Week 26 Tip: The health benefits of getting the right amount of magnesium

By: Kristin McQuivey

| June 27, 2022

Can you believe we are officially halfway through our Full Year of Resolutions? It is Week 26! That means we’ve already shared 26 healthy tips with you this year. We’d sure love to hear from you – let us know which tips you’ve tried and what has worked for you. Our goal here at More Than Healthy is to help you find even a few things you can do that will help you on your journey to optimal health.

Our tip this week is such an important one. Tip #26 is all about the health benefits of getting the right amount of magnesium. Did you know that up to half of Americans are deficient in magnesium? And, most of them don’t know it. 

Magnesium matters!

Magnesium is a critical nutrient for health, but many of us don’t get nearly enough of it. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Health has added magnesium to its list of seven nutrients of concern as part of its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Additionally, the World Health Organization estimated that 75% of adults consume a diet that is deficient in magnesium. 

A deficiency of magnesium is linked to a long list of symptoms and diseases, including things like irritable bowel syndrome, autism, and osteoporosis. Do you struggle with any of the following symptoms? 

  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Constipation

If so, you might be magnesium deficient. And, according to The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, you’re twice as likely to die if you are deficient in magnesium. Yikes! 

Functional nutrition coaching

When Carla first meets with a client and reviews their health history, there are a few things she recommends to almost all of them. Most of these we’ve covered in previous posts, including getting better sleep, drinking more water, reducing sugar and processed foods, adding more vegetables, and getting more vitamin D. Another very common recommendation she makes to almost every client is to increase the amount of magnesium they are consuming.

Every cell in your body needs magnesium to function properly. It’s found in all of your tissues, but mostly in your bones, muscles, and brain. In fact, your cells require magnesium to make energy. It’s also needed for stabilizing membranes and for many different chemical pumps in your system to work. Magnesium is responsible for over 600 enzyme reactions in your body

Magnesium – the relaxation mineral

This amazing mineral has been called “the most powerful relaxation mineral available.” It is known as an antidote to stress and as a natural sleep aid. Magnesium helps your muscles to relax. Do you get frequent muscle cramps, or do leg pains wake you up during the night? Chances are you need to add some magnesium to your diet. As the relaxation mineral, magnesium can help with anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, or stiff – from muscles to your mood!

Today we’re talking about six of the most important health benefits the right amount of magnesium provides, but there are at least a dozen more. In fact, there are over 3,500 medical references on magnesium deficiency! We will link to additional information at the end of this post. 

Here are six of our favorite benefits available from the right amount of magnesium:

Benefit #1: Regular bowel movements

I know, I know…you’re not really wanting to talk about stools, but truly, it’s difficult to find a better indicator of how your digestive system is functioning. And we know that the health of your gut determines so much of the health of everything else, including your heart, brain, skin, bones, muscles, etc. We are going to go into a lot more detail about this in a future post, but if you tend to struggle with constipation, we encourage you to check your magnesium levels.

Magnesium has a laxative effect for two reasons. First, magnesium helps to relax the muscles in the intestines. This helps establish a smoother flow as the stool passes through. Second, magnesium draws water into the intestines, which stimulates bowel motion (or motility). It also softens and increases the size of the stool, which helps the stool to pass easier.

A bit about David’s journey

If you’ve been following his health journey, you know that David has had lots of health issues stemming from his leaky gut, including painful constipation. Here’s what he has to say about the benefits of magnesium: 

“I’m so grateful for what Carla learned about magnesium through becoming a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor. It turns out that I was really deficient in magnesium, and that was one reason I was having constipation. You may have heard me talk about this in previous posts. Some of this was because I was eating too much sugar, gluten, and dairy while not eating enough vegetables. But another part of the problem was that I wasn’t getting enough magnesium in my diet. Since I started adding the right amount of magnesium to my morning regimen, I rarely have an issue with constipation anymore. It’s made an immense difference!”

