Magnesium is vitally important for biological function and optimal health. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and researchers have detected more than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins.1
More than 300 different enzymes also rely on magnesium for proper function. This reflects the impact magnesium has on your biochemical processes, many of which are crucial for proper metabolic function. This includes, but is not limited to:
If you’re lacking in cellular magnesium, it can lead to the deterioration of your cellular metabolic function which, in turn, can snowball into more serious health problems.
This includes migraine headaches,9,10 anxiety and depression (magnesium acts as a catalyst for mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin), fibromyalgia,11cardiovascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and even death from all those other causes.
Magnesium also plays a role in your body’s detoxification processes (including the synthesis of glutathione) and is therefore important for minimizing damage from toxic exposures.
Perhaps most importantly, magnesium is vital for the optimization of your mitochondria. This has enormous potential to influence your health, especially the prevention of cancer, but also for overall energy and athletic performance.
Mitochondria are tiny bacteria-derived organelles residing inside your cells. Your organs need energy to function properly, and that energy (i.e., adenosine triphospate or ATP) is largely produced in the mitochondria.
Mounting evidence suggests that most health problems can be traced back to mitochondrial dysfunction. So, making sure you get the right nutrients and precursors your mitochondria need for optimal performance is extremely important for health, disease prevention, and exercise performance.
As explained by mitochondrial researcher Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. (in the video above), magnesium plays an important role. Without it, other strategies aimed at improving mitochondrial health simply may not work.
Take athletic performance for example. It is in part dependent on your oxidative capacity, meaning the ability of your muscle cells to consume oxygen, and your oxidative capacity relies on your mitochondria’s ability to produce ATP by consuming oxygen inside the cell.
You can increase your oxidative capacity in two ways, and both require magnesium:
Organic unprocessed foods tend to be your best bet, but since the magnesium content of your food depends on the richness of magnesium in the soil in which the plant was grown, even organics are no guarantee you’re getting high magnesium content.
Most soils have become severely depleted of nutrients, and for this reason, some magnesium experts believe virtually everyone needs to take supplemental magnesium.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex,12 although some researchers believe we may need as much as 600 to 900 mg/day for optimal health.
Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of “The Magnesium Miracle,” suggests using your intestinal reaction as a marker for your ideal dose. Start out by taking 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day, and gradually increase your dose until you develop slightly loose stools.
When your body has too much magnesium it flushes it out the other end, so in this way you can determine your own individual cutoff point. (Be sure to use magnesium citrate, as it’s known for having a laxative effect. It’s also better to divide your dose and take it two or three times a day instead of one large dose.)
A primary risk factor for magnesium deficiency is eating a processed food diet. The reason for this is that magnesium resides at the center of the chlorophyll molecule. If you rarely eat leafy greens and other magnesium-rich whole foods (below), you’re likely not getting enough magnesium from your diet.
Magnesium is also lost through stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, and prescription drug use (especially diuretics, statins, fluoride, and fluoride-containing drugs such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics), and tend to decline in the presence of elevated insulin levels.13 These are all factors that affect a large majority of people in the Western world, so it’s not so surprising then that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of Americans are thought to be deficient in magnesium.
Unfortunately, no lab test will give you a truly accurate reading of your magnesium status. The reason for this is because the vast majority of the magnesium in your body is found in bones and soft tissues. Only 1 percent of it shows up in your blood. That said, some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test that can give you a reasonable estimate. Perhaps the best way to ascertain your status is to carefully evaluate and track your symptoms.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include “Charlie horses” (the muscle spasm that occurs when you stretch your legs), headaches or migraines, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue or weakness. These are all warning signs indicating you probably need to boost your magnesium intake. More chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to far more serious symptoms such as abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms, seizures, numbness, tingling, and personality changes.
Dr. Dean’s book, “The Magnesium Miracle,” contains a far more exhaustive list of signs and symptoms, which can help you determine whether or not you might be deficient. You can also follow the instructions in her blog post, “Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,”14 which will give you a check list to go through every few weeks. This will also help you gauge how much magnesium you need to resolve your deficiency symptoms.
The best way to maintain healthy magnesium levels is to make sure you’re eating plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables. Juicing your greens is an excellent way to increase your magnesium, along with many other important plant-based nutrients.
Again, if you eat organic whole foods and show no signs of deficiency, you’re probably getting sufficient amounts from your food. If you eat well but still exhibit deficiency signs, you may want to consider taking a supplement as well. When it comes to leafy greens, those highest in magnesium include:
Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include the following:15,16,17,18
One of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole food diet is that you’re less likely to end up with lopsided nutrient ratios. Foods, in general, contain all the co-factors and necessary co-nutrients in the proper ratios for optimal health. Essentially, the wisdom of Mother Nature eliminates the guesswork. When you rely on supplements, you need to become savvier about how nutrients influence and interact with each other in order to avoid getting yourself into trouble.
For example, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. These four nutrients work together synergistically, and lack of balance between them is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the precise ideal ratios between all of these nutrients, but some general guidelines and considerations include the following:
Remember, your need for magnesium can be magnified by factors such as advancing age, stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, insulin resistance, and diabetes, prescription drug use, an unbalanced gut microbiome, poor kidney function, and more. If you have any of these risk factors or eat a lot of processed foods, you may want to:
a) reconsider your diet and/or
b) consider taking an oral magnesium supplement or pure magnesium oil
Also remember that while it’s best to get your magnesium from your diet, many foods are likely to be deficient in magnesium and other minerals due to being grown in mineral-depleted soils.
As a result, I believe it would be prudent for most people to consider a magnesium supplement. Alternatively, juice your vegetables, which will allow you to consume FAR more of them than you ever could if you ate them whole.
Personally, even though I eat organic and juice regularly, I still take a magnesium supplement. Another strategy that can help improve your magnesium status is to take regular Epsom salt baths or use magnesium oil. And, if you’re someone who suffers from joint pain, chronic fatigue, stress, or thyroid issues? This using 100% pure magnesium oil could be the natural solution you’ve been wishing for… It’s already helping treat people with multiple sclerosis, chronic backaches, unexplained foot pain, and more.
Are you considering supplementing with Magnesium?
Lots of magnesium supplements cause stomach upset and even diarrhea. I use myKore Essentials Topical Magnesium spray not only to ensure that I am getting the proper amount of magnesium my body needs to function optimally but also to help with pain, sleep and the occasional migraine.