Written by Gabriela Segura, MD
Tuesday, 4 January 2011 11:13

Magnesium, just like magnetite and manganese, owes its name to the greek word Magnesia, a place name derived from the tribal people known as Magnetes. Physicians and therapists have paid scant attention to this crucial element which is one of the most important minerals for all living organisms. Magnesium has a relaxing, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on our organism. It is critical for metabolic processes, cell growth and reproduction and is involved in hundreds of enzyme processes affecting every aspect of life. It is not only essential for maintaining good health, but also for detoxification and the treatment of numerous diseases.

Unfortunately, magnesium is one of the most depleted minerals in our soil. In fact, a U.S. Senate document from 1936 stated that fruits and vegetables being raised on millions of acres of land no longer contained enough of certain minerals, therefore starving the population of their nutritive effects no matter how much they ate. While some foods are enriched with calcium and vitamins, magnesium is usually ignored. Reseachers actually found that the recommended daily allowance for magnesium is inadequate to prevent magnesium deficiency. In addition, drugs such as painkillers, antibiotics, diuretics, anti-depressants and others further deplete magnesium and other vital nutrients in our bodies, worsening the symptoms for which they were prescribed in the first place. Stressful situations such as surgery, injuries, malnutrition, diseases and psychological stress also increase our daily requirements of this important mineral. This translates into a widespread magnesium deficiency problem among the population which then causes or contributes to numerous conditions including degenerative chronic diseases:

Anxiety and panic attacks. Magnesium helps keep adrenal stress hormones under control.
Asthma. Both histamine production and bronchial spasms increase with magnesium deficiency.
Blood clots. Magnesium plays an important role in preventing blood clots and keeping the blood thin without any side effects.
Bowel disease. Magnesium deficiency slows down the bowel, causing constipation, which could lead to colitis, toxicity and malabsorption of nutrients.
Cystitis. Bladder spasms are worsened by magnesium deficiency.
Depression. Serotonin, which elevates mood, is dependent on magnesium. A magnesium-deficient brain is also more susceptible to allergens, foreign substances that in rare instances can cause symptoms similar to mental illness.
Detoxification. Magnesium is crucial for the removal from the body of toxic substances and heavy metals such as aluminum and lead.
Diabetes. Magnesium enhances insulin secretion, facilitating sugar metabolism. Without magnesium, insulin is not able to transfer glucose into cells. Glucose and insulin build up in the blood, causing various types of tissue damage.
Fatigue. Magnesium-deficient patients commonly experience fatigue because dozens of enzyme systems are underfunctioning. An early symptom of magnesium deficiency is fatigue.
Heart disease. Magnesium deficiency is common in people with heart disease. Magnesium is administered in hospitals for acute myocardial infarction and cardiac arrhythmia. Like any other muscle, the heart requires magnesium. Magnesium is also used to treat angina, or chest pain.
Hypertension. With insufficient magnesium, blood vessels may go into spasm and cholesterol may rise, both of which lead to blood pressure problems.
Hypoglycemia. Magnesium keeps insulin under control; without magnesium, episodes of low blood sugar can result.
Insomnia. Sleep-regulating melatonin production is disturbed with insufficient magnesium.
Kidney disease. Magnesium deficiency contributes to atherosclerotic kidney failure. Magnesium deficiency creates abnormal lipid levels and worsening blood sugar control in kidney transplant patients.
Migraine. Serotonin balance is magnesium-dependent. Deficiency of serotonin can result in migraine headaches and depression.
Musculoskeletal conditions. Fibrositis, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, eye twitches, cramps and chronic neck and back pain may be caused by magnesium deficiency and can be relieved with magnesium supplements.
Nerve problems. Magnesium alleviates peripheral nerve disturbances throughout the body such as headaches, muscle contractions, gastrointestinal spasms and calf, foot, and toe cramps. It is also used in treating the central nervous system of vertigo and confusion.
Obstetrical and gynecological problems. Magnesium helps prevent premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea (cramping pain during menses). It is important in the treatment of infertility, and alleviates premature contractions, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia in pregnancy. Intravenous magnesium is given in obstetrical wards for pregnancy-induced hypertension and to lessen the risk of cerebral palsy and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Magnesium should be a required supplement for pregnant women.
Osteoporosis. Use of calcium with vitamin D to enhance calcium absorption, without a balancing amount of magnesium, causes further magnesium deficiency which triggers a cascade of events leading to bone loss.
Raynaud’s syndrome. Magnesium helps relax the spastic blood vessels that cause pain and numbness of the fingers.
Tooth decay. Magnesium deficiency causes an unhealthy balance of phosphorous and calcium in saliva, which damages teeth.
[Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007]

Correcting magnesium deficiency provides relief in these and other conditions too numerous to list in this article.

