Two thirds of our body’s magnesium is stored in our bones and one third in skeletal and cardiac muscle. As one of the macrominerals required in large quantities by our bodies, magnesium is quickly used up during periods of stress. There are many demands on our magnesium supply which is involved in over 300 essential biochemical reactions. Among these, magnesium has vital roles in cell membrane function, DNA and RNA replication, protein synthesis and stabilising nerve function.
We absorb magnesium via the small intestine and the rate of absorption adjusts relevant to the level of dietary intake. When dietary magnesium is high the absorption rate is lower, increasing excretion via the kidneys, and conversely when dietary magnesium is low, absorption efficiency increases to compensate.
Can I get enough magnesium from my regular dietary intake?
Contrary to claims by mainstream nutritionists that magnesium deficiency is rare, it is actually very common among populations with a western-style diet high in meat, fat, dairy foods, refined flour and sugar.
To correct a long term magnesium deficiency you will need to take a balanced mineral supplement for a while in order to replenish your magnesium reserves while you attend to the cause(s). If the cause is a dietary imbalance the good news is there are plenty of magnesium rich foods to include in your regular meals for a more balanced mineral intake.
Green leafy vegetables, artichokes, avocados, sweetcorn, nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, chickpeas (and other legumes), cocoa products, sundried tomatoes, fish and other seafood, molasses, dried fruit and many more foods contain high amounts of magnesium.
Make sure you eat fresh organically produced foods for optimum bioavailability.
The main cause of magnesium deficiency is not from low magnesium food intake, but rather from other factors that limit its availability in the body, interfering with absorption or increasing excretion of magnesium. One of the main causes of poor magnesium absorption is excess calcium intake.
The calcium : magnesium ratio
One of the most important relationships for a healthy body metabolism is that between calcium and magnesium. Our ancestors ate a diet that provided calcium and magnesium in a ratio of 1.3 : 1. No greater than a 2:1 ratio is needed by the body for optimal functioning. Unfortunately modern dietary habits, in particular high dairy product intake, have pushed this vital calcium to magnesium ratio to a disproportionate 5:1. If you eat a lot of processed cheese and few green vegetables this ratio may be even greater.
Reversing this trend and reducing the ratio of calcium to magnesium in your dietary intake will improve your absorption rate of both magnesium and calcium.
As well as its role in calcium metabolism, magnesium also has important roles with potassium (regulating the sodium/potassium pump), phosphorus (energy production and ATP), copper, zinc and vitamin D metabolism in the body. It is a co-factor in hundreds of enzyme reactions.
Who is most likely to be magnesium deficient?
Most people living a modern 21st century lifestyle with all its attendant stressors have some degree of magnesium insufficiency. Studies show magnesium deficiency is common among most of the US population, and we can extrapolate this trend to other countries with a western-style culture. Because we use magnesium up quickly, we need to continually replenish our reserves and often we are temporarily in deficit.
People who consume large quantities of alcohol, coffee, salt or soft drinks are commonly deficient, as are people who sweat a lot or menstruate heavily. Any form of prolonged stress makes you a likely candidate for magnesium supplementation, including in particular those with irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease.
Our kidney function primarily governs how much magnesium our body conserves. When kidneys are healthy they will reabsorb up to 95% of magnesium prior to excretion via the urine. Factors that promote higher excretion rates of magnesium are diuretics, heart regulating medication, alcohol consumption, high sodium and calcium intake, sugar and coffee consumption and overactive adrenal hormone production. If you take certain antibiotics and anti cancer drugs, these will reduce your magnesium stores.
What happens when we’re deficient in magnesium?
Many of us have symptoms of magnesium deficiency without knowing the cause – cramps and muscle twitches (particularly night twitches), peripheral tingling or numbness, low energy, pain and inflammation, nausea and vomiting, migraines, tension headaches and anxiety states can all be the result of depleted magnesium levels. Breathing may become restricted and it’s common to sigh a lot.
A common factor in all of these symptoms is magnesium’s functions in regulating neurotransmission and controlling muscle relaxation. In this role sufficient magnesium is necessary for a smooth and steady flow of nerve impulses to the muscles, telling them what to do. When magnesium is deficient those nerve impulses become erratic and jumpy, causing the same behaviour in the muscles.
When the central nervous system lacks magnesium, the sympathetic activity of the autonomic nervous system is increased. This includes the fight or flight response, our hardwired mechanism for coping with stress. When our stress response is activated the body requires more magnesium, essential for detoxifying the steroid hormones our adrenals produce. The downward spiral of magnesium deficiency created by this extra demand can impact on our functioning in a number of ways. Restlessness, irritability, mood swings, poor appetite, high blood pressure, insomnia, poor memory and concentration, fatigue, anxiety and panic attacks, even seizures can result. Hyperactivity and a short attention span in children can be due to low magnesium.
Magnesium deficiency in smooth muscle contraction causes constipation, menstrual pain, photophobia, difficulty swallowing and noise sensitivity – all seemingly unrelated but traceable to the same problem.
Low magnesium in cardiac muscle can upset normal heart metabolism and may increase the risk of congestive heart failure.
Only one per cent of our magnesium is found in the blood, so a deficiency is unlikely to show up in the standard blood serum test (Measuring either intracellular magnesium or free ionic cellular magnesium are the only accurate lab tests for magnesium deficiency).
