Magnesium is a macroelement that participates in countless biochemical reactions in human body. It is essential for hormonal balance, structure of bones, electrolytes balance, DNA synthesis, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline, proper functioning of nervous system, enzymes activation, proper functioning of cardiovascular system, and much more. Deficiency, depending on severity, can cause from minor symptoms (that already should be alarming) like twitching, muscle weakness and cramps, to severe ones, like anxiety disorder, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, depression, osteoporosis, etc., especially when combined with low vitamin D3 level. If you have severe deficiency, it’s going to show on EMG test.
Adult human needs approximately 310-420mg of magnesium a day, depending on their physical and mental activity, age, physiological state (diabetes, osteroporosis, pregnancy, etc.). Chronic stress and other factors, such as drinking coffee, improper, highly processed diet, smoking, abusing sleep hygiene, taking medication, lead to flushing out even more magnesium, increasing the daily requirement.
Theoretically, ignoring the absorption factor, you can easily reach more than a daily magnesium recommendation in diet from just 100g of pumpkin seeds, one banana, or a portion of buckwheat. Even considering the bioavaiability of magnesium (around 15-40%), a healthy, clean, balanced diet is just enough to maintain its proper level. We know all too great though, that most people don’t follow a healthy diet, and eat a lot of nutritionally-deficient, highly processed foods.
Thanks to this and other factors, most people are already magnesium deficient and diet might be not enough to supply it, so what to do in that situation? First, addressing the cause. Cutting out sugar and other processed products from your diet is essential, just as adding nuts, seeds, legumes, bananas and other magnesium-rich fresh products. Replacing coffee with natural dark cacao is also a good idea.
Usual way of increasing magnesium supply is through oral intake of solutions or pills, often containing also vitamin B6 for increased absorption. However the gut absorption from supplements is not efficient, making it necessary to take multiple pills during the day, and it often causes an undesirable laxative effect, often because patients aim for big dosage at once. The best way to supplement magnesium orally is to get a registered Mg+B6 medicine (not a dietary supplement), because of law regulations. The medicine has small amount of magnesium (the smaller dose the better) that can be taken few times a day safely, plus you can be sure that the ingredients list is accurate, proven and controlled. Supplements can have whatever the producer wants on the ingredients declaration, it usually has nothing to do with what there actually is. Contamination is also very common in dietary supplements, so I would advise to just let it go.
Additional oral supplement that is effective is magnesium-rich bottled water. The absorption is great and it has no added sugar, contrary to popular magnesium/calcium water-soluble supplements.
Some studies shown that a good, side effect-free way of magnesium supplementing is through transdermal way – by taking baths with magnesium salts (magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate known as Epsom salt), or rubbing magnesium oil in the skin. The requirement for good absorption is regular use and proper concentration – the oil that has been used for successful studies had 30% concentration. Another study determined that the effective formula for the baths is 600g (for Epsom salt) per bath. Both, the baths and the oils, have been helpful in lowering pain symptoms in fibromialgia patients. They also worked positively for skin inflammation and dryness. It’s worth noting though, that these studies were very limited, on small amount of subjects, and mostly funded by the producers of magnesium oils. Further research should be conducted to test this.
In conclusion, if you suffer from magnesium deficiency, taking oral supplements is not as effective as changing your dietary habits. For maximum effectiveness it would be best to combine both of them, prioritizing the dietary approach, choosing your bottled water wisely, and making sure you get your pills from good source, which is registered medication, not dietary supplements.
- Magnesium Absorption in Humans
- The Magnificent Effect of Magnesium to Human Health: A Critical Review
- Magnesium Absorption and Assimilation
- 50 Studies Suggest That Magnesium Deficiency Is Killing Us
- Epsom Salt Council
- Effects of transdermal magnesium chloride on quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia: a feasibility study
- A pilot study to determine the impact of transdermal magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg ratios
- Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin
- Role of Cellular Magnesium in Human Diseases
- Magnesium May Help Prevent Hip Fractures
- Magnesium for pain relief
- Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment
- FAO: Chapter 14. Magnesium