Do you get frequent muscle cramps or twitches? Do you find yourself chronically stressed out or lying awake at night? If so, then it might be time to take a look at your magnesium status.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2000, at least 68% of Americans consume less than the recommended daily intake of magnesium. You may not think about your magnesium status on a daily basis, but it can have a profound effect upon your health.
In this article, you’ll learn why you need magnesium and how to address a magnesium deficiency.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that helps the body perform many of its normal functions like blood sugar maintenance, muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure regulation.
In terms of muscle function, magnesium is involved in oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance – factors that can directly impact exercise performance. In fact, preliminary evidence suggests that even a slight magnesium deficiency can impair exercise performance and worsen the negative effects of strenuous exercise, like oxidative stress and inflammation.
Additionally, a study last year published in the Diabetes Care Journal found that higher magnesium intakes were associated with lower fasting glucose and insulin resistance levels. These findings suggest that magnesium may play a significant role in regulating blood sugar.
But the benefits of magnesium reach further than blood sugar and muscle function. The preliminary findings from this study suggest that magnesium intake may also play a central role in normalizing vitamin D status, thereby contributing to bone development.
So if you have trouble with muscle cramps, fatigue, insulin resistance, or low vitamin D status, then you might want to consider increasing your intake of magnesium.
Signs of magnesium deficiency
- Muscle cramps or twitches
- Migraines or headaches
- High blood pressure
- Menstrual cramps
- Acid reflux
- Type II Diabetes (more research needed)
Factors that drain magnesium
- Excessive alcohol consumption (diuretic)
- Excess coffee (diuretic)
- Excess phosphoric acid from sodas
- Prolonged or intense stress
- Profuse sweating
- Use of loop diuretics (Lasix, Bumex)
- Use of proton-pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prevacid)
- Use of certain antibiotics
Sources of magnesium
The main sources of magnesium are hard, mineralized drinking water and chlorophyll found in leafy green vegetables. If you drink soft, de-mineralized water, then you may be missing out on a major source of magnesium.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 310–360 mg/day for women and 400–420 mg/day for men.
- > 75% dark chocolate (327 mg/100 g)
- Spinach (157 mg/cup cooked)
- Pumpkin seeds (156 mg/oz)
- Black beans (120 mg/cup)
- Seaweed (96 mg/cup)
- Halibut (90 mg/3 oz)
- Almonds (80 mg/oz)
- Cashews (74 mg/oz)
- Artichokes (70 mg/cup cooked)
- Peanuts (50 mg/oz)
- Raisins (46 mg/cup)
- Avocado (44 mg/cup)
- Salmon (26 mg/3 oz)
- Beef (20 mg/3 oz)
- Epsom bath salts (any brand will do)
- Magnesium chloride bath salts (stronger than Epsom salts)
- Magnesium oil (topical spray or lotion)
Oral magnesium is not absorbed well, so if you’re serious about increasing your magnesium status, then consider using transdermal sources like magnesium baths and topical sprays in addition to increasing your intake.
Magnesium Status Testing
Serum magnesium (poor indicator)
Only 1% of magnesium stores remain in the bloodstream. This makes serum magnesium a poor indicator of actual magnesium status.Measuring magnesium levels in the blood is only useful in identifying extreme mineral deficiencies.
Satisfactory magnesium levels on a blood panel cannot reflect complete magnesium status, as this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Elemental Analysis, Packed Erythrocytes test (recommended)
You can get a much more accurate measurement of magnesium status by looking at intracellular magnesium levels. This test measures the levels of magnesium and other minerals inside your red blood cells (erythrocytes) so you can address a functional deficiency of magnesium.
You can order these tests through most functional medicine practitioners. Find one near you by visiting functionalmedicine.org.
Muscle Relaxation Bath Recipe
- 2 cups of Epsom salt (½ cup for children)
- 1-2 cups of baking soda
- 20 drops of your favorite essential oil (if desired)
- Add ingredients to warm water and stir well.
- Soak for 20 minutes to help draw out toxins.
- If you have time, soak for an additional 20 minutes so that your body can absorb the magnesium.
If you’re stressed, or struggling with muscle cramps, then it may be time to:
- Stop draining your magnesium stores with alcohol, coffee and sodas
- Consume more magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate (don’t get crazy!), spinach, and pumpkin seeds
- Men should consume 400–420 mg/day of magnesium
- Women should consume 310–360 mg/day of magnesium
- Take frequent Epsom salt baths, especially after a workout
- Consult a functional medicine practitioner for accurate lab testing
- Talk to your doctor or nutritionist before taking any dietary supplements
- When taking supplements, look for:
- magnesium glycinate for general dietary supplementation
- magnesium citrate for relief from constipation and dietary supplementation
Have you ever taken an Epsom salt bath after a workout? Let me know in the comments below.