6 Reasons to Take a Magnesium Supplement

Robin Berzin, MD
February 18, 2016

There’s a supplement you can take that will help you chill out, sleep better, and poop often. It’s called magnesium and if you’re living a busy life, you need it more than ever.

Magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body including energy metabolism and protein synthesis. An estimated 30 percent of adults are deficient in this vital mineral and 50 percent of Americans consume less than the estimated average requirement (EAR) for magnesium, so that’s why at Parsley Health , we test your micronutrient levels and have recently launched our own medical-grade magnesium supplement.

Are magnesium supplements necessary?

Stress depletes magnesium stores, as does excess alcohol consumption, eating processed foods, taking antibiotics and taking certain drugs like high blood pressure meds and diuretics.

Everything from depleted soil conditions, to the use of chemicals in our water supply, has contributed to a widespread magnesium deficiency . But how can you tell if you are deficient ? Besides getting tested, these are some of the most common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Migraine headaches
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Worsened PMS symptoms
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tooth cavities
  • Muscle weakness and cramps
  • Impotence

Types of magnesium supplements

Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms, and each differs in absorption rate and bioavailability. Here’s a little primer on the different types of magnesium supplements you may come across. As with any supplement, it’s best to work with your doctor to tailor the dosage to your specific needs.

Magnesium Chelate Magnesium chelate is highly absorbable by the body and the kind found in foods naturally. This type is bound to multiple amino acids (proteins) and used to restore magnesium levels. For this reason, it’s often the go-to supplement for treating magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is a combination of magnesium and oxygen that is commonly used therapeutically as a laxative and relief for acid reflux. This type of magnesium supplement shows high levels of concentration, but poor levels of bioavailability (only 4%), meaning it’s not easily absorbed throughout digestion, which is why it’s best used for short term relief.

Magnesium Threonate

Magnesium threonate is a great magnesium supplement for sleep. It crosses the blood brain barrier—a collection of blood vessels that regulate the movement of ions, cells, and molecules between your blood and brain—to help you find deep sleep. Since so many individuals struggle to reach REM sleep (the most restful stage of your sleep cycle) this magnesium supplement can be especially helpful. Magnesium threonate is also known to improve brain function , specifically by enhancing receptors involved in learning and memory.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is just magnesium combined with citric acid. It’s one of the best magnesium supplements for constipation and digestion, as it can cause loose stools or act as a natural laxative. Magnesium citrate works by relaxing your bowels and pulling water into the intestines, allowing everything to move smoothly.

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is another great type of magnesium for sleep. It’s the best-absorbed form of magnesium, and gentle on the stomach, so it’s less likely to have laxative effects or upset your stomach. Magnesium glycinate is known for its calming properties, and is often used to reduce headaches , improve your mood , or even reduce blood pressure .

6 benefits of magnesium supplements

Here are the top 6 benefits of magnesium supplementation that we most commonly see a need for at Parsley Health :

1. Reduces insomnia

Can’t sleep? This may be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium plays a role in maintaining levels of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that quiets nerve activity and allows your body to relax. Using magnesium for sleep is a common, natural way to alleviate your nightly troubles. Magnesium Glycinate pills or a hot Epsom salt (Magnesium Sulphate) bath can untense your muscles and help to relax your whole body , promoting a sense of sleepiness for a good night’s rest.

2. Helps alleviate constipation

There’s nothing worse than that bloated, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful feeling that comes with constipation. If you’re feeling stopped up, Magnesium Citrate is one of the best magnesium supplements for constipation. Constipation most commonly occurs when you have a lack of dietary fiber, fluid, or both. So why does magnesium make you poop?

It ultimately comes down to two main qualities of magnesium citrate. First, it helps relax the muscles of the digestive tract and neutralize stomach acid allowing your poop to pass on. It also is an osmotic laxative, meaning it pulls water into the intestines, making your stool softer and therefore easier to pass. Take it at night for a healthy bowel movement first thing in the morning.

3. Prevents migraines

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to migraines , likely because magnesium plays a role in neurotransmitter function and blood circulation, regulating the blood vessel constriction that often leads to migraines . Regular magnesium supplementation has been found to reduce both the frequency and intensity of migraines.

4. Calms your nerves

Dr. Berzin calls it “nature’s anti-anxiety drug”. Stress can be a cause of Magnesium deficiency and low magnesium levels can magnify the stress response. So we need more Mg in times of stress. One study even found that 450mg of magnesium was equally as effective as antidepressant medication in improving mental health symptoms.

5. Relieves muscle pain and cramping (especially useful for PMS)

Not having enough magnesium available to our muscles can cause muscle spasms that often lead to pain, cramping or twitching. Taking a supplement can help muscles (including those lining the uterus) to contract and relax normally. If you experience painful or uncomfortable PMS symptoms, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends magnesium to relieve bloating , breast tenderness, and mood changes.

6. Improves heart health

Magnesium helps promote healthy muscles, and the heart is no exception. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to several cardiovascular disorders including high blood pressure, heart rhythm abnormalities, clogged arteries, increased risk of cardiovascular issues , and more. Taking a magnesium supplement can help your blood vessels relax, promoting heart health.

Unfortunately, magnesium levels are not routinely checked by most conventional doctors. At Parsley, we routinely check your levels of essential nutrients, including magnesium, and then personalize a health plan for you accordingly. If you do have low levels of magnesium, your doctor and health coach can recommend the right magnesium supplement, in addition to simple lifestyle changes, to resolve any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Dietary sources of magnesium

Magnesium is found naturally in many common foods, and supplementation should always be part of a whole foods diet and healthy lifestyle. Some of the best food sources of magnesium include:

  • Spinach, Swiss chard, and other leafy vegetables
  • Sea vegetables such as kelp and dulse
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  • Fruits like avocado and banana
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts
  • Dark chocolate

Recipes High In Magnesium

Since magnesium occurs naturally in these foods, incorporating more magnesium-rich meals into your diet can be a great way to boost your magnesium levels. Whether you’re looking for more magnesium for constipation, anxiety, or heartburn, try some of these recommended recipes.

Robin Berzin, MD

Dr. Robin Berzin is the Founder and CEO of Parsley Health, America's leading holistic medical practice designed to help women overcome chronic conditions. She founded Parsley to address the rising tide of chronic disease in America through personalized holistic medicine that puts food, lifestyle, and proactive diagnostic testing on the prescription pad next to medications. Since founding Parsley in 2016, Dr. Berzin has seen 80% of patients improve or resolve their chronic conditions within their first year of care, demonstrating the life-changing value of making modern holistic medicine accessible to everyone, anywhere. Parsley is available online nationwide.

Dr. Berzin attended medical school at Columbia University and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Her new book, State Change, will be published by Simon Element in January 2022.

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