by Cat, July, 2007; Updated Aug 2017 re: “chew chew chew” for mineral absorption. Image, right, from Step to Health (8); updated Aug ’22 re: research concerning magnesium deficiency (from a Nobel-Prize-winning research project)
Magnesium is a very important mineral for humans, but it is not so easily absorbed from foods or most supplements. For this reason, many of us are deficient, causing symptoms such as constipation and leg cramps, or even more serious symptoms such as insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes or high blood pressure.
It is hard for us to absorb magnesium from the foods we eat or from most supplements we take internally, but there are ways to get around this problem, as discussed in the article. Also most foods from grocery stores have very low magnesium levels (even Organics), due to the quality of the soil in which the plants are grown, and this also impacts magnesium levels in meats. (14)
- Includes: 1. About magnesium; 2. Magnesium Deficiency; 3. Supplemental Magnesium
- See also: 1. Diet & Health Menu; 2. Magnesium Chloride, 80% Solution; 3. Supplements I use
- Other Sites: 1. MgCl2-WalterLast.pdf and his 2008 version: MgCl2-WalterLast-II_2008.pdf; 2. The Overlooked Mineral That Could Save You From Diabetes (by Mercola, but the article is on Wakeup-World.com); 3. Magnesium Benefits, Sources, and Signs of Deficiency (Dr. Jockers); 4. Magnesium’s Pain-Relieving and Anti-Inflammatory Effects (also saved Health-Nutrition / Podcasts-Articles / GMI Articles > Mg-PainRlv_Anti-InflamEffects_GMI_092322.pdf)
9/17/22: I’m reading Dr. Jockers article and updating this article with his additional info
Magnesium is the 4th most common mineral in our bodies. Here’s some details:
Magnesium (Mg) is an essential common mineral
Our bodies need certain minerals for proper functioning of enzymes, co-enzymes, nerve impulses, bone tissue, etc.. The most common of these essential minerals are needed in significant quantities in our daily diet.
Benefits of magnesium
From Dr Jockers (13b), it fully supports:
- Blood sugar balance
- Optimal circulation and blood pressure
- Cellular energy production
- A calm nervous system
- Pain relief and relaxed muscles
- Bone density and calcium balance
- Joints and ligament flexibility
- Deep sleep patterns…and more
- Specific health benefits:
- Anxiety: “A 2017 systematic review published in Nutrients has found that low magnesium levels may increase the risk of anxiety.” (16a) Researchers found that “magnesium may act on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. As a result, this key mineral may help to reduce stress and anxiety.”
- Depression: “magnesium may support the treatment and recovery from major depression because it may help to correct intraneuronal magnesium deficiency and improve neuronal activity.” (16c) See also Dr Jockers’ article on depression. (13c)
- Brain health:
- “Magnesium may also benefit other aspects of your brain health, not just mental health. Magnesium plays a role in synaptic transmission, neuronal plasticity, and neural activity. Thus, this key mineral may affect your learning and memory.”
- Plays a “protective role in neurological issues: magnesium may play a protective role in neurological issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, migraines, stroke, and chronic pain.” (16b)
- Blood sugar (and reduce risk of type-2 diabetes) [see Dr Jockers’ article (13b) for references]: Plays a part in glucose control and insulin metabolism, … (and) may help to reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity in those with a known deficiency.
- Bone health: “magnesium may be linked to improving bone crystal formation, higher bone density, and a decreased risk of osteoporosis,” … [and especially] beneficial for the bone health of older individuals.” [see Dr Jockers’ article (13b) for references].
- Cardiovascular health: “One of the major roles of magnesium is maintaining the health of your muscles,” including muscles in your heart and arteries, and also “may reduce the risk of stroke.” [see Dr Jockers’ article (13b) for references].
- Headaches: (including migraine): Magnesium “deficiency may affect your neurotransmitter. It may also restrict normal blood vessel constrictions. Both of these factors can play a role in migraines and headaches.” [see Dr Jockers’ article (13b) for references]
- Sleep: This one is “key,” per Dr. Jockers’ article (13b). It may help your body to relax, … calm your mind, reduce stress, and lower anxiety. [By] easing your mind and body, magnesium may help you to fall asleep easier and faster. It may also help to improve your actual sleep. [see Dr Jockers’ article (13b) for references]
Why magnesium is important
Here are some of the key reasons (1):
- It is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body
- Exists in over 300 different bodily enzymes
- Is found primarily in your bones (half of your total body magnesium)
- Plays a role in your body’s detoxification processes
- Aids your energy metabolism and protein synthesis
- Helps guide a large number of physiological functions
- Is required by glutathione (the “master antioxidant”) for synthesis
- Is especially valuable for supporting your brain health
- Original article: Safe First-Line of Defense for Clinical Depression, by Ali Le Vere (12)
- My notes from the article: catsfork.com/CatsKitchen/notes-on-natural-health-healing-topics-d-g/; scroll down to the Depression and Anxiety section.