Benefit # 2: Magnesium acts as a cofactor 

Magnesium acts as a cofactor, which is a helper molecule, in biochemical reactions that are constantly being performed throughout our bodies. As mentioned above, it’s involved in more than 600 enzymatic reactions in the body. Here are just a few of the important enzyme reactions that require magnesium to function:

  • Energy creation. Magnesium helps to convert the food we eat into energy.
  • Protein formation. Magnesium is required to help create new proteins from amino acids. These compounds play many critical roles in the body.
  • Gene maintenance. Adequate magnesium helps to create and repair DNA and RNA
  • Muscle movements. The right amount of magnesium aids in muscle contraction and relaxation. 
  • Nervous system regulation. Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters. These send messages throughout your brain and nervous system and help it all to be able to work together.

This impressive list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the list of everything magnesium does as a helper molecule in the body.

Benefit #3: Helps regulate blood sugar

Studies show that magnesium can help improve blood sugar levels. It also reduces insulin resistance, a key factor in controlling blood sugars. 

Magnesium may also help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Studies show that 48% of people with type 2 diabetes have low blood levels of magnesium. Additionally, research indicates that people who consume higher amounts of magnesium actually have a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.  

Benefit #4: Helps lower inflammation

In a healthy body, inflammation is a chemical protection system. It is a natural way to protect and heal the body. When we have a fever, it’s a sign that we’re fighting off infection. If we sprain an ankle, it swells and gets hot. Typically, inflammation shows up as pain, and it signals that we need to fix a problem. 

Chronic inflammation, however, is problematic and takes a real toll on your health. It can actually become serious and even cause life-threatening problems over time. Many, if not all, of our clients who are dealing with health problems are also dealing with some form of inflammation. 

Low levels of magnesium are linked to increased levels of inflammation. In fact, a review of 11 studies showed that magnesium supplementation decreases levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and Interleukin-6, both of which are markers of chronic inflammation. Also, research ties magnesium deficiency to increased oxidative stress, which is also related to inflammation.

Why reducing inflammation matters

The benefits of reducing your inflammation are numerous. It plays a key role in aging and chronic diseases. Reducing inflammation helps alleviate symptoms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, lupus, and many other autoimmune disorders. It means a decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer, to name just a few. 

Do you struggle with migraine pain? Or monthly PMS symptoms? As we coach our clients, we see a decrease in these and many other pain and inflammation-related symptoms when we get magnesium levels to sufficiency. 

Benefit #5: Better sleep

We can’t talk about the benefits of magnesium without mentioning its effect on sleep. You know that at More Than Healthy we consider sleep a foundation to health. We strongly encourage magnesium supplementation to all our clients struggling with sleep issues.  

Magnesium regulates several neurotransmitters involved in sleep, such as gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA. The GABA receptor produces a calming effect and helps with feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. 

It is an effective natural remedy for people suffering from insomnia. Studies show that adults with diagnosed insomnia lowered the amount of time it took to fall asleep by an average of 17 minutes when taking magnesium supplements. In addition, magnesium is also shown to improve sleep quality and duration during the night, while reducing the likelihood of falling asleep during the daytime. 

If you’re struggling with your sleep, be sure to check if you are magnesium-deficient. Adding some magnesium to your daily routine might be just what the doctor ordered.  

Benefit #6: Bone health

Many of our past 25 More Than Healthy Weekly Tips have addressed the importance of bone health (see our posts on Vitamin D, Vibration Therapy, and Strength Training, for example). Bone health is so important, especially as we age. Magnesium is crucial for maintaining bone health and protecting against bone loss. 

Studies show that low levels of magnesium are linked to osteoporosis, where bones become brittle and weak. In fact, people who consume lower levels of magnesium experience three times more fractures than those with higher levels of this vital nutrient. 

Even better, a review of 12 studies about high magnesium intake showed an increase in bone mineral density in the hip and femoral neck. These areas are often susceptible to fracture. Increasing your magnesium is such an easy and effective way to protect your bones.

Additional benefits of the right amount of magnesium

This is not a comprehensive list of all the benefits that come from getting the right amount of magnesium. Studies show it can also boost exercise performance, increase muscle mass, promote heart health, combat depression, prevent migraines, and reduce anxiety symptoms. If you struggle with any of these areas, you might want to consider boosting your magnesium intake.

