Delving further into magnesium, the next step is to look at absorption and how it gets itself into and through our bodies. Absorption comes from magnesium rich foods and/or supplements. It is primarily absorbed into the small intestine, anything not absorbed here travels on to the large intestine, and here a smaller amount can be absorbed. Now here things get interesting - 40% goes to the small intestine, 5% to the large intestine and a whopping 55% leaves the body through waste. What's really important to understand here is that these figures are average and the amount absorbed will vary from one individual to the next depending on how magnesium (forms etc) is taken into the body. If we look at magnesium oxide for example, very little of this is absorbed into the body and a laxative effect is more commonly associated with this form.
How your body absorbs this essential mineral
Now without losing you to too much detail - it is known that magnesium can travel via two routes in the body. One of these routes is more effective and works better in an acidic environment - this reinforces the effect of magnesium absorption. This is the key route and is responsible for 80-90% of the intestine magnesium absorption. As this main route works more effectively in an acidic environment it is best to take magnesium on an empty stomach and away from other vitamins, minerals, medication.
How can you achieve higher magnesium levels in your body ?
Increase you intake, combine your approach so you target your intake on several levels - through foods, magnesium baths, body oils, or supplements.
How do you know if you need magnesium?
As there is only 1-2% in the blood this is not always an accurate reflection so for me the symptoms are the signposts here - you can look at your symptoms yourself or discuss with your medical practitioner. You can also send off to have more specific blood tests done to the US (the Magnesium RBC Test) and Germany.
Best food sources for magnesium
Maximising your magnesium intake and levels in your body has to be started by looking at your daily food habits. We know as per Part I that soil etc has reduced amounts but there are still many good foods which contain high levels of magnesium.
My personal favourites are as follows:
Pumpkin Seeds - the heavy hitters, a 1/4 cup gives a whopping 317mg of magnesium!
Sunflower seeds and/or butter
Dark green leafy vegetables
Note: The magnesium content of food will vary depending on the quality and mineral content of the soil in which the foods are grown.
Now to the vast world of magnesium supplements
This is where many are a world apart from each other in terms of what they contain, how they can help you and the quality. Marketing has a lot to answer for here!
You will see many forms of magnesium when you start looking at your labels - one important point to understand is that magnesium cannot be taken on it own. It has to be joined with another molecule to form an absorbable compound - so for example you will see magnesium oxide, magnesium carbonate etc. When magnesium is compounded like this to another molecule you will get different absorption levels and therefore different levels of aid/help to the body.
The most common forms you might see:
Magnesium Hydroxide - I have the most vivid and yes horrific memories of my mum chasing us around the house to take this on a regular basis...remember it tasted like chalk! Yes this is the one that commonly comes in the form of milk of magnesia and is used as a laxative. This is considered one of the least favourable if you are looking to enhance magnesium levels in the body - it is good as a laxative!
Magnesium Oxide - one of the most common ones I see on the labels of magnesium supplements. It is attractive to buyers due to its price, it is a cheaper form as it is cheaper to make this combination than most of the other compounds. It is considered one of the less desirable forms of magnesium with an absorption rate of around 5% and a strong laxative effect.
Magnesium Citrate - More commonly seen now and has a very good absorption rate into the body. Initially it may cause loose bowels and this is why it is good to build up your intake slowly. My preference here is for the powder form where the chemical reaction occurs before your eyes! These are referred to as Ionic Magnesium Citrate and enters the cells throughout your body very quickly and effectively. As with many supplements my personal preference is liquid where possible - liquids are more easily absorbed by the gut.
Magnesium Asparate - This is magnesium and potassium aspartates and is good for fatigue, it is used for low energy and chronic fatigue syndrome. A more common supplement in the US than in Europe.
Magnesium Glycinate - the creme de la creme ! You might see this marketed under the name Magnesium Bis glycerinate - it is magnesium compounded with glycinate which is an amino acid, best known for it’s calming effect. It has another benefit too with this coupling in that the glycine molecule helps absorption by reducing the impact of substances that might hinder absorption for example medication.It is often used for pain, anxiety, insomnia, and tight muscles. It is very good to balance moods, calm the body and also help the detoxification process. Minimal laxative effects.
Excellent for restless legs syndrome.
