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Half of All Americans Don’t Get Enough Magnesium. Here’s Why That’s A Big Deal.

Every time I have an appointment with my doctor, one of the first questions he asks me is, “Are you taking your magnesium?” 

Why, you may ask? 

In my case, it’s for the mental health benefits, of which magnesium has many.

From soothing anxiety and easing muscle tension to improving sleep and lifting mood, magnesium just helps us feel good and function properly. 

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in our bodies. It does a lot for us. But studies suggest that up to 50% of the US population doesn’t get enough of it.

A hand holds a circle with Mg for magnesium
Key Benefits of Magnesium

Why Do So Many Americans Have Low Magnesium Levels?

There are several reasons why many Americans have low magnesium levels.

Lifestyle factors play a significant role (oh hey, processed food), but modern farming practices also contribute. Industrial agriculture can deplete minerals from the soil, leading to lower magnesium content in our food.

Chronic stress is another major contributor. It depletes magnesium, and ironically, low magnesium levels make us more prone to stress and anxiety, creating a challenging cycle to break.

Additionally, certain substances and medications can cause the body to lose magnesium through the kidneys.

These include:

  • Alcohol use disorder: Chronic alcohol consumption can significantly reduce magnesium levels.
  • Excessive caffeine intake: High caffeine consumption can increase magnesium excretion in urine.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes: Poorly managed diabetes can lead to increased magnesium loss in urine.
  • Inherited kidney tubular disorders: Conditions like Gitelman syndrome cause the kidneys to lose magnesium excessively.
  • Diuretic drugs: Medications such as hydrochlorothiazide and furosemide, commonly used to treat high blood pressure, can deplete magnesium.
  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics: Antibiotics like gentamicin and tobramycin can cause kidney damage and magnesium loss.
  • Chemotherapy drugs: Treatments like cisplatin are known to reduce magnesium levels.
  • Anti-rejection drugs: Medications like cyclosporine and tacrolimus, used to prevent organ rejection, can affect magnesium balance.
  • Other drugs: Drugs like digoxin, used for heart conditions, can also lead to magnesium depletion.

Source: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23264-hypomagnesemia

12 Important Health Benefits of Magnesium

Okay, so we know that too many Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium, but why does it matter? Magnesium is an essential mineral. Our bodies do not work without it.

Let’s talk about what it does. And if you’d rather watch a video on the subject, I’ve got you covered:

1. Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Magnesium helps keep your heart beating steadily and supports proper muscle function, including the heart muscle. 

It’s like a personal trainer for your heart, ensuring it pumps smoothly and efficiently. Magnesium also plays a crucial role in preventing heart disease and reducing the risk of stroke by keeping your blood vessels relaxed and flexible. 

When you get enough magnesium, it helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels, lowering the chance of developing hypertension. 

2. Regulates Blood Sugar

Magnesium plays a critical role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and is essential for your body’s ability to manage and prevent type 2 diabetes. 

This mineral is involved in the regulation of insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar. By improving insulin sensitivity, magnesium helps your cells use glucose more effectively, which can lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Studies have shown that low magnesium levels are linked to higher blood sugar levels and a greater risk of type 2 diabetes. 

People who have low magnesium intake or absorption are more likely to experience insulin resistance, where the body’s cells don’t respond well to insulin. 

This resistance can lead to elevated blood glucose levels and eventually contribute to the development of diabetes.

Plus, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important for everybody. It helps us stay mentally sharp, maintain healthy weight, supports our mental health, and supports hormonal balance. 

3. Enhances Bone Health

Magnesium is essential for keeping your bones strong and healthy. It helps your body absorb calcium, which is a key mineral for bone formation. 

Without enough magnesium, calcium can’t do its job properly, leading to weaker bones and a higher risk of fractures. 

Magnesium also plays a role in activating vitamin D, another important player in bone health. By maintaining proper levels of magnesium, you support the development and maintenance of strong, dense bones, which helps protect against osteoporosis as you age. 

So, getting enough magnesium in your diet is crucial for overall bone strength.

4. Helps Reduce Migraines and Headaches

Magnesium can be a powerful ally in preventing and reducing migraines and headaches. It helps to relax blood vessels and regulate neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that send signals in your brain. 

When you’re low on magnesium, blood vessels can constrict too much and neurotransmitters may not function properly, leading to headaches and migraines. 

Magnesium also helps to stabilize the electrical activity in your brain, which can prevent the onset of migraines. 

If you suffer from frequent headaches and migraines, ensuring you have enough magnesium in your body is especially important. 

A woman with a headache touches her temple
magnesium and migraine support

5. Improves Sleep Quality

Magnesium plays an important role in boosting overall sleep quality, which, let’s be honest, we could all use a bit more of. It works its magic in a few ways. 

First, it helps regulate melatonin, the hormone that keeps our sleep-wake cycles in check. Then, it kicks in to calm our parasympathetic nervous system, essentially putting our body into relaxation mode. 

