Malgorzata Sypien, M.D., FAAFP, Integrative Family Practice, Chicago IL
Every organ in the body -- especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys -- needs the mineral magnesium. It also contributes to the makeup of teeth and bones. Most important, it activates about 300 enzymes, contributes to energy production, and helps regulate calcium levels, as well as copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients in the body.
You can get magnesium from many foods. However, most people in the United States probably do not get as much magnesium as they should from their diet. Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, and green vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are particularly good sources of magnesium.
Certain medical conditions, however, can upset the body's magnesium balance warns dr Sypien For example, an intestinal virus that causes vomiting or diarrhea can cause temporary magnesium deficiencies. Some gastrointestinal diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and ulcerative colitis), diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease, and taking diuretics can lead to deficiencies. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol, as well as heavy menstrual periods, excessive sweating, and prolonged stress can also lower magnesium levels.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include agitation and anxiety, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, irritability, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle spasm and weakness, hyperventilation, insomnia, poor nail growth, and even seizures.
Getting enough magnesium may enhance the effectiveness of conventional treatment for the following conditions:
Several studies show that intravenous (IV) magnesium and magnesium inhaled through a nebulizer can help treat acute attacks of asthma in children 6 - 18 years of age, as well as adults. But there is no evidence that taking oral magnesium helps control asthma symptoms.
Inadequate magnesium appears to reduce serotonin levels, and antidepressants have been shown to raise brain magnesium.
People who have type 2 diabetes often have low levels of magnesium in the blood. A large clinical study of over 2,000 people found that getting more magnesium in the diet may help protect against developing type 2 diabetes. Some -- though not all -- studies suggest that taking magnesium supplements may help blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes or prediabetes.
A small preliminary clinical study of 24 people with fibromyalgia found that a proprietary tablet containing both malic acid and magnesium improved pain and tenderness associated with fibromyalgia when taken for at least 2 months. Other studies suggest the combination of calcium and magnesium may be helpful for some people with fibromyalgia.
Noise related hearing loss
One study suggests that taking magnesium may prevent temporary or permanent hearing loss due to very loud noise.
Arrhythmia and heart failure
Magnesium is essential to heart health. Studies suggest a possible association between a modestly lower risk of CHD in men and increased magnesium intake. In one study of women, higher dietary intakes of magnesium were associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death. Magnesium helps maintain a normal heart rhythm and is sometimes given intravenously (IV) in the hospital to reduce the chance of atrial fibrillation and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
High blood pressure
Eating low fat dairy products, along with lots of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, is associated with lower blood pressure. All of these foods are rich in magnesium, as well as calcium and potassium. A large clinical study of more than 8,500 women found that a higher intake of dietary magnesium may decrease the risk of high blood pressure in women.
A few studies suggest that taking magnesium supplements may help prevent migraine headaches. In addition, a few clinical studies suggest that magnesium supplements may shorten the duration of a migraine and reduce the amount of medication needed. People who have migraine headaches tend to have lower levels of magnesium compared to those with tension headaches or no headaches at all.
Some experts suggest combining magnesium with the herb feverfew along with vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may be helpful when you have a headache.
Not getting enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and other micronutrients may play a role in the development of osteoporosis. To prevent osteoporosis, it is important to get enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D; to eat a well balanced diet; and to do weight bearing exercises throughout life.
Preeclampsia and eclampsia
Preeclampsia is characterized by a sharp rise in blood pressure during the third trimester of pregnancy. Women with preeclampsia may develop seizures, which is then called eclampsia. Magnesium, given in the hospital intravenously (IV), is the treatment of choice to prevent or treat seizures associated with eclampsia or to prevent complications from preeclampsia.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Restless legs syndrome
Rich sources of magnesium include tofu, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, Brazil nuts, soybean flour, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and squash seeds, pine nuts, and black walnuts. Other good dietary sources of this mineral include peanuts, whole wheat flour, oat flour, beet greens, spinach, pistachio nuts, shredded wheat, bran cereals, oatmeal, bananas, and baked potatoes (with skin), chocolate, and cocoa powder. Many herbs, spices, and seaweeds supply magnesium, such as agar seaweed, coriander, dill weed, celery seed, sage, dried mustard, basil, cocoa powder, fennel seed, savory, cumin seed, tarragon, marjoram, poppy seed.
How to Take It:
Be sure to check with your health care provider before taking magnesium supplements and before considering them for a child. Under certain circumstances, such as certain heart arrhythmias or preeclampsia, a doctor will give magnesium intravenously (IV) in the hospital.
It is a good idea to take a B vitamin complex, or a multivitamin containing B vitamins, because the level of vitamin B6 in the body determines how much magnesium will be absorbed into the cells.
Dosages are based on the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) issued from the Food and Nutrition Board of the United States Government's Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Do not give magnesium supplements to a child without a doctor' s supervision.
- Males 19 - 30 years of age: 400 mg daily
- Females 19 - 30 years of age: 310 mg daily
- Males 31 years of age and over: 420 mg daily
- Females 31 years of age and over: 320 mg daily
- Pregnant females 19 - 30 years of age: 350 mg daily
- Pregnant females 31 and over: 360 mg daily
- Breastfeeding females 19 - 30 years of age: 310 mg daily
- Breastfeeding females 31 years of age and over: 320 mg daily
A person' s need for magnesium increases during pregnancy, recovery from surgery and illnesses, and athletic training. Speak with your physician.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Since magnesium is excreted by the kidneys, people with heart or kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements except under their doctor's supervision.