Magnesium, why do we need it?


In my post about muscle cramps (read it here) I mentioned magnesium, and a few people have asked me to tell them more about it.

Magnesium is a mineral that supports hundreds of chemical reactions in our body. About 60% of the body’s Magnesium is found in our bones the rest in our muscles, other soft tissues, and fluids, such as blood.

Magnesium; fast facts.

  • It’s a mineral found naturally in many foods and added to other food products.
  • Some medicines, such as antacids and laxatives, contain Magnesium.

Magnesium, why do we need it?

  • Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body; it helps with many body functions, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
  • It’s also required for energy production and contributes to the structural development of bone
  • Magnesium is essential to proper nerve impulse conduction and also plays a role in muscle contraction (and relaxation) and normal heart rhythm because it helps transport calcium and potassium around the body

Magnesium Deficiency

Symptomatic (severe) magnesium deficiency because of low dietary intake in otherwise-healthy people is uncommon because the kidneys limit urinary excretion of this mineral. However, habitually low intakes or excessive losses of Magnesium because of certain health conditions, chronic alcoholism, and the use of certain medications can lead to magnesium deficiency, which is increasingly common but not routinely checked.

Ten signs of a possible magnesium deficiency

  • Painful muscle cramps or spasms
  • Chronic pain
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Facial tics or eye twitches
  • Times of hyperactivity
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Doctors associate low magnesium levels with personality changes and sometimes depression.

Clinical signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency

Includes; loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As the deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur. Note; this is rare in otherwise healthy people because as mentioned the kidneys limit urinary excretion of this mineral.

Who is at risk of clinical magnesium deficiency?

People with gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease or those who have has a gastric bypass, or resection surgery are high risk because of malabsorption of all nutrients but are usually regularly checked and well monitored.

The following will deplete your levels

Illness and stress: Both physical and emotional stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency, and a lack of Magnesium magnifies the stress reaction, worsening the problem.

Gastrointestinal illnesses

People conditions such as Crohn’s disease or those who have had gastric bypass, or resection surgery are high risk because of malabsorption of all nutrients. Still, these folks are usually regularly checked and well monitored.


Studies have shown that certain prescribed medicines can reduce magnesium levels in the body by increasing [magnesium] loss through excretion by the kidneys. Diuretics, some heart and asthma medication, birth control pills and HRT are of particular concern. Magnesium is a primary ingredient in some over-the-counter digestive and laxatives remedies, which continual use can cause a deficiency.

*Please do not stop taking any prescribed medication without the advice of your prescribing doctor. If this is of concern to you, it might be a good idea to speak with your doctor.


The effect of alcohol on magnesium levels is like the effect of diuretics: it lowers Magnesium by increasing the excretion by the kidneys. Increased alcohol intake also contributes to decreased efficiency of the digestive system, and Vitamin D deficiency, both of which can contribute to low magnesium levels.

Carbonated drinks

Most contain phosphates which bind with Magnesium in the digestive tract, making it unavailable to the body. So even if you are eating a balanced diet, merely communing a fizzy drink, especially dark coloured ones with your meals will flush magnesium out of your body.

Refined sugar

As found in pastries, cakes, puddings and sweets cause the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys.


Magnesium levels are controlled by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess along with other minerals. Caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra regardless of body status. If you drink lots of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and the aforementioned carbonated drinks regularly will increase your risk of magnesium deficiency.

How to boost your Magnesium levels with food 

  • Legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources.
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • Legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources.
  • Some breakfast cereals and other foods are fortified with supplements, including Magnesium
  • Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be sources of Magnesium, but the amount of Magnesium in water varies depending on the source and brand


As mentioned magnesium is excellent for stress reduction; it helps build a resilient, more relaxed body, so during extended periods of stress, a supplement may be useful. Did you know that there are there many different kinds of magnesium supplements? Varieties include magnesium oxide, citrate, chloride, aspartate, and lactate. Not all created equally; some forms are more bioavailable than other forms, so considered to be better absorbed by the body. These include magnesium chloride and citrate, with chloride often called the master. 

Magnesium is also available as oral drops, and topical applications (transdermal magnesium), including oils, sprays or bath salts, Epsom salt is a good source. Folk who use topical applications have reported:

  • Reduced muscle aches, pains, cramping and spasms
  • Better relaxation and stress management
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved mood, plays a critical role in brain function and mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression
  • Healthy skin and reduced outbreaks of eczema and psoriasis
  • Enhanced exercise and athletic performance

Magnesium supplements consumed before going to bed have a calming effect on the central nervous system, which can aid sleep.

Tip: A bedtime bath with a generous handful of magnesium flakes will support a deeper, more refreshing sleep.


If you are considering taking supplements, please note that some forms, especially when taken in high doses, are reported to cause loose stools, bowel urgency, and diarrhoea which can be accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramping. 

This happens because when Magnesium is taken orally stimulates the digestive system and speeds up gastric motility, which results in changes in the osmotic activity by the unabsorbed magnesium salts in the intestine and colon. It one of the reasons most medicines to treat constipation contain these forms of magnesium.


Food is the best way to get nutrients, including magnesium, but in certain situations, supplemental is useful to boost levels of this essential mineral. There are lots of options; orally in tablet form, liquid or powders, or externally as baths, body sprays, oil or lotions.

This post is for guidance only; it should not be regarded as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment given in person by an appropriately trained health professional.


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