What health conditions are associated with low magnesium levels?
Several factors involved in insulin production, carbohydrate and fat metabolism are affected by magnesium deficiency. These can eventually manifest in debilitating conditions such as diabetes, abdominal obesity, hypertension, cardiac dysrhythmia and cardiovascular disease. There is also a specific connection between magnesium deficiency and mitral valve malfunction.
Asthma, migraine onset, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, depression, anorexia, allergies and chemical sensitivities, attention deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD), hearing loss, some eye disorders, tempero mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), premature ejaculation and scar formation are all conditions linked to magnesium deficiency by various research studies.
Lifelong magnesium intake is important from conception onward
For good bone health and prevention of osteoporosis the earlier you lay down adequate magnesium in the skeletal system the better. Providing your growing embryo with enough magnesium (proportionate to calcium) to establish strong bones while in the womb will set your baby up well for a lifetime.
Another important reason to ensure optimum magnesium intake during pregnancy is its proven role in preventing pre-eclampsia and reducing the risk of pre term birth.
Maintaining adequate levels throughout life will also help prevent cardiovascular disease, kidney stones or gallstones, and some forms of arthritis by improving calcium removal from soft tissue, thereby reducing plaquing and stone formation.
Which form of supplement is most effective?
Magnesium supplements come in many varieties. Oral supplements usually come in tablets, either as salts or chelated to an amino acid. Although magnesium phosphate does not occur naturally in the food chain, it is found in most organs of the body, nerve and muscle cells and the thyroid gland. Because magnesium and phosphate share a close relationship at the intracellular level, the magnesium phosphate form (usually found in tissue salts) is very bioavailable.
Some generally well absorbed chelated forms are magnesium lactate, magnesium citrate, magnesium orotate, magnesium glycinate and magnesium gluconate. Each provides different amounts of elemental magnesium. Magnesium chloride is also well absorbed.
Transdermal delivery (through the skin) is another way of absorbing magnesium.
The most efficient and bioavailable way to take magnesium orally is in liquid form with liposomal delivery paving the way as a new delivery platform.
Research shows magnesium oxide is the least bioavailable form, resulting in occasional adverse effects due either to elevated levels of unabsorbed magnesium, or toxic material present in the magnesium oxide. It is inexpensive and often combined with several other magnesium compounds in supplement manufacture. If you take this form of supplement make sure it is from a certified organic source.
Some forms of magnesium, such as magnesium hydroxide, magnesium oxide, magnesium carbonate, magnesium chloride and magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) are more likely to cause diarrhoea.
If you take a supplement that combines magnesium and calcium, a ratio closer to 1:1 is least likely to suppress magnesium absorption. Avoid supplements that have significantly higher calcium to magnesium ratio.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) increases magnesium uptake at cellular level, so it’s important to have adequate B vitamin intake to optimise your magnesium absorption. All forms of oral magnesium supplements are better absorbed when taken with a meal. Factors affecting absorption can include dietary toxins, medical drugs, intestinal inflammation or infection, cell membrane health, kidney health, obesity and some genetic conditions.
What is the recommended daily magnesium intake?
310 to 420 mg (differing according to age, sex, weight and other variables) is the recommended daily intake for adults from all sources – that is the combined food and supplement intake. Teenagers after puberty require the same intake as adults, and more during growth spurts. Pre-teens need two thirds of the adult intake and younger children a third to a half.
What is safe and adequate supplementation?
The biofeedback mechanism regulating intestinal absorption and kidney excretion, plus several factors contributing to reduced absorption, means magnesium toxicity is unlikely. Keep your supplement intake below 350 mg per day, which is the upper tolerable limit for adults.
In general around 200 mg per day from a supplement with good bioavailability is an adequate amount to restore and maintain healthy function. Spreading your magnesium dosage into two or three daily doses helps increase the absorption rate and reduce the risk of diarrhoea occurring from the unabsorbed excess being excreted.
It can take several months of ongoing supplementation to restore your body’s magnesium reserves, so look for a gradual improvement in symptoms rather than immediate relief.
For most people magnesium supplements are safe and cause no adverse effect, even in high dosages, other than diarrhoea. This is the body’s natural excretion method for excess unabsorbed magnesium.
Are there any contraindications or adverse effects reported?
If you have seriously impaired kidney function, magnesium supplements may lead to dangerously high plasma concentrations of magnesium, and may therefore be contraindicated. Consult your health professional.
BioBalance Liposomal Magnesium provides magnesium gluconate and magnesium bisglycinate, two easily absorbed forms of magnesium. Magnesium bisglycinate is magnesium bound to the amino acid glycine, making the magnesium highly absorbable. With our liposomal magnesium the superior rate of absorption means you are getting optimal nutritional benefit from your supplement, unlike the high amount (over 50%) of magnesium that remains unusable or is excreted when taking tableted dietary supplements.
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/magnesium/#h4 deficiency causes
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854408 colon cancer prevention
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23658180 brain signalling pathwayshttp://www.afibbers.org/resources/magnesiumabsorption.pdf absorption
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/magnesium/ form & dosage
The clinical science of mineral therapy. Leslie Fisher, 1993. The Maurice Blackmore
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