Plus, magnesium interacts with GABA receptors in the brain, those little guys that help quiet down nerve activity and reduce anxiety. 

So, by getting enough magnesium, you can fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and wake up feeling way more refreshed.

6. Boosts Energy Production

Magnesium is essential for producing and storing energy in your cells.

It’s involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main energy currency of your cells. Think of ATP as your body’s battery. It stores and provides the energy you need for almost every cellular process. 

Magnesium helps convert the food you eat into ATP, ensuring your cells have the power to function properly. 

Without enough magnesium, your body can’t produce energy efficiently, leaving you feeling sluggish and fatigued. 

7. Aids Digestive Health

Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant, helping to move food through your intestines by relaxing the muscles in your gut. This is especially helpful in preventing uncomfortable digestive issues like constipation. 

Magnesium also assists in maintaining a healthy balance of stomach acid, which is essential for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients effectively. 

It also supports the function of enzymes that aid in digestion, which helps ensure your body can efficiently process and absorb the nutrients from your meals. 

8. Improves Mental Health and Mood

Magnesium has a strong influence on brain function and mood. It’s been linked to lower levels of depression and anxiety. Magnesium also helps regulate neurotransmitters that send messages in your brain and body.

One study showed that magnesium can enhance the effects of antidepressants, improving symptoms of depression better than taking antidepressants alone. 

It also helps regulate the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. By keeping cortisol levels in check, magnesium can help reduce the physiological response to stress, which helps reduce anxiety symptoms

Magnesium is also essential for the production of enzymes that synthesize serotonin, the neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness – something that is critical to our ability to feel emotionally stable. 

These are all reasons why my therapist likes to make sure I’m taking my magnesium supplements. I recommend this one I purchase off of Amazon or, if you have a little more to spend and need an extra boost, Calm my Brain by Brain MD works well, too. 

9. Supports Immune System Function

Magnesium is important for a strong immune system. It helps fight off infections and keeps your body’s defenses up.

Having adequate magnesium levels supports your immune response and helps your body combat pathogens effectively. Eating magnesium-rich foods can boost your immunity.

Magnesium is key to keeping your immune system strong. It helps your body’s defense cells, like T cells and macrophages, fight off infections. 

Magnesium also has anti-inflammatory benefits, which means it can reduce harmful inflammation that occurs during an immune response (more on that in a second). 

Plus, magnesium is involved in the processes that give your immune cells the energy to work and grow properly. If you don’t get enough magnesium, you’re more likely to get sick because your immune system can’t do its job as well.

10. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Magnesium helps reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or infection, but too much inflammation can cause problems like pain, swelling, and even chronic diseases. 

Magnesium helps by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are chemicals that your immune system releases to signal inflammation.

When you have enough magnesium, these cytokines are kept in check, preventing excessive inflammation, which is linked to all kinds of chronic diseases. 

Related Post: Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation? (More Than You Might Think)

11. Improves Exercise Performance

Magnesium is essential for muscle contraction and energy production during exercise. It helps prevent cramping and spasms when you’re working out and reduces stiffness and soreness afterwards. 

With enough magnesium, your muscles get the energy they need to perform better and endure longer sessions.

It also  enhances oxygen uptake in your muscles, improving endurance and helping you push through intense workouts. 

As you exercise and sweat, magnesium helps maintain your electrolyte balance, which is vital for proper hydration, muscle function, and preventing fatigue. 

Its anti-inflammatory properties further aid in reducing muscle inflammation and speeding up recovery, so you feel less sore and tired. 

A woman does reformer pilates
magnesium benefits and exercise

12. Maintains DNA and Protein Synthesis

Now for a super sciency benefit. Magnesium is vital for maintaining DNA and protein synthesis, which are crucial for your body’s growth and repair. 

It helps stabilize DNA by neutralizing negative charges, keeping the structure intact and preventing damage. Magnesium is a key cofactor for enzymes involved in DNA replication and repair, ensuring accurate cell division. 

It also aids in RNA synthesis, where genetic information from DNA is used to produce proteins. For protein synthesis, magnesium is essential for ribosomes, the cell structures that assemble proteins from amino acids. 

Magnesium is also necessary for producing and using ATP, the energy source required for these processes. 