It is essential for more than 300 enzymes to function, including the enzyme that makes glutathione, the major detox enzyme. Hexokinase and glucose-6-phosphatase are just two enzymes that are activated by magnesium.
Several organs cannot function without magnesium, including the brain, bones and muscles. The latter is one reason why fatigue is a symptom of magnesium insufficiency. It has also been implicated in many disorders including hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, asthma and bowel disorders, along with many others. See Mercola: The Miracle of Magnesium (1A) and Problems Due to Magnesium Deficiency (1B) for more.
RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for magnesium
- Dr Mercola (2n): “The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day, which is more in line with the magnesium uptake during the Paleolithic period.”
- Dr. Jockers (13b) recommends 450 to 800 mg per day (for adults); or 200 to 400 mg per day (for children)
I totally agree with the higher dosage. I get supplemental magnesium from several sources, totaling 977 mg/day, as of Sept ’22 [my multi (312 mg/d), Biomins (140 mg/d), MagThreonate (97 mg/d), and 80% Magnesium Chloride solution (428 mg/d from 30 drops, 3x/day); these total to 977 mg/d.] I take this much to avoid having another heart-attack-like episode (muscles in arterial walls spasm, temporarily blocking blood flow), because magnesium relaxes these muscles to avoid the spasm.
Common food sources for magnesium
Molasses, honey, legumes*, tuna, bone meal, nuts* and seeds*, cocoa, whole grains*, dried apricots, dark green leafy veggies**, sea vegetables. [Those marked with * or ** need special treatment to make the magnesium available for absorption.]
‘* Sprouting or presoaking legumes, nuts and whole grains makes their magnesium available for absorption.
‘** Braising dark green leafy veggies (sautéing in oil, then steaming in a bit of water) frees the magnesium from the phytates that bind it.
See also Magnesium Supplements and Topically Applied Magnesium, below.
Foods rich in magnesium
The chart, below, is from Mercola (1); however for :
- legumes (like cashews, beans, etc) and nuts (like Brazil nuts), you cannot absorb the magnesium unless the legumes/nuts are sprouted or presoaked.
- dark leafy greens (like kale, spinach, etc), you cannot absorb the magnesium (and other minerals in the greens) unless they are braised; see ‘** note above. Similarly, for
This list is from Dr. Jockers’ Nov 2021 article: 10 Signs of Magnesium Deficiency (13a); those items in color are not included in either of the next two lists from Mercola. Check out Dr Jockers’ article for more detail.
- Poor cognitive processing, such as brain fog
- Headaches and chronic migraines
- Constipation and related disorders such as IBS
- Fatigue (physical, mental and emotional)
- Poor sleep quality
- Muscle spasms and cramping [such as charley-horses]
- Pain and soreness, including fibromyalgia
- Irregular heartbeat, or heart arrhythmia
- Numbness and tingling [this is one I have in my feet, especially when I go to bed; I treat this by rubbing “Magnesium Oil” on my feet before bed.]
- Mood and behavioral disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, irritability, bipolar disorder and more
- The following are added from Dr. Jockers’ Sept 2022 article (13b):
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle contractions
- High blood pressure
- Personality changes
- Low potassium and/or calcium levels
Research Project on Magnesium Deficiency
See also Vitality Mineral article (14), which discusses the same Nobel-Prize winning discovery that explains why most foods (plant and animal) now have very low levels of magnesium.
Some early signs of a potential lack of magnesium in your body include.
This list is from a Mercola 2017 article (1b):
- Loss of appetite and headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
Symptoms of long-standing magnesium deficiency:
I’ve divided the original list from a Mercola 2019 article (1g) into two categories:
Those I have experienced:
- Charley horses
- Numbness or tingling in your extremities
- Insulin resistance
- “False” heart attack caused by spasming of arteries, temporarily blocking flow of blood
Those I’ve not yet experienced:
- Type-2 diabetes [tho I have been a pre-diabetic in the past, before I learned about my insulin resistance]
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease (after my “false” heart attack, my cardiologist sent a small camera up one of my veins to my heart, and did not find any signs of plaque build-up or heart disease).
This is a problem for most people – even though we may get enough magnesium from the foods we eat and supplements we take, if we have trouble absorbing it, we will show signs of deficiency.