Magnesium Malate - this I mentioned earlier in relation to Fibromyalgia, this is the one best suited for those experiencing Fibromyalgia. As Malate (malic acid) is an amino acid this form is very well absorbed into the body with minimal digestive side effects. The energizing properties of this form make it ideal to take in the morning but not last thing at night.
Magnesium Orotate - not a very common form, it is used for heart health. It is used for high blood pressure, angina, overall heart health and athletic performance.
Magnesium Taurate - Taurine is an amino acid which is good for the heart, eyes, muscles and brain function. It has been shown to reduce heart attacks and to help balance blood sugar levels. It is hard to find a supplement that offers pure Mag Taurate without being mixed with other forms of magnesium.
Magnesium Threonate - when you hear of magnesium that cross the blood brain barrier this is the one you will often hear about. It is the best form of magnesium for it's impact on long and short term memory. There are no laxative effects but it does have a stimulating effect so best to take in the morning.
In the US currently there is alot of focus on this form of magnesium but from the research I have undertaken my personal view is that it is hard to get a supplement that gives the desired amount without taking several capsules and also I believe a good form of magnesium benefits the nervous system as much as Mag Threonate and often where you need a smaller intake in terms of capsules/powder.
I was informed of a study on humans in relation to this form of magnesium and dementia but I have been unable to source the clinical findings - there have been studies on animals in relation to this but my personal view is this is early days in terms of research.
Topical - Magnesium Chloride, Sulfate
You can incorporate magnesium flake baths, epsom salts bath and the use of body oil into your habits. I use the body oil after a long run if I have a part of my body that's feeling tight and sore - little oil goes along way. Best to use at night-time before bed but you can use whenever works for you.
Personally I see these as good but I would also combine with another form of magnesium to suit your individual needs. Epsom salt have absorbability through the skin. This would not have the same levels of absorption as some of those mentioned above even giving the great absorption rate of the skin.
It is very important to read you epsom salt labels…you can get man made versions of sulphuric acid which might be higher in heavy metals compared to the natural form. This is something people seem to be missing and is very important to bear in mind when shopping for your salts for your bath.
Please note experts would say the benefits of magnesium would outweigh any other heavy metals present and the potential negative side effects they may present.
In my opinion I would prefer to have the better source of epsom salts and know how it is derived. As you have heard me say many times Knowledge is power - know your labels.
Next Up - Where to shops, what sources to buy and the questions so often raised with magnesium.
I started researching magnesium in more detail a month or two ago and I’ll be honest it’s never ending! There is so much to take into account when you enter the world of magnesium and it’s fascinating in its own right. I know one blog won’t do this justice so I am going to split it out - otherwise you wouldn’t get the important information we all need to know and take into account when it comes to Magnesium.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral – and one of the most important minerals on earth. To give you some background into its importance, it is one of the 19 minerals considered essential for life and the 4th most common mineral in the body. It is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions within the body - your body's spark plug! The word Magnesium comes from a region in Greece which happens to have a high concentration of magnesium ore in the surrounding area. Like other minerals it occurs in nature with other elements – for example, you have magnesium & sulphur which give you Magnesium Sulfate otherwise known as Epsom salts. Most of the magnesium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth roughly 60-65%, the balance in the rest of the body and finally our blood – our blood however only houses 1-2% of magnesium. Hence blood tests are not an accurate level of the magnesium count in your body at any given time. Magnesium is mostly utilized in the heart and brain, which in my opinion, explains some of the reasons why it is so important for the nervous system and sleep. You will see too when you look at the symptoms of low magnesium it is often affecting the heart and the brain. Now the interesting part is that many of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency tick the box of menopausal symptoms – this is one of the reason I see this as being essential to your toolkit at this stage. Dr Carolyn Dean author of the Magnesium Miracle calls magnesium ‘the spark of life’. This is a great name for this essential mineral as is so vital for so many processes that the body needs to complete on an hourly/daily basis.
How does Magnesium help you?
This is one food that I believe has to be incorporated into your diet at all stages in life, from children, growing teenagers, active sportspeople to perimenopause and beyond. It plays a vital role in heart health (blood pressure and steady heart beat), bone health, immune function, muscle function, brain health and energy transmission throughout the body. As you can see it is involved in several body functions, this vital role it plays can be seen in the vast number of symptoms that can be linked to sub optimal magnesium levels. The main conditions helped by magnesium are as follows:
Asthma – It’s powerful anti-inflammatory impact can be very beneficial to people suffering from asthma.
