Magnesium is quickly dethroning calcium as the “it mineral” of the 21st century.
While calcium has reigned supreme for decades as the natural solution to preventing osteoporosis, building strong bones, and promoting healthy sleep, new research suggests magnesium is an important contributor to all of the above, and much more.
What’s more, reports indicate at least half the United States population is magnesium deficient1, with a whole list of insidious symptoms to boot.
The good news is, avoiding magnesium deficiency and optimizing your levels long-term doesn’t have to be complicated.
The keys lie in knowing how much magnesium you need, bolstering your awareness of best-sources— including foods and supplements; and understanding the role stress and other lifestyle factors play in magnesium depletion.
Let’s get started with…
How Much Magnesium The Average Person Needs (and why most of us aren’t getting it)
Now here’s a loaded topic with a range of varying expert opinions.
On the one hand, conventional doctors and dieticians typically tell patients to aim for recommended daily allowance of 310-320 mg daily for women and 400-420 mg daily for men.
However, due to widespread deficiency many integrative practitioners, including myself, often recommend a higher dose of magnesium. The exact amount depends upon the patient’s symptoms, health history, diet, lifestyle, and health goals.
For example, if I had a patient suffering from migraines, insomnia and brain fog who ate the standard American diet, I would likely recommend a higher dose of magnesium than for a patient reporting occasional headaches who ate a wide variety of whole, fresh foods.
In addition, specific diet and lifestyle factors can impact your levels including2.:
- Chronic stress
- Eating food grown in magnesium-depleted soil
- Consuming a diet high in refined sugar, protein, fat, calcium, or vitamin D
So, how much does the average person need?
Your practitioner can provide you with an individual recommendation based on your needs and health concerns, or you can start by aiming for the RDA using foods and supplements, and increase your amount gradually based on how you feel.
I’ve had patients come to me amazed by what a difference an extra 100-200 mg of magnesium a day can make to their health.
More on this to come…
Common and Not-so-Common Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
A little-known fact about magnesium deficiency is it is indicated in nearly every type of chronic condition.
This is because of the crucial role magnesium plays in over 300 biochemical reactions including: regulating blood sugar levels, DNA, muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, heart beat, building bone by transporting calcium, maintaining immunity and even mediating our stress response 345.
Common and not-so-common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include6:
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
- Muscle cramps
- Menstrual cramps
- Brain fog
- Weak bones and teeth
- Loss of appetite
- Tingling in extremities
- Changes in personality
- Sugar cravings
- High blood pressure
- Headaches, including migraines
Of all these symptoms, I want you to pay careful attention to the relationship between magnesium and your mood and sleep.
Patients often come to me seeking a natural solution to anxiety and stress, which are compounded by sleep disturbances.
And while these issues may seem complex, (and they can be for certain people) often by simply increasing magnesium, completing a series of acupuncture appointments, and creating a new relationship with stress these symptoms improve or even disappear quite quickly.
That’s the power of optimizing this one little mineral.
The Little-Known Symbiotic Relationship Between Magnesium and Vitamin D
It’s been long-accepted that vitamin D plays an essential role in bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
But, new research published by The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association7 reveals vitamin D does not act alone when it comes to bone health, and relies heavily on magnesium for its metabolism, activation, and function.
In addition, the same review revealed the more magnesium a you have in your body the less vitamin D you need to maintain health.
This further explains the relationship between magnesium and bone health, whilst connecting the dots on how different nutrients work together to maintain whole body homeostasis.
Did I Mention Chronic Stress As One of the Top Magnesium Thieves?
While I mentioned it in the section above, it bears repeating: chronic stress has been shown to rapidly decrease your body’s magnesium stores8.
Moreover, the lower your levels of magnesium the more dramatic your stress response—which makes magnesium deficiency a double-whammy for those dealing with chronic stress.
So, do you need to up your magnesium levels or lower your stress?
In the short-term: probably both.
If you’re in the midst of an acutely stressful situation such as caring for a new baby, starting a business, or moving, magnesium supplementation can offer a safe and natural buffer until the acute stress eases.
Likewise, if you’re dealing with chronic stress and/or find yourself easily agitated or very reactive to challenging situations, magnesium can offer a lifeboat while you learn to adjust your lifestyle and relationship with stress.
Once your stress response is more balanced, you may be able to reduce magnesium supplementation and rely more on food sources moving forward.
The Best Food Sources of Magnesium
The best way to get your nutrients is always from food.
And if you have a minor magnesium deficiency, increasing these foods and working on your attitude toward stress should get you back on track fast.
- Black beans
- Tofu (fermented please!)
- Sesame seeds
Your practitioner can help you determine what type of magnesium is best for you. Fortunately, magnesium has an excellent safety record when taken in low-to-moderate doses.
If you have an aversion to pills, many patients have had success using a topical application of magnesium oil or cream.
This is also a wonderful option for children…especially when rubbed on the feet before bed.
Again, your need and dosage depends upon your health, symptoms, goals, lifestyle, and stress levels.
The most common symptoms of excess magnesium are minor gastrointestinal issues, but more severe problems can arise when taking extremely high doses internally 9. So check with your practitioner and use commonsense.
To Recap Your Best Sources of Magnesium:
- Nearly half the U.S. population is magnesium deficient (and many health experts believe the actual number is actually much higher)
- Magnesium levels can be impacted by a diet high in fat, sugar, protein, vitamin D, calcium, chronic stress, and foods grown in magnesium-depleted soil
- The RDA of magnesium is: 310-320 mg daily for women and 400-420 mg daily for men—though many people will benefit from higher amounts
- Some common yet little-known symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: menstrual cramping, headaches, migraines, sleep issues, brain fog, depression and anxiety (full list above)
- Some of the best food sources of magnesium include spinach, chard, quinoa, almonds, cashews, and black beans.
- Check with your integrative healthcare practitioner about the right type and amount of magnesium for you.
Despite my 25+ years studying and practicing nutrition, I am always in awe of the incredible difference one seemingly little nutrient can make to a person’s overall health.
My hope and prayer is this article will help shed light on how even complicated health problems often have very simple solutions.
To your best health and well-being,