, as well as your digestive system. But the two magnesium benefits you're most likely to notice are increased energy levels and improved relaxation.
If you don't have enough magnesium in your diet, your energy levels might be low and you may be more prone to stress, restlessness and irritability. It might sound contradictory, but magnesium is both energizing, and calming. Plus, magnesium helps support healthy nerve function and it helps regulate stress hormones.
A Quick List of the Benefits of Magnesium
- Healthy bones. Magnesium is involved in the structural development of bones, as well as the transport of calcium and potassium through cell membranes.2
- Heart health related to the transport of calcium and potassium.
- Digestive health. Since magnesium can help relax muscles in the digestive tract and help calm stomach acid, certain types of magnesium are frequently used in over-the-counter digestive remedies.
- Boosted Energy. Magnesium is required for cellular energy production.2
- Increased magnesium intake at sufficient levels can help support a healthy stress response and reduce occasional anxiousness. 3
- Better sleep and less stress since magnesium supports healthy nerve function and increases GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps calm brain activity and calm a restless mind.4
- Healthy muscle function and a reduction in occasional leg cramps. This is in part due to magnesium’s role in potassium absorption and muscle relaxation.2
- Healthjy blood pressure support, because magnesium helps blood vessels relax and enables calcium and potassium absorption, both of which are needed for maintaining healthy blood pressure already within the normal range.5,6
- Healthy muscle function for many of the same reasons, including potassium absorption and blood vessel relaxation.6
Magnesium supplements are most frequently used to promote calmness, soothe tired muscles, support heart health, boost cellular energy and promote cognitive health.
If you have experienced gastrointestinal disturbances, you may have already taken some form of magnesium without even knowing it. Various forms of magnesium are a common ingredient in many over-the-counter digestive remedies. You are probably familiar with magnesium sulfate as well, which is also known as Epsom salts and used for everything from bath soaks to fertilizing lawns.
Magnesium for Sleep
Magnesium can help you get a more restful night's sleep because it encourages healthy functioning of GABA receptors, which play a key role in helping your brain "shut off" at night so you can rest. People with low magnesium levels are more likely to experience poor sleep, such as difficulties falling or staying asleep, and magnesium supplements have been shown to improve sleep quality. Magnesium reduces tension, supports the healthy functioning of nerves and helps regulate stress hormones which, left unchecked, can leave us unable to enjoy restful sleep.6,7
Magnesium for Stress and Occasional Anxiousness
Magnesium's ability to calm your mood is related to many of the same functions that help you sleep better, including reduced tension and a calmer mind and body. Magnesium supplements help support a healthy stress response. Just be sure to give your supplements time to work. You may notice some results soon after taking your first magnesium supplement, but it takes time to build up your body’s magnesium levels.
Magnesium for Digestive Issues
If your digestion isn’t going as smoothly as you’d like, or you are having other gastrointestinal disturbances, magnesium oxide or magnesium lysinate could help. Magnesium is a top ingredient in many digestive tonics because, as mentioned above, it helps relax muscles in the digestive tract and calms stomach acid.
Magnesium for Leg Cramps
Low magnesium can contribute to leg cramps,2 as can low potassium and calcium levels. Since magnesium enables the cellular transport of potassium and is needed for calcium absorption, if you are low in magnesium you might not be getting enough potassium or calcium either. Cramps due to low potassium levels aren’t just limited to your legs. Magnesium's effects on blood vessel relaxation can also help soothe leg muscles. Magnesium supports healthy muscle function throughout your body by soothing muscle fibers for added comfort.6
Magnesium and Blood Pressure
Magnesium has been studied closely for its role in regulating blood pressure.5 Magnesium's abilities to relax vascular muscles and help regulate other nutrients that affect blood pressure, like sodium, potassium and calcium, are major contributors to the potential benefits of magnesium for maintaining blood pressure readings which are already within the normal range.9 Check with your doctor before taking magnesium for blood pressure to make sure it’s right for you.
How much magnesium do you need?
Most adults need between 300 mg - 400 mg of magnesium daily. Here are the specific daily recommendations for magnesium intake from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) based on age.
- Under six months: 30 mg
- 7-12 months: 75 mg
- 1-3 years: 80 mg
- 9-13 years: 240 mg
- 14-18 years: 410 mg male/360 mg female
- 19-30 years: 400 mg male/310 mg female
- 19-30 years pregnant female: 350 mg
- 19-30 years nursing female: 310 mg
- 31+ years: 420 mg male/320 mg female
- 31+ years pregnant female: 360 mg
- 31+ years nursing female: 320 mg
While the above numbers are a general guideline, some people need more or less magnesium due to other factors which may affect their ability to absorb or store the mineral.
