Magnesium is vitally important for biological function and optimal health. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, and researchers have detected more than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins.
More than 300 different enzymes also rely on magnesium for proper function. This reflects the impact magnesium has on your biochemical processes, many of which are crucial for proper metabolic function. This includes:
- Proper formation of bones and teeth
- Regulation of blood sugar and insulin sensitivity
- Creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate)
- Relaxation of blood vessels
- Muscle and nerve function
Lack of magnesium can trigger serious health problems
If you’re lacking in cellular magnesium, it can lead to the deterioration of your cellular metabolic function, which in turn can snowball into more serious health problems.
This includes anxiety and depression, migraine headaches, cardiovascular disease, sudden cardiac death, type 2 diabetes, seizures, fibromyalgia, and death from all causes.
Magnesium is important to body’s detoxification processes as well, including the synthesis of glutathione (a potent antioxidant).
Ultimately, magnesium is needed for optimization of mitochondria, which is of utmost importance for cancer prevention and general athletic and energy performance.
How much magnesium do you need?
A century ago, people got an estimated 500 milligrams (mg) of magnesium from their diet, courtesy of the nutrient-rich soil in which the food was grown. Today, estimates suggest we’re only getting 150 to 300 mg a day from our food.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 310-420 mg daily, depending on age and sex, while some researchers suggest taking as much as 600-900 mg for optimal health.
Dr. Carolyn Dean suggests using your intestinal reaction as a marker for your ideal dose. Start out by taking 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day, and gradually increase your dose until you develop slightly loose stools.
When your body has too much magnesium it flushes it out the other end, so in this way, you can determine your own individual cutoff point. (Be sure to use magnesium citrate, as it’s known for having a laxative effect. It’s also better to divide your dose and take it two or three times a day instead of one large dose.)
As for magnesium supplements, magnesium threonate is one of the best options. It is extremely effective in penetrating cell membranes, including the mitochondria and blood-brain barrier.
If you struggle with headaches or migraines, magnesium threonate may be a good alternative for that reason as well.
Risk factors, signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency
Eating a heavily processed diet is the major risk for magnesium deficiency as magnesium resides in chlorophyll molecule. Eating leafy greens and other magnesium-dense foods once in a while means that you are not getting enough of it from your diet.
Magnesium is also lost through lack of sleep, prescription drug use (fluoride, statins, antibiotics), stress, and alcohol consumption. All of these factors affect a large percentage of Americans, so the fact that 50-80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium doesn’t come as surprise.
Some of the earliest signs of magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms, migraines, headaches, fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to problems like seizures, numbness, tingling, abnormal heart rhythms, coronary spasms, and personality changes.
What are the foods high in magnesium?
Eating dark-green leafy veggies is one of the best ways to boost your magnesium levels as well as to maintain healthy levels. Juicing these greens is a good way to get the most of them! The leafy greens with the highest amount of magnesium include:
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Beet greens
- Collard greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Romaine lettuce
Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include the following:
- Raw cacao nibs and/or unsweetened cocoa powder
- Fruits and berries
- Seeds and nuts
- Herbs and spices (cumin, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel)
- Fatty fish
When supplementing, balance your magnesium with calcium, vitamin K2, and D.
When one relies on supplements, it is important to understand how nutrients affect and interact with each other.
For instance, it is of utmost importance to balance between magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. These nutrients work in synergy and any imbalance increases the risk for stroke, heart attacks, and vitamin D toxicity.
The best ratio between magnesium and calcium is 1:1. Note that the need for supplemental magnesium might be two times greater than calcium given that you are likely to get more calcium from your diet.
According to Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, for every 1,000 IU’s of vitamin D you take, you may need from about 100 micrograms (mcg) of K2.
As for the vitamin D intake, get your vitamin D level tested twice annually to determine your personal dosage.