Magnesium, You Sexy Thing

This magical mineral is regularly discussed as an option to help what ails you. But, what type of magnesium is best for your particular health concerns?

By Blair Cuneo, PA-C

Chances are you’ve heard someone mention the special “M” word in conversations regarding health and wellness. Meditation (sure)…..magical mushrooms (maybe? no judgment)… magnesium, Yes! Magnesium! What is all this buzz and why does it matter what kind of magnesium?

 

Magnesium deficiencies in our bodies stem from a combination of our soil being low in this mineral (cue more crop rotation), the use of fertilizers heavy in nitrogen and phosphate blocking plants’ ability to absorb magnesium (cue, sad plants) and our OWN difficulty absorbing magnesium due to gut lining inflammation and/or microbial overgrowths (cue, scheduling an appointment with me 😉).

 

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in our body, so running low in magnesium can express itself in many ways. Common ones I see in practice include fatigue, muscle cramping/tension, PMS, headaches/migraines, constipation, insomnia, brain fog, palpitations, anxiety, depression and ADHD. Sound familiar? If that’s not enough, magnesium deficiency is implicated in tinnitus, TMJ, diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension.

 

No wonder this magical mineral is regularly discussed as an option to help what ails you.

 

Blood testing can give some assessment of magnesium status, with RBC Magnesium testing being more accurate than traditional serum testing. However, blood testing only reflects 5% of your body’s magnesium. The vast majority resides in your bones and muscles. Therefore, I’m typically finding more success basing magnesium dosing on patient response, rather than chasing a blood result.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in our body, so running low in magnesium can express itself in many ways. Common ones I see in practice include fatigue, muscle cramping/tension, PMS, headaches/migraines, constipation, insomnia, brain fog, palpitations, anxiety, depression and ADHD.

- Blair Cuneo

But what type of magnesium?

Whether you’re staring at an aisle of food or an aisle of supplements, here’s what to look for:

 

  • Foods richest in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds and cashews.
  • When picking your supplement, look at its “salt” form, the word after magnesium on the nutrition label. The salt form speaks to what the magnesium is attached to, it’s chelator, which helps dictate how easily it’s absorbed in the body.

Here are some health concerns and the salt forms I use to support:

Constipation:

Magnesium citrate and Magnesium oxide

  • Magnesium citrate is the gentler of the two. Start at a dose and increase by a small amount every few days for a goal of a soft bowel movement daily.

 

  • Magnesium oxide has stronger laxative effects, drawing water into the large intestine. I use this form in severe constipation.

 

  • Magnesium oxide will not be absorbed beyond the large intestine, while magnesium citrate has some absorption beyond the gut.

 

 

For the below conditions, if there is any constipation I still start with magnesium citrate first since, again, there is some systemic absorption from magnesium citrate and the need to poop each day is REAL for healthy detox and decreasing inflammation.

 

Additional support for muscle pain, muscle tension, headaches:

Magnesium malate

  • Malic acid (from di-magnesium malate) supports energy production and lactic acid clearance via the Krebs cycle. Malic acid may also support antioxidant systems by enhancing glutathione and antioxidant enzymes.

 

 

Anxiety, ADHD, insomnia, headaches:

Magnesium glycinate

  • This form is easily absorbed and bioavailable. Magnesium interacts with GABA receptors, supporting the calming actions of this neurotransmitter. Magnesium also keeps glutamate—an excitatory neurotransmitter—within healthy limits. Patients with higher magnesium levels also have healthy amounts of serotonin in the cerebrospinal fluid. And the synthesis of another key neurotransmitter, dopamine, requires magnesium.

 

 

Fatigue, brain fog, cognitive concerns:

Magnesium threonate

  • Magnesium threonate demonstrates better mitochondrial and brain penetration by delivering the magnesium straight into synapses. This helps brain cells stay healthy, without being over-activated. Brain cells respond with more clarity and strength.

 

 

Fortunately, there are some supplement formulations which combine different magnesium salt forms together in convenient dosing. Since of course our bodies don’t typically pick ONE system needing support at a time. It likes to keep things interesting.

 

While considering whether magnesium should be a part of your supplement rotation, ask your health care provider if you have any reason to avoid additional magnesium supplementation, as certain medical conditions and medications may be contraindicated.

Blair Cuneo, PA-C, is a Physician Assistant and Functional Medicine provider, certified through the NCCPA and the Institute of Functional Medicine. Before joining the Raleigh-based functional medicine practice, Carolina Total Wellness, she provided Family Practice and Urgent Care services in the Triangle for a decade. She has a B.S. in Radiologic Science from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies from East Carolina University.
At Carolina Total Wellness she works with patients ages 3 years and older, especially enjoying when she is able to care for multiple members of a family. This partnership in the family dynamic emphasizes open communication, knowledge sharing and cultivation of individual and family strategies to create paths to wellness.

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