Should I be taking Magnesium?

pill boxWe’ve all been there. You see an ad for a supplement or hear something on tv and you’re all, “Wowwwww…I totally need to be taking that.” Ten thousand supplements later you need one of those special pill boxes for old people and an entire cabinet devoted to housing all of your magic pills. I’m of the “less is more” mentality when it comes to most supplements. Most supplements are totally unnecessary. When it comes to Magnesium, I sing a different tune.

Do you need Magnesium? My short answer. Yes, probably.

Let me tell you why. Government studies have shown that as many as 60 percent of our population aren't even consuming the RDA for magnesium.  And the RDA is at best, a starting point to shoot for when it comes to nutrients but by no means is enough for optimal health.  So if that many people aren't even meeting the RDA for magnesium, you'd better bet many of us are deficient.

magnesiumWhy should you give two shastas about magnesium? My favorite answer is "magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body".  Go ahead. Google that. Nine bajillion websites will pop up. It’s every health practitioner’s favorite catch phrase about magnesium. I'd be willing to bet most of the people writing those articles can't even name 10 of those reactions, so let us put on our smarty pants together and talk about them.

You have this little energy molecule in your body called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and many processes in the body either make or use this molecule.  It turns out that magnesium stabilizes ATP so your body can actually use it.  In other words no magnesium, not ATP for your body to do what it needs to.  There are a few other functions of magnesium, but that's a big one.

Symptoms of low magnesium can include everything from anxiety and depression, to insomnia and panic attacks, to memory loss and poor concentration, to muscle cramps and twitches, and of course fatigue. Because no one ever has experienced those right? Riiiight.  Magnesium deficiency is also correlated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis (artery plaque), heart attacks, and type II diabetes. Blech.

To say it is ridiculously important is an understatement.

The first thing to do is make sure you're getting magnesium from food.  After all, that’s how we’ve been doing it for tens of thousands of years.  Good food sources of magnesium include whole grains (not processed ones - most of the magnesium is lost in the processing of grains), legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and even most meat.  It’s not terribly hard to get from the diet, assuming you're not consuming only coffee and your kids left over mac n’ cheese.

Next, consider supplementing magnesium.  There are many different types of magnesium on the market today, with many claims as to which one is the best. The truth? There’s probably not a best…they’re just different.

Next time you look at your bottle of vitamins, if it is a good brand, it will tell you what type of magnesium it has - it will usually be two words like magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, or something like that.  Again, I'll spare you from having to sift through all the marketing hype.

Magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate are relatively inexpensive, and are therefore used quite a bit.  But they have been shown to have relatively low bioavailability, which means they aren't absorbed very well.  And it is this poor absorption that can lead to the intense laxative effect too much magnesium can have. Fun times.

On the other hand there are forms like magnesium glycinate and magnesium taurate.  These have magnesium bound to an amino acid (glycine and taurine respectively), and see to cause far less loose stools that other types of magnesium.  These are my favs due to the fact that they are better tolerated and the body can use those amino acids for other important things.

The next question is, how much do you take.  That will vary.  I recommend starting with 300mg of extra magnesium a day and go from there.  If you take a higher amount than this, you may be spending a little more time in the bathroom than you’d like.

Are you magnesium deficient?  According to statistics, probably. Women were actually found to consume less than men. We always get the short end of the stick, don’t we? Sheesh. Listen, because of its crazy importance in the body, you might want to consider taking a little extra.  If you're low in it and start enough of it, it can be a game changer.

PS: Wondering what supplements you should be taking or have a different burning health question? I'm ready to answer them here!