High levels of stress, alcohol intake and some conditions can affect the way magnesium is absorbed and used by your body.2 Magnesium may interact with certain medications; check with your doctor if you're not sure how much magnesium you should take based on your individual health concerns.
How to Get Magnesium
Like most nutrients, you can get magnesium from the food you eat or from magnesium supplements. Foods rich in magnesium include leafy greens, almonds, spinach, avocados, nuts, seeds, legumes and some whole grains. Many foods that are high in fiber are also good sources of magnesium, and some cereals are fortified with magnesium. Here are some foods that are good sources of magnesium:
Top Food Sources of Magnesium (Magnesium-Rich Foods)
- Spinach (157 mg per 1 cup)
- Swiss chard (150 mg per 1 cup)
- Almonds (105 mg per 1/4 cup)
- Cashews (89 mg per 1/4 cup)
- Peanuts (63 mg in 1/4 cup)
- Potatoes (85 mg in 1 large potato)
- Black beans (60 mg in 1/2 cup)
- Avocado (58 mg in 1 medium avocado)
- Edamame (50 mg in 1/2 cup)
Even if you regularly eat healthy foods, you may want to consider taking a magnesium supplement to plug any nutritional gaps which may exist in your diet. Soil nutrition and magnesium absorption both play roles in how much magnesium we get from our food. Also, when we experience stress, our cells waste magnesium, causing us to need more.
There are many types of magnesium supplements and the body absorbs each type differently.
Types of Magnesium Supplements
- Magnesium Malate - supports ATP production and cellular energy
- Magnesium L-Threonate - promotes mental sharpness and cognitive health
- Magnesium Aspartate - promotes cellular energy
- Magnesium Taurate - heart health support; promotes calm
- Magnesium Orotate - cardiovascular support
- Magnesium Lysinate - may support gastric health
- Magnesium Glycinate - optimum absorbability
- Magnesium Sulfate - also known as Epsom salts. Provides sulfur, soothes tired muscles
- Magnesium Chloride - can be supplemented with pills/capsules or liquid, nourishes and soothes skin in oil form
- Magnesium Citrate - budget friendly; can be supplemented with capsules/tablets, ionic liquid or drink mix
- Magnesium Oxide - common and inexpensive form of magnesium. Strong laxative effect
What is Chelated Magnesium?
Chelated magnesium supplements contain magnesium that has been chemically bound to amino acids in a specific process known as chelation, thus making it easier for your body to absorb minerals. Chelation is actually a natural process that occurs during digestion to help facilitate transport of minerals across the intestinal wall so they can be used by your body. By utilizing the same concept and binding magnesium to a readily absorbed amino acid, chelated magnesium offers superior absorption over many other forms of magnesium.
Another great way to try magnesium is by applying magnesium oil topically. Magnesium oil is easily absorbed by the skin to nourish and moisturize and it can be applied directly to areas of the body that you want to focus on, such as specific muscle groups. While there’s no shortage of high-quality magnesium oils available to choose from, here are a few favorites:
Swanson Ultra Magnesium Oil
This fast-absorbing, unscented magnesium oil spray is a great way to moisturize your skin after a bath or shower. Crafted with magnesium mined from deep below the site of the ancient Zechstein Sea in the Netherlands, this supersaturated magnesium oil features only the essentials: magnesium chloride, water and nothing else.
Life–Flo Magnesium Oil
With its super concentration of magnesium brine also sourced from the site of the ancient Zechstein Sea, Life-Flo Magnesium oil promotes skin hydration and is a great way to moisturize after a bath or shower. Spray some into the water before a bath or relaxing soak to nurture and soothe your skin.
Don't Overlook Magnesium
Magnesium plays a role in so many vital functions, but deficiencies are difficult to recognize, so make sure you get enough of this healthy nutrient in your diet and enjoy the benefits of magnesium every day. With a healthy level of nutrition, including magnesium, you can look forward to a brighter, healthier future!
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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2. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers. National Institutes of Health. Read source
3. Magnesium Deficiency. National Library of Medicine. Read source
4. Benzodiazepine/GABA(A) Receptors. PubMed. Read source
5. Mechanisms of Blood Pressure Regulation by Magnesium. PubMed. Read source
6. Key Minerals to Help Control Blood Pressure. Harvard Health. Read source
7. Magnesium. WebMD. Read source
8. Magnesium. National Library of Medicine. Read source
9. Magnesium and Hypertension. National Library of Medicine. Read source