If I was stranded on an island and was forced to pick only one supplement to bring with me, magnesium would be on my shortlist of top picks and likely my number one pick. I adore magnesium for many reasons for my patients and for myself personally.
Magnesium is an electrolyte and essential mineral. It’s involved in over 300 vital biochemical functions in the body. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that 80% of people are in some form deficient of this important nutrient. Magnesium deficiency is felt to be common due to various factors including soil depletion, which leads to low levels in our produce and digestive disorders that affect absorption.
So, why is magnesium so important?
It has been shown that magnesium deficiency can lead to increased risk of muscle weakness and muscle cramping. Ideal levels of magnesium or supplementation of magnesium can boost exercise performance. Athletes should consider the importance of magnesium depletion as well, especially with high intensity exercise as the muscles will require 20-40% more need for magnesium during exercise.
Magnesium is very beneficial for sleep disorders such as insomnia and has been shown to be helpful for restless leg syndrome. Magnesium plays a vital role in GABA function, which is a neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect. So therefore, magnesium supplementation can be beneficial for mood disorders including depression and anxiety.
Magnesium has been shown to play a key role of regulating insulin action. Studies have shown that magnesium supplementation in someone who is deficient improves insulin sensitivity and therefore providing better metabolic control in type 2 diabetic patients. It also has been shown helpful in lowering blood pressure slightly by helping the blood vessels relax or dilate.
Deficiencies in magnesium may play an important role in developing migraine headaches. The use of magnesium in both acute and preventive headache treatment has been researched as a potentially simple, inexpensive, safe and well-tolerated option and has positive associated outcomes. I have personally had success with using magnesium for the prevention of my own migraines.
Digestive issues, including constipation, are one of the most common areas of concern in my practice. There are many root causes to digestive issues however magnesium deficiency can play a role in constipation. Magnesium helps relax the muscles within the digestive tract, including the intestinal wall, which helps move stool through the intestines. Therefore with adequate magnesium levels, constipation is generally less of an issue. If taking too much magnesium, the opposite will likely occur and should be corrected by reducing the dosage of supplementation. High doses of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
There are many other positive benefits beyond what I have mentioned above in regards to magnesium. It’s important to note however that one can take too much magnesium. There are also many forms of magnesium and some forms work better for constipation vs for migraine headache prevention for example. Not to mention dosage recommendations change depending on what patients are using it for. Before regularly using magnesium, I would recommend a discussion with your functional medicine provider. Thanks for reading and please let us know if you have any questions!