Signs of Low Magnesium Levels

Worried you might have low magnesium levels? See if you experience any of the following:

  • Muscle Cramps and Spasms: Frequent muscle cramps, twitches, or spasms, particularly in the legs or feet, can indicate low magnesium levels. This occurs because magnesium is essential for muscle contraction and relaxation. A deficiency can cause muscles to become overly excitable.
  • Fatigue and Weakness: Persistent fatigue and muscle weakness may be symptoms of low magnesium. Magnesium is crucial for energy production, and low levels can disrupt ATP (adenosine triphosphate) synthesis, the molecule responsible for providing energy to cells.
  • Mental Health Changes: Experiencing anxiety, depression, or mood swings can sometimes be linked to a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium plays a vital role in brain function and mood regulation. When levels are low, neurotransmitter function can be affected, leading to changes in mental health.
  • Irregular Heartbeat (Arrhythmia): Low magnesium levels can cause palpitations or irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmia. Magnesium is necessary for maintaining the electrical stability of the heart, and a deficiency can disrupt normal heart rhythms.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Tingling or numbness, especially in the hands, feet, or face, can be signs of magnesium deficiency. This happens because magnesium is important for nerve function, and low levels can impair nerve signaling.
  • High Blood Pressure: Elevated blood pressure can be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium helps regulate blood pressure, and low levels can contribute to hypertension, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems.
  • Bone Health Issues: Long-term low magnesium levels can lead to weakened bones and increased risk of osteoporosis. Magnesium is critical for bone formation and maintenance, and a deficiency can impair bone health over time.

How To Get More Magnesium Into Your Diet

Okay, so now that you see how great magnesium is for you, the question becomes, how do you get more of it into your body? 

Luckily, magnesium is found in many foods that can easily be added to your diet. 

  • Leafy Green Vegetables: spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds
  • Whole Grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole wheat
  • Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame, lima beans
  • Fish: salmon, mackerel, halibut
  • Dairy Products: yogurt, milk
  • Fruits: bananas, avocados, figs, papaya, blackberries
  • Vegetables: sweet corn, green peas, potatoes
  • Dark Chocolate

But what about the issue of mineral and nutrient depletion in our soil? What do we do when natural sources of magnesium aren’t sufficient?

This is where supplementation comes into the picture.

What About Magnesium Supplements?

When considering magnesium supplements, it’s important to know the different types available, the recommended dosages, and the potential side effects and interactions.

It’s also important to note that the best way to get magnesium is via your plate, even if it means we have to eat more natural sources of magnesium to get the required amounts.

But if that’s not possible for you or you’ve been found to be deficient in magnesium, there are supplements you can try.

Now, keep in mind there are different types of magnesium supplements.

They don’t all do the same thing. And this is all the more reason to discuss any supplement decisions with your doctor before starting. 

After all, you don’t want to have too much magnesium in your system (there is such a thing). 

Side effects of too much magnesium include:

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feelings of fatigue

Source: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/magnesium-for-anxiety

Types of Magnesium Supplements

As I mentioned, magnesium supplements come in several forms. Each has its own benefits and uses which are important to note before taking.

  • Magnesium citrate is often used to relieve constipation and improve digestion (basically it is a natural laxative). So you really want to check your supplement’s label before taking this one. 
  • Magnesium oxide is a salt that combines magnesium and oxygen. It’s usually taken to treat digestive issues like heartburn and indigestion, though it isn’t absorbed well by the body. It’s not typically prescribed to deal with low magnesium levels. 
  • Magnesium glycinate is known for its high absorption rate and is recommended for addressing magnesium deficiency. It may be less likely to cause digestive issues than other forms. This is the type of magnesium used to help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation. It’s also good for improving sleep, reducing inflammation, and helping to manage metabolic disorders like diabetes. 
  • Magnesium Malate is offten used to boost energy levels and reduce muscle pain. Magnesium malate is well-absorbed and gentle on the digestive system. It’s particularly beneficial for those with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia due to its role in energy production.
  • Magnesium L-Threonate is noted for its potential benefits in cognitive function and brain health. Magnesium L-threonate effectively crosses the blood-brain barrier, enhancing its impact on brain function. It may help improve memory and support overall cognitive health.
  • Magnesium Chloride is commonly used for magnesium supplementation and detoxification. Magnesium chloride is well-absorbed and can be taken orally or used topically. It supports cellular detoxification and, when applied topically, can relieve muscle aches and pains.
  • Magnesium Sulfate, aka Epsom salts, is primarily used in baths to relieve muscle soreness and stress. Magnesium sulfate is absorbed through the skin, providing a relaxing and therapeutic effect. It’s not usually taken orally because of its strong laxative properties.
  • Magnesium Taurate is particularly beneficial for heart health. Magnesium taurate combines magnesium with taurine, an amino acid that supports cardiovascular function. It may help reduce blood pressure and support overall heart health.

The amount of magnesium you need depends on factors like age, sex, and health condition. For adults, the recommended daily amount is generally around 310-420 mg.

Men typically need about 400-420 mg per day, while women need around 310-320 mg. 

But again, this is something you need to discuss with your doctor. 

Remember, natural sources of magnesium are best, and having too much magnesium in the body is a risk of supplementation, so you don’t want to go overboard with the supplements.

If you’re struggling with your sleep or mental health or think you may have low magnesium levels, get yourself checked out and ask your doctor which supplementation regimen makes the most sense for you.

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