Fibromyalgia – I have written about this before and how important magnesium is if you have this condition. There is a link between Fibromyalgia and low magnesium. Magnesium Malate is the form of magnesium best used to help here.
Migraines & Headaches – the best relief for migraines is Magnesium & COQ10. Magnesium has been shown to alleviate the frequency and duration of migraines.
Heart Palpitations – our hearts contain the highest level of magnesium in our bodies. Optimum magnesium intake has been shown to have a positive impact on cholesterol and blood pressure.
Osteoporosis – as most magnesium is stored in our bones any shortage can result in reduced absorption of Vitamin D (essential also for bone health) .
PMT – Cramps along with your period can be very common and often create havoc for those few days of the month. The muscle relaxing effect of magnesium can be a great help here, it can also help the mood swings that come with PMT at any stage and during Perimenopause.
Depression – I will talk in more details about the brain and magnesium but magnesium is involved in the production of neurotransmitters and plays an important role in blood flow & reducing inflammation. All of this helps our brains function optimally. It has also been studied and continues to be, in relation to brain injury – when a brain injury or concussion occurs it can cause tissue magnesium levels to fall by up to 60% - magnesium can help restore this balance.
Diabetes – many people with Type 2 Diabetes can be deficient in magnesium due to an increased loss of this mineral through urine and also lower intake of magnesium through foods.
Aches, Pains & Inflammation – you will have often heard about the great benefit of an Epsom salt bath after rigorous exercise – I had many of these in my marathon training in 2018! Inflammation and pain go hand in hand – inflammation in the body causes pain. In addition tight muscles can lead to sensitive nerve endings and they are the messengers that send the message back to the brain to indicate pain is being felt. Magnesium helps here by relaxing the muscles and the nerves.
Why are we no longer getting as much magnesium as we need?
This is a vast subject and there are many factors influencing how much magnesium we absorb into our bodies – alcohol and caffeine can impact absorption due to their diuretic effect. If you’re doing a lot of exercise excess sweat will led to loss of magnesium. How food is processed and cooked can decrease magnesium levels – for example take white flour, magnesium is stored in the bran and the germ, and this is lost in the milling process of the whole grains. Sugar also drains magnesium - for every molecule of sugar you eat, it takes 54 molecules of magnesium for your body to process it!.
Possibly the single biggest impact is modern farming methods. Acid rain where it occurs takes calcium and magnesium from the soil, the infamous Roundup binds with magnesium which means plants can’t absorb it like they used to. Pesticides kill the good guys we need in the soil and they are no longer there to do the job of breaking down minerals so the plants can absorb them. Our water too has less magnesium due to filtering processes that now occur. Certain medication like acid blockers, antibiotics and diuretics can reduce absorption. If you experience a bout of vomiting, diarrhea, urinary infection etc this increased loss of urine will result in a loss in magnesium. For those who are coeliac or have low stomach acid you will not absorb magnesium as effectively from your food as others. Finally chronic stress impacts our gut health which will inhibit the absorption and action of magnesium. This is by no means a conclusive list but these are some of the key reasons why we are lower in this essential mineral in today’s world.
How do I know I am deficient?
As I said earlier many of the symptoms of low magnesium are similar to perimenopause symptoms - the most common tell take signs are as follows - you will see they can mirror many menopausal symptoms:
Magnesium Part II - How we absorb magnesium, the various forms and food sources
Magnesium Part III - Navigate the supplement world, a story & FAQ
If you can't wait for the next two parts....and are already eager to start incorporating please remember I am really picky about what to use if you are supplementing and a magnesium supplement in particular is one where HUGE amounts of money are being wasted on sub standard products. That's my personal view but it's based on extensive research and experience.
I am working to get the next two parts completed but if you are truly eager then please for now don't buy anything other than MAG365. I have used this for years, it's one of the best on the market and I have had great success with it. I am not affiliated with MAG365 and the girls there have kindly given me a great discount of 25% (type WWEVENT when buying - you need to register to to use the code) on any of their range so please use that if you are ordering BUT if you can please wait for the next two parts as you will then order in an informed way. As you know 'Knowledge is Power'.
Bringing you the latest research and health tips to help you navigate perimenopause and beyond