Standard serum (blood) tests are useless in screening for magnesium deficiency since less than 1% of our body’s total magnesium can be measured in our blood. Unfortunately, doctors rely upon this test even though magnesium must be measured at work inside the cells and tissues with very specific tests. For the average person, the easiest way to diagnose magnesium deficiency is simply by supplementing for at least a few months to see if symptoms are relieved.

Under ideal conditions we need approximately 300mg of magnesium to offset daily losses. If you are under mild to moderate stress – physical or psychological disease, physical injury, athletic exertion, or emotional stress – your requirements for magnesium increase. Foods rich in magnesium, with a relatively low sensitivity profile, include fermented legumes (i.e. beans) and organic green vegetables. Since an average good diet may supply around 250mg, from which only half is actually absorbed, researchers feel that most people would benefit from magnesium supplementation. Otherwise, body tissue must be broken down to supply this essential mineral.

To benefit from magnesium supplementation, take chelated magnesium (bound to organic amino acids) for maximum absorption: magnesium citrate, malate, orotate, taurate, or magnesium glycinate. Do not use magnesium oxide because it is basically a laxative. The recommended dose is 6-8mg/kg of body weight (3 to 4.5 mg/lb), although 200mg four times per day is a better dose. If this dose has a laxative effect, cut down by 200mg until this effect stops. Spread your magnesium doses throughout the day because there is only so much you can absorb at one time. As you remedy your deficiencies over time, you might need less supplementation – your stools will tell you.

Some forms of chelated magnesium are better than others for certain conditions. Magnesium taurate is best for heart conditions. Magnesium taurate, glycinate and orotate are best for those who tend to have loose stools since they have less laxative effects. Magnesium malate is the best form to treat the chronic fatigue, pain, and insomnia of fibromyalgia.

Magnesium can be taken with or without meals but it’s best to take it between meals as it requires stomach acid to be absorbed. Digestion after a full meal may make the stomach acid less readily available for mineral absorption. Magnesium is an alkaline mineral which may act as an antacid, neutralizing the stomach acid needed for digestion.

Magnesium chloride can be used to make magnesium oil which can be readily absorbed through the skin when sprayed or rubbed on the body. It increases magnesium bioavailability in the body and provides the ideal solution for those individuals who experience loose stools when they try to take enough oral magnesium to meet their needs. Some researchers have found that using magnesium oil at a concentration of 25% magnesium chloride restores a magnesium deficiency in a matter of weeks that would otherwise require months or a year to restore with oral supplementation. If you pump about 6 sprays of magnesium oil for each leg and arm, you are applying about 400mg of magnesium (a 25-35% magnesium chloride solution delivers between 13 and 18 mg per pump). Using a few sprays under your arms will also function as a highly effective deodorant. If any redness or stingy feelings result, use a more diluted magnesium oil.

Requirements for a very ill person are much higher than for a healthy person. In general, if you take a full body magnesium bath, two ounces of magnesium chloride could be used. Some people prefer a very concentrated magnesium chloride bath with as many as eight ounces of magnesium at a time. Foot baths use much less water, so two ounces will yield a very concentrated intake. Soak the body or just the feet in the warm solution for 20-30 minutes. It is best to do it daily during the first week, starting at lower concentrations and working towards higher levels. Then continue at 2-3 times a week for 6-8 weeks or longer.

Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salts, is another excellent option even though it is rapidly excreted from the kidneys and more difficult to assimilate. The effects from Epsom salt baths do not last as long, so you will need more magnesium sulfate than magnesium chloride in a bath to get similar results.

For the average individual, high doses of magnesium have no side effects except loose stools. However magnesium therapy is contraindicated in individuals with kidney failure, myasthenia gravis, excessively and pathological slow heart rate, and mechanical bowel obstruction. In such cases, it should at the very least be given under the supervision of a health care provider.

People often find relief from their symptoms when they take magnesium, so they immediately tell friends and relatives. This word-of-mouth spread of information about this miraculous mineral is really making a difference in the epidemic of magnesium deficiency, and I hope that you will benefit as well.

