Yes, Magnesium! And here’s Why and How
February 7, 2019 | 36 Comments | SAFM Team
Tightness, tension, spasm,…throughout the body, these symptoms are often a sign of insufficient magnesium in our clients. Magnesium functions as a bit of a “master” electrolyte in this case because it directly controls the pump that allows potassium to flow into the cell (where benefits can actually be experienced). Because it is a safe supplement to explore*, I recommend you prioritize this topic with clients who may get rapid relief from magnesium support. Remember: rapid relief is key to creating inspired, committed, and ultimately wildly-satisfied clients and patients, especially those who can’t stop telling everyone they meet about how they too can benefit from working with you!
All of your clients have potentially insufficient levels of magnesium. Be a detective; look for those symptoms! Look for the interconnectedness you can see. Functional medicine pioneer Dr. Mark Hyman has published an excellent blog article about the symptoms of magnesium deficiency which you may read here .
Remember that there are three (big!) groups of patients who are more likely to struggle with insufficient magnesium. That is, those who:
- Have Type 2 Diabetes (or are on the spectrum of developing it e.g. pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, abdominal obesity). These clients are statistically much more likely to have magnesium deficiency (this other article is a great summary of similar research). The hormone insulin mediates healthy functioning of both sugar and magnesium uptake into cells, so insulin resistance can impair both of these. Fasting insulin is perhaps the best lab marker (of those that are readily available) for assessing insulin resistance in its early stages – that is before there is any increase in fasting glucose; in fact, there fasting glucose might be quite low.
- Regularly take Proton Pump Inhibitor medications (e.g. Protonix, Prilosec, Nexium), usually prescribed for acid reflux. The FDA’s warning about this connection might be inspiring to your clients to make lifestyle change to get away from needing these drugs. By reducing stomach acid, this drug impairs our ability to separate minerals which are typically food-bound to amino acids in proteins. Other posts on our site here give pearls about acid reflux.
- Use diuretic medications, especially for hypertension. These drugs promote urination, often to reduce the edema caused by other hypertension drugs (e.g. beta blockers). These drugs also cause loss of electrolytes via the increased urination. Ironically enough, this includes potassium and magnesium, two minerals which are vital to maintaining healthy blood pressure in the first place. Alas, I have had several clients over the years who discovered that ongoing use of a diuretic medication was actually a key reason WHY their blood pressure wasn’t improving in response to their targeted lifestyle changes. Arghh!
If your clients wish to have their physician assess their actual magnesium level, encourage them to request “RBC magnesium” and specifically to be sure that the (standard default) “serum magnesium” is not measured instead. RBC mineral levels are not a perfect measure, but they do offer a much more accurate reflection both of ongoing intake in the typical diet (~3 months in RBCs vs. feedback on only a day or two in the serum level) and also one’s cellular ability to absorb the nutrient. Remember it’s not enough to get nutrients into the bloodstream; we need to be able to absorb them well into our cells in order to make a difference in our functioning.
There are many different forms of magnesium available on the market. I recommend my clients avoid 100% the carbonate form, as it is poorly absorbed at the typical pH of human digestive processes (but it’s a cheap form and thus commonly available!). Instead…
- Specifically for constipation, I recommend magnesium citrate. Start with 300-400mg taken with dinner to help with early AM bowel movement the next day. It may take a few days to build up full efficacy. And clients may need more. I have some clients taking 800-1000mg each night to keep regularity and comfort with their GI ‘waste removal’. Both capsule and loose powder options are available.
- For muscular spasm, tension, tightness, including headache, I recommend magnesium glycinate or malate. These chelate forms of magnesium typically do not affect the GI tract much and won’t overly-stimulate an already-healthy bowel movement habit.
- For attention deficit, anxiety, panic, and those who are easily startled, I recommend magnesium threonate as it penetrates the blood-brain barrier particularly well and provides threonine, an amino acid particularly calming to the nervous system (e.g. Jarrow’s “MagMind”). I would start with ~200mg magnesium in this form and build up as needed (start dosage to target key needs e.g. first morning for daytime anxiety and evening for RLS, trouble going to sleep, or ruminating thoughts that prevent deep sleep).
- For cardiovascular disease and related concerns (e.g. atrial fibrillation), I recommend magnesium taurate. The amino acid chelate in this case (taurine) is a calming neurotransmitter, is a critical building block for optimal bile production in the liver, and has been shown to be effective in countering a variety of arrhythmias (especially when combined with arginine and/or citrulline).
*Magnesium supplementation should be done cautiously in those with any degree of kidney dysfunction or disease and always in active partnership with the attending physician for the kidney ailments. Supplementation may still be warranted but in very small doses at once that are actively monitored to ensure filtration function is not harmed.
Get savvy about working with magnesium! It can be a simple and powerful tool to help your clients and patients to find the Rapid Relief that will help them to stay engaged and enthusiastic about their journey with you.