How do you know if you’re low?

There is a simple at-home test you can do that tests magnesium levels. It measures levels in your urine via an app you just download onto your phone. Knowledge is power! If you think you might be magnesium deficient, this is an easy and affordable way to know for sure. You can order an at-home test here.

How to get the right amount of magnesium

Eat magnesium-rich foods

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 for women. That’s a lot of magnesium, especially considering the amount available in our food. Plus, many of us eat a highly-processed diet that contains practically no magnesium. Consider this quote by Dr. Mark Hyman:

“When was the last time you had a good dose of sea vegetables (seaweed), nuts, greens, and beans? If you are like most Americans, your nut consumption mostly comes from peanut butter, and mostly in chocolate peanut butter cups.” 

Okay, so maybe you actually get your peanut butter in other ways than just Reese’s. But, since studies show more than 50% of US adults get less than the recommended daily amount of this important mineral, chances are you’re probably someone who needs to get more magnesium in their diet. Below is a chart of some of the foods that are highest in magnesium, and how much of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) they provide:

Foods that are higher in magnesium

FoodMilligrams per servingPercent recommended daily allowance (RDA)
Pumpkin seeds, roasted, 1 ounce15637
Chia seeds, 1 ounce11126
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce8019
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup7819
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce7418
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup6315
Shredded Wheat cereal, 2 large pieces6115
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup6115
Black beans, cooked, ½ cup6014
Edamame, shelled and cooked, ½ cup5012
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons4912
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces4310
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup4210
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 oz.4210
Fortified breakfast cereals, fortified, 1 serving4210
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet369
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup358
Banana, 1 medium328
Salmon, 3 oz.266
Milk, 1 cup24-276

Take magnesium supplements

Many people find they need to get at least part of their magnesium in the form of supplements. There are several types of magnesium, and different types help with different problems and symptoms. Here are three forms of magnesium we recommend. 

Magnesium Glycinate

If you’re looking to improve your sleep, lower depression or anxiety, or help with muscle soreness or cramping, you’ll want to take a good form of glycinate magnesium.  

The magnesium supplement that we use and recommend is Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion. One pump rubbed on the chest, neck, arms, legs, or abdomen delivers 40 mg of elemental magnesium directly into the bloodstream without having to go through your stomach.  

Do you struggle with leg cramps in the middle of the night? You can simply rub a couple of pumps of lotion directly into your skin where the muscle cramps are. Within minutes the cramps go away and you can fall back to sleep. 

Transdermal, or “topical” magnesium, like a lotion, provides a safe, easy way to increase magnesium. It can be an excellent choice for those who can’t tolerate oral magnesium, or if you have issues with diarrhea or other intestinal complaints. There are magnesium bath flakes and oils available as well.

If you prefer to take magnesium glycinate in a pill form, we recommend these.

Magnesium Citrate

If your symptoms are constipation, PMS, migraines, or bone health issues, you’ll want to take a good form of citrate magnesium. This one is usually taken in pill form. We like and recommend the brand Pure, available here.

Magnesium Carbonate

If you are struggling with an upset stomach, then another excellent option is magnesium carbonate. It is extremely soothing to the tummy and has antacid properties. Just like the name suggests, it’s a fizzy drink that you make. You simply put a scoop of magnesium carbonate (the one we use is available here) in a warm cup of water. Once it dissolves, but while it’s still fizzing, then you drink it. We find that within 20 minutes our symptoms go away.

The right amount of magnesium is crucial for optimal health

Magnesium has been called the “miracle mineral” for a reason. It really is essential for optimal health. What do you think about magnesium? Do you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above? Do you currently take any form of magnesium supplement? If so, have you noticed any results? We would love to hear from you. We also always love to answer any questions you might have. You can leave them below or on any of our social media pages.

For those of you interested in our free More Than Healthy coaching calls, we do them once a month on a Tuesday night at 6 PM MST. Anyone can join us. If you’d like to join us, just text COACHING to 1-647-558-9895 to join our email list, or watch our social media pages and we will have the link there.  

Thanks for joining us – see you next week!