If you are a vegetarian/vegan, it is very important to braise your dark green veggies, and soak your legumes, nuts, grains and other seeds before cooking/baking them. Why? Because their minerals like magnesium are bound by oxalic acid, goitrogens, lectins and/or phytates, and cannot be absorbed into your blood from your gut. How to:
- Braise veggies: see my article Basic Braised Greens (About);
- Properly soak seeds before cooking: see my article: Soaking, sprouting, fermenting grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes
Ways to increase absorption:
- One of the most important things we can do to improve absorption is to chew-chew-chew our foods.
- Sufficient dietary fat (good fats like real cream and butter, pure coconut oil, non-modified lard, and fatty meats from pasture-raised animals) and fiber are also important;
- Magnesium from meats is easier to absorb than that from plants;
- You need sufficient bifidobacteria in your gut microbiome;
- Braise your dark green veggies;
- Soak your seeds (including legumes, nuts, grains and other seeds) overnight to break down phytates that otherwise bind minerals making them unavailable for absorption;
- Increase your vitamin D, preferably by spending time in midday sun, but supplementing with vitamin D3 also helps.
I have allergy to the sun, so I take 3 drops, 3-times/day of Ortho-Molecular Liquid D3 (15). 1-drop provides 1,000 IU or 25 mg D3 (25 mcg/IU; so 25 mcg x 1000 = 2500 mcg or 25 mg/drop). Thus I get 225 mg of D3/day (in the 9 daily drops)
- If you take magnesium supplements, take them with food, and ensure you have sufficient stomach acid (you can boost this by taking betaine-HCL or apple cider vinegar with your meal). I take an enzyme supplement (Thorne’s B.P.P) that contains betaine-HCL, and I also take ACV with lunch.
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate) and alcohol with meals, as both interfere with mineral absorption.
Other reasons for magnesium deficiency (1)
Poor dietary intake such as (Dr. Jockers’ article (13b) provides more detail on this):
- Reduced intake: Diet low in magnesium, Prolonged nutrient restriction;
- Poor absorption: Leaky gut syndrome [leads to food sensitivities], Low stomach acid, Irritable bowel, and/or Chronic diarrhea;
- Increased excretion: High-carb diet, Alcohol usage, Laxative abuse, Diuretic usage, Heavy caffeine usage, Diabetes & Insulin resistance;
- High-sugar diet (and processed foods) can lead to chronic inflammation;
- Diet high in phytic acid, which is a natural substance found in plant seeds. While it is commonly used as a preservative because of its antioxidant effects, it can also be an anti-nutrient that may reduce the bioavailability of magnesium (per Dr. Jockers’ article (13b)).
Insulin resistance (IR)
Dr Jockers’ article (13b) states: “Researchers found that magnesium supplementation may help the prevention and treatment of insulin resistance.” If you are not familiar with this health issue, I have several articles about Insulin Resistance; see also Diet and Health Menu, under Insulin Resistance. Here’s the basics:
- IR Intro: Insulin, IR and Metabolic Syndrome
- IR: A Look at Causes
- IR: Controlling and Reversing this Disease
Types of food you eat – If you consume mostly non-organic foods, their magnesium levels may be depleted due to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Levels of magnesium in the soil determine what’s in the food.
Chronic and high stress– Dr Jockers’ article (13b) gives a lot of detail on the impact of magnesium deficiency on stress and anxiety, but also stress can also lead to magnesium deficiency (a circular problem that can lead to a “vicious cycle of stress and magnesium deficit”).
Medication – Certain medicines can contribute to a shortage of magnesium within your body.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – Dr Jockers’ article (13b) states, “IBS may lead to malabsorption of nutrients. Taking magnesium may not only help to correct deficiencies but may also reduce your symptoms of IBS
Certain medications (Pharmaceuticals) – Dr Jockers’ article (13b) states “certain antibiotics, diuretics, proton-pump inhibitors, anti-depressants, ADHD medications, antineoplastic drugs, and calcineurin inhibitors may cause magnesium deficiency.”
Mercola (2D) writes, “The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day, which is more in line with the magnesium uptake during the Paleolithic period.” This higher amount is likely due to dietary magnesium being hard to absorb.
There are many different types of magnesium supplements (not all possibilities are listed here); Dr. Jockers’ article (13b) goes into more detail about each of these.
- magnesium ascorbate,
- magnesium aspartate,
- magnesium chloride (see my articles: Magnesium Chloride 80% Solution, or Nano Magnesium Chloride (solution or capsules)
- magnesium citrate,
- magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia),
- magnesium oxide,
- magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salt),
- magnesium threonate or “Magtein” (believed to cross the blood-brain barrier). It is “a newer form of magnesium that’s commonly used for brain and mental health. “According to a 2014 study published in Molecular Brain, mag threonate may offer neuroprotective and cognitive-boosting benefits that may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease.” (from Dr Jockers’ article 13b). I started taking this form in August 2022, so as of this September 2022 article update, it is too early for me to determine if it is helpful.