Further reading:

Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007

Mark Sircus, Ac., O.M.D. Transdermal Magnesium Therapy. Arizona: Phaelos Books, 2007.

4 Responses to “ Magnesium: The Spark of Life ”

  1. katesisco says:

    I am self treating possibly for myesthenia gravis; I refused the steroids, the thyroid surgery, all these being suggested without any diagnosis. I am taking an amino complete with nano magnesium and natural c. I recently added a NAC to the daily. I note the magnesium in a daily multiple vit\min is magnesium oxide of which the body can absorb only 2%. I use a nano spray under the tongue which does not produce any negative effects. Indeed, I had been so constipated that the only other form of elimination was diarrhea. Taking one amino complete daily with the supps above produced a regular stool for the first time in years. This has been my routine for almost a year. And I have dental carries that produces a continuous infection. My request for dental care is met with Xray priors even tho I have only the front teeth and the infection is obvious.

  2. mhikl says:

    Magnesium is very dear to my heart.

    I knew my mum was at death’s door when she called me one morning in 1972. I quickly went over to her apartment and finding her unconscious, phoned for the ambulance. She was diagnosed with a potassium deficiency and over the year re-entered hospital two or three more times for the same reason when I finally stumbled upon the answer from one of the numerous health books I had been purchasing from a second hand stores. (The doctors told her to eat bananas and potatoes for potassium. Shouldn’t the doctors have recognised a serious problem when this advice was followed yet the problem continued. One definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over expecting different results.)

    I learned that there were not two but four (recently I read about the fifth electrolyte, phosphorous) which include sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Magnesium the small paragraph said, is the great regulator of all electrolytes.

    I immediately got my mum the strongest magnesium tablets I could find. She used these tablets until her death twenty years later. (Her younger sister died in the same state of stress ten years earlier.) Mum was under observation in an apartment in the same hospital from twenty years ago being assessed for independent living. She was not, however, allowed to administer her own prescriptions nor take her vitamins or minerals. (Independent living assessment?) She entered hospital on a Thursday and Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, she went into distress and could not be revived.

    I know that I also need extra magnesium. When my hands are shaky or I get a sense of “shorting out” or disconnection along my inner arms, I know my magnesium is low. I test this by writing a few lines to check my handwriting. Then I take the magnesium with some warm water or coffee. After about fifteen minutes I try the handwriting again and always, it is much neater and more fluid and I feel more connected.

    Now I make a magnesium drink out of a combination of Milk of Magnesia (90ml) and a two litre bottle of carbonated water, both chilled. The mixture is then shaken for a minute and returned to the refrigerator. An hour or so later it has become clear and is shaken again. This time the bottle collapses and it becomes an ionised magnesium concoction to mix with water. About sixty ml is added to a litre of water and sipped throughout my day. The original mix lasts almost a month.

    I have a theory on magnesium storage. Vitamin C, I have read, is stored in the intestinal walls. Once you reach saturation, the rest is expelled as diarrhoea. I find that I cannot take near the Vitamin C when I am also taking my magnesium water. I wonder if excess magnesium is not also stored in the intestines and when vitamin C is present, less of either can be stored.

    It was the experience with my mum that set me upon the study of natural health starting with Adele Davis, though I had been interested in nature and natural medicine since a small boy helping a very old lady pick camomile flower buds for her husband’s tea.

    Last point. Walter Last is a retired German-Australian naturopath. His articles are very good. He also talks about the need for Boron which can still be purchased in Canada and the US as Borax. It is banned in the Europe and Australia. Used for its ionising action in the laundry, many people think it is a detergent but it is not. It is a mineral similar in appearance, taste and feel to calcium and important for strong bones and teeth. Soil depletion is a problem so foods are deficient in boron today. I and my dog use borax regularly. A dry finger dipped in the powder daily is more than enough to fill that reservoir. My wife and other relatives are wary of the mineral and most of my strange understanding in natural health.

    I would appreciate any corrections to my understanding on magnesium and boron. Your good work and the time to detail which you share are truly commendable, Dr Segura.

    Namaste and care,

    • Thank you for sharing! I cannot comment on boron as I have never researched in-depth. But as to magnesium, yeah, it is the essential relaxing mineral. The same concept of vitamin C saturation in your intestines applies to magnesium. That is how you know you exceeded your absorption capacities… when it has a laxative effect. Magnesium malate is preferred by a lot of people, as it is mostly absorbed.

      Take good care and I wish you the best in your health journey!

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