By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
If you’re susceptible to headaches or charlie horses, you may be a part of the 20% of the population who has a magnesium deficiency (1). Magnesium is an essential ion to the human body and the second most abundant intracellular cation after potassium. Magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions ranging from its physiological role, particularly in the brain, heart, and skeletal muscles, to energy metabolism and protein synthesis (2).
For instance, magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA (3). Unfortunately, many of us are deficient in magnesium, and our overall health may be paying the price (and we may not even realize it).
Identifying a Potential Magnesium Deficiency
Many factors can contribute to a person becoming deficient. But did you know that low magnesium is a huge reason people struggle to fall asleep? Low magnesium levels are often the culprit for why people struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, causing a night of restless sleep and frequent awakening. This is because magnesium supports deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA (4). Looking for more information on sleep? Check out Earthley’s guide, The Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep.
Modern farming practices have stripped the Earth of the essential minerals in the soil’s top layer. Modern farmers will fertilize their crops to balance the depleted soils, but they typically only fertilize with three nutrients; phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium. They ultimately leave out all the other minerals (5). This means that the food grown in these soils is deficient in all other minerals — including magnesium.
Stress is another major factor causing people to become deficient since magnesium is needed for a healthy nervous system (6). If you’re stressed, your body uses magnesium at a much higher rate than a person whose body is in a non-stressed state. Things that can contribute to your stress levels include work, family illness, pregnancy, young children, and exposure to chemicals in our environment. These things can make the body use magnesium at a much higher rate than if there weren’t any stressors involved. The less physical and mental stress you have, the less magnesium your body will use. Looking for more ways to manage stress naturally? Check out our blog, Natural Ways to Reduce Stress & Anxiety.
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
- Pins and needles
- Muscle spasms
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Personality changes
Remember, those with gastrointestinal or renal disorders or those suffering from chronic alcoholism and older people are more likely to have a magnesium deficiency. Although magnesium can absorb independently, vitamin D and calcium may slightly increase intestinal absorption (9)
Types of Magnesium
Like almost anything else in our modern world, we have synthetic and natural sources of magnesium, so let’s discuss them.
- Magnesium chloride is naturally occurring and can be extracted from seawater or brine (10). Magnesium chloride is typically used to prevent and manage low amounts of magnesium in the blood and to aid symptoms of too much stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion (11).
- Magnesium citrate is synthetically made by combining magnesium and citric acid (12), which may be derived from black mold (13). Magnesium citrate is typically used to treat occasional constipation on a short-term basis (14).
- Magnesium glycinate is synthetically made by combining inorganic magnesium salt with the amino acid glycine (15). Magnesium glycinate, like magnesium chloride, is typically used to prevent and manage low amounts of magnesium in the blood and to aid symptoms of too much stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion (16).
- Magnesium lactate is naturally occurring but can be made by completely neutralizing lactic acid with a high-purity magnesium source and subsequent crystallization (17). Magnesium lactate is typically used to manage magnesium deficiencies (18).
- Magnesium L-threonate is synthetically made by combining magnesium with threonic acid (19). Magnesium L-threonate, like magnesium chloride and magnesium glycine, is typically used to prevent and manage low amounts of magnesium in the blood and to aid symptoms of too much stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion (20).
- Magnesium malate is synthetically made by combining magnesium with malic acid (21), which is mass-produced from the oxidation of benzene or butane (22). Magnesium malate, like magnesium chloride, magnesium glycine, and magnesium L-threonate, is typically used to prevent and manage low amounts of magnesium in the blood and to aid symptoms of too much stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion (23).
- Magnesium orotate is synthetically made by combining magnesium and orotic acid (24). Magnesium orotate, like many other magnesium types, is used to prevent and manage low amounts of magnesium in the blood and to aid symptoms of too much stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion (25).
- Magnesium oxide is synthetically produced by the calcination of magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide (26). Magnesium oxide is often used to manage migraines and constipation (27).
- Magnesium sulfate is naturally occurring in seawater, mineral springs, and in minerals such as kieserite and epsomite (28). Magnesium sulfate is typically used for short-term relief of constipation. It is also used as a soaking solution to relieve minor sprains, bruises, muscle aches or discomfort, joint stiffness or soreness, and tired feet (29).
- Magnesium taurate is synthetically made by combining magnesium and taurate (30), the deprotonated form of taurine (31). Studies suggest magnesium taurate may have antihypertensive and cardioprotective activity (32).
Remember that magnesium overdose is possible and fatal, especially at high doses. Symptoms of a magnesium overdose may be nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and fatigue (33).
This is why I prefer not to mega-dose supplements for long durations. I prefer natural sources through food and small doses of magnesium chloride in lotion form.
Of course, my top recommendations are magnesium chloride and magnesium sulfate, both naturally occurring. Magnesium lactate is another potential option, but it is also produced synthetically, so I recommend researching a quality brand.
Natural Sources of Magnesium
Historically, we got a lot of magnesium transdermally from bathing/swimming in the sea and drinking magnesium-rich water. No wonder studies have found magnesium absorbed through the skin significantly boosts magnesium levels in the blood (34).
That’s precisely why Earthley blended pure, naturally occurring magnesium chloride with nourishing oils and butters to create a magnesium lotion that moisturizes your skin while the magnesium absorbs quickly. Many forms of magnesium supplements either cause cramping/stomach upset (oral options) or are itchy (sprays), but not Good Night Lotion! If you are not interested in purchasing, try making your own magnesium oil or magnesium cream.
Whole food sources of magnesium include:
- Dark chocolate (35)
- Avocados (36)
- Nuts/cashews (37)
- Legumes/black beans (38)
- Tofu (39)
- Seeds/pumpkin seeds (40)
- Whole grains/buckwheat (41)
- Fatty fish/salmon (42)
- Bananas (43)
- Leafy greens/spinach (44)
- Thyme (45)
- Rosemary (46)
- Oregano (47)
- Nettle (48)
- Rose hips (49)
- Tarragon (50)
Extra care must be taken to ensure you regularly consume nutritious foods to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Thankfully you can incorporate these foods and herbs easily. Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to get loads of nutrition at once (try our Greens Smoothie recipe). Salads are great at providing a variety of nutrients and lots of beneficial fiber (try my Strawberry-Feta Salad recipe). Herbal teas deliver a nutritional boost (try our Spring Blend Herbal Tea or Fall Blend Herbal Tea recipe).
Other Ways to Naturally Get Magnesium
Adding Epsom salts to your bath water to increase your levels. Add one cup of Epsom salts to your bath water and soak for 45 minutes three to four times weekly. Ensure you do not rinse off after your bath, or the magnesium on your skin will be washed off instead of absorbed.
Another trending option is Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), more commonly known as floatation therapy. Floatation therapy is 1000 pounds of Epsom salt in 180 gallons of water, creating a 30% salt solution, enabling you to float effortlessly atop the water. This means your body and mind can relax without actively thinking about staying afloat while absorbing the magnesium your body needs.