MgCl2 (magnesium chloride)
The main magnesium supplement I take (a compounded prescription) is 80% magnesium chloride solution (MgCl2): it was recommended by my naturopath in Portland OR, back in the 1990s, and I’ve been taking it ever since. I also use Magtein (mag L-threonate) off and on, and magnesium aspartate if MgCl2 is causing diarrhea.
- 2017 update: I’ve developed a food sensitivity to these forms of magnesium, so stopped taking them temporarily, then reintroducing MgCl2 slowly. 2019 update: The only form I’m currently taking is MgCl2 solution, or the topical form when my food sensitivity acts up.
- 2019 update about the food sensitivity: My naturopath had me take myo-inositol to reverse my insulin resistance (by re-activating/restoring insulin receptors on cell membranes). Not only did it help with that, but its main job of stabilizing cell membranes also cleared-up my food sensitivity to MgCl2 (as well as other food sensitivities).
Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)
See also topically-applied magnesium, below.
Mercola (1F) sites the following benefits for taking most forms of magnesium internally, including mag sulfate:
- Relief from constipation — Most magnesium supplements, including mag sulfate, are known for their laxative effect, and magnesium sulfate has been found to be a helpful treatment for constipation by pulling more water from your body into the colon. mag chloride is also helpful to relieve constipation.
- Improved muscle recovery — Magnesium is responsible for oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance, among other benefits. Increasing magnesium intake may help improve physical activity and recovery.
- Relaxing muscles — Research suggests that the muscle-relaxing properties of magnesium work by inhibiting calcium influx into the cytosol.
- Better cognitive function — Magnesium deficiency has been linked to various neurological pathologies such as migraines, depression, epilepsy, stroke, traumatic brain and spinal injuries and Parkinson’s disease.
The same article also sites the following benefits specifically for supplemental magnesium sulfate:
- Treatment for preeclampsia — (a complication that may occur during pregnancy). Intravenous administration of mag sulfate in a hospital setting will help reduce risk of seizures in the mother’s body, and minimize further complications.
- Ease asthma symptoms — Mag sulfate may provide immediate relief by inducing relaxation in the brachial smooth muscles.
- Improvement of insulin sensitivity.
Topically applied Magnesium
Sept 2018: I’ve developed a food sensitivity to my 80% solution of MgCl2 taken orally, and I can’t seem to heal that sensitivity. So I am going to try topical application for part of my daily requirement. That is, I’ll take a smaller dose orally, and make up the difference with topical application.
There are several methods of taking magnesium through the skin, including oil spray, baths, foot-soaks, massage, lotion and deodorant. Best places to apply for maximum absorption: underarms.
The following describes two different but related methods: Epsom Salt (MgSO4) bath or rub; and Magnesium Oil (MgCl2) sprayed on skin.
Topical Epsom Salt
There are two main ways to use epsom salt topically:
- an epsom salt bath (1 cup of the salt per bath), or
- a highly concentrated rub.
Here’s instructions from Mercola for the rub (2D) :
“Prepare a supersaturated solution of Epsom salts by dissolving 7 tablespoons of the salt into 6 ounces of water and heating it until all the salt has dissolved. I pour it into a dropper bottle and then apply it to my skin and rub fresh aloe leaves over it to dissolve it. This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your magnesium and will allow you to get higher dosages into your body without having to deal with its laxative effects.
Optimizing your magnesium level is particularly important when taking supplemental vitamin D, as your body cannot properly utilize the vitamin if you’re your magnesium is insufficient. (10, 11). The reason for this is because magnesium is required for the actual activation of vitamin D (1E).”
Topical Magnesium Oil
This is not really an oil, but it feels oily when you rub it on the skin. It is actually a water solution of magnesium chloride (MgCl2.6H2O) flakes (see top of article for photo of the flakes (8)). There are many brands of the spray; the one I’m currently using is Life-Flo Pure Magnesium Oil (brine) (9).
Concentration of Mg in the dry flakes by brand (note, all contain other trace minerals). Here’s two examples:
- Ancient Earth: 100 mg Mg per 1 ml solution (6 sprays) – they specified this.
- Life-Flo Pure: my calc: 25 mg Mg/ml solution if the salt is hydrated, or 5.4 mg Mg/ml solution if salt is not hydrated (my calculation; they don’t specify which form of MgCl2).
