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.
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