Or you can make your own by mixing ½ cup of the flakes in ½ cup filtered, boiled water; see Dr. Axe’s article (3) for details. He provides lots of good information about magnesium oil., including making an effective deodorant from the oil.
Magnesium chloride solution
I first learned about the important benefits of “mag chloride” when I was living in Portland OR in the 1990s, from Dr. Bernie Bayard, my naturopath/acupuncturist. He referred me to an article by Walter Last in Australia on the benefits of Magnesium Chloride: MgCl2-WalterLast.pdf (this is my pdf as a direct copy of the original – thank goodness I made that, as Walter’s link (4) is no longer available). Walter Last’s later version, published in NEXUS magazine in 2008, is currently available at health-science-spirit.com/Library/MagChlor.pdf; (or my saved pdf of the 2008 article: MgCl2-WalterLast-II_2008.pdf). I note that Walter died in 2021…
Other articles of interest include:
- Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate Therapy (5) on its benefits (this uses 125 ml 2.5% solution daily for adults, which provides same amount of Mg as 8 ml 80% solution daily;
- How to Extract Magnesium Chloride from Unrefined Sea Salt (6);
- Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate Therapy (7).
The solid salt form is a mix of small flakes, rather than being a powder like most other salts. It is a hexahydrate, meaning that each mag-chloride molecule is bound to 6 water molecules; the molecular formula is MgCl2.6H20. Walter Last recommends taking an 80% solution of the flakes in water. Dr. Bayard made up the 80% solution for me, and it worked miracles!
- All my life, since infancy, I’d been horribly constipated and had to have regular enemas. But the 80% MgCl2 solution changed all that. I mixed ½ tsp (2.5 ml) of the solution in a glass of water upon getting up every morning and before bed every night, and that did the trick.
- It improved my digestion of proteins by increasing gastric acid (hydrochloric acid) in my stomach.
- I’ve had other benefits from this solution as well, but it’s been so long since they first happened that I do not recall them at this time.
I’ve modified my dosage a bit over the years; currently I take 2 eyedroppers-full of mag chloride added to a glass of water upon rising, at mid-day, and just before bed at night; for total daily dosage of 570 mg/day (95 mg/dropperfull, 6-times).
Another popular way to take mag chloride solution is a spray applied topically to the skin in the underarm area, or on the belly: spray it on, then gently rub it in. Your body will absorb it directly into the blood stream this way.
See separate article on Magnesium Chloride 80% Solution for more details.
Magnesium L-Threonate or Magtein
Magtein is “a newer form of magnesium that’s commonly used for brain and mental health [as it is believed to cross the blood-brain barrier]. I started taking this form in August 2022, so as of this September 2022 article update, it is too early for me to determine if it is helpful. Nov 2022: It is definitely helping with constipation problems, but so far not helping with brain fog.
“According to a 2014 study published in Molecular Brain, mag threonate may offer neuroprotective and cognitive-boosting benefits that may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease.” (from Dr Jockers’ article 13b).
See also a Mercola Article: Cognitive Benefits Magnesium L-Threonate (I’ve saved a pdf: Health-Nutrtition / Podcasts-Articles / Mercola >MagThreonate_CognitiveBenefits_MCL_093022.pdf)
Inferior forms of Magnesium
Per Dr Jockers (13b): “There are also some forms of magnesium that I recommend that you avoid. These are low in bioavailability and don’t absorb well. [These are]: magnesium oxide, dihydroxide (milk of magnesia, sulfate, aspartate, and carbonate forms.”
- Mercola: products.mercola.com/magnesium-supplement/
- articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/08/07/miracle-magnesium.aspx; This link goes to: articles.mercola.com/vitamins-supplements/magnesium-citrate.aspx (Title has been changed)
- Mercola: Cognitive Benefits of Magnesium L-Threonate; saved Health-Nutrition / Podcasts-Articles / Mercola-Articles > MagThreonate_CognitiveBenefits_MCL_093022.pdf
- Walter Last: health-science-spirit.com/magnesiumchloride.html
- arthritistrust.org/…/Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate Therapy.pdf
- ehow: How to Extract Magnesium Chloride from Sea Salt
- MagChloride-hexahydrate therapy: arthritistrust.org/Articles/Magnesium%20Chloride%20Hexahydrate%20Therapy.pdf
- Image: steptohealth.com/18-incredible-benefits-magnesium-chloride/
- Green Med Info: Safe First-Line of Defense for Clinical Depression, by Ali Le Vere
- Ortho-Molecular Vitamin D3 Liquid: nhc.com/liquid-vitamin-d3-by-ortho-molecular
- NCBI and other research articles