Most adult Americans ( and their children) don’t consume the RDA recommended level of 300 mg of magnesium daily, probably because they consume a diet that is so highly processed .They are deficient of this mineral and don’t even know it. Magnesium has over a 300 enzymatic roles in the cell structures of the body. It plays a key role in muscle relaxation , in blood sugar handling, in energy production, in neurotransmitter production in the brain (chemicals like dopamine , norepinephrine and serotonin) and in decreasing inflammation in the brain and liver detox pathways.
Magnesium is a mineral that is poorly absorbed and easily lost from the body. For example, the more stress you are under, the more you burn through magnesium, the more you eat sugar, the less magnesium you get from the food and the more you use it up for the metabolic handling of the sugar. Excessive sweating and diuretics like coffee, sodas and certain medications also worsen the deficiency. Intestinal parasites prevent the absorption of the mineral.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are many, and include:
- poor concentration
- muscle cramps
- cardiac issues
- headaches and migraines
- mood swings
- poor memory
- failure to thrive
- kidney stones
- high blood pressure
- irritable bowel syndrome
Magnesium is a natural beta-blocker and relaxation mineral. It works to balance out the calcium effects on muscles (contraction) and produces a relaxation response (in the brain and muscles).
However, serum magnesium is not the most accurate way of measuring this mineral because that doesn’t tell us the level inside the cells of the body. A better test is rbc magnesium, and certain labs like Labcorp can run that test.
If you suspect that you have low magnesium, or your blood tests indicates this, there are ways to increase your intake and improve your absorption.
- Limit coffee, salt, sugar and colas, and alcohol if that applies.
- Learn ways to meditate and practice relaxation techniques.
Talk to your doctor about your medications and their side effects, and if you have severe heart or kidney disease, you should only take magnesium under a doctor’s supervision.
Eat Foods that are rich in magnesium including leafy greens like spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, swisschard, kale, seaweed, avocados, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils and chickpeas if tolerated, brown rice and other whole grains (if gluten is tolerated), bananas, dark chocolate, figs, dates, shrimp, and garlic. But if you have a picky eater on your hands then consider supplements.
Magnesium works best in the presence of vitamin B6, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, so consider taking a multivitamin on a daily basis along with the extra magnesium. Some folks need more nutrients than others, depending on the conditions of health, so work with your integrative or functional doctor to customize your supplements for best outcome. Also give it some time to build up and work in the body (4-8 weeks).
Magnesium malate, citrate or glycinate are easy to absorb, and interplay with the Krebs cycle to boost energy production and help with blood sugar issues; They help with stress and relaxation, so are good for anxiety, headaches, muscle cramps, weakness/fatigue and focus. These are the types of magnesium chelates I typically recommend and have the most experience with.
Magnesium carbonate, gluconate and oxide are poorly absorbed and cheap, and are the typical supplements that you find at your pharmacy. They can produce diarrhea- high laxative effect but it is a good option for constipation).
Magnesium threonate is very helpful for PTSD and brain rebuilding, and according to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience Oct 2011, it helps to increase memory but extinguishes the fear component w/o erasing the original memory. This form of magnesium is the most expensive.
Epsom salt baths are also great, especially after sports training, they relaxes the muscles and pulls toxins out of the body. Make sure you rinse off afterwards.
You can order the better forms of magnesium chelate in my online store (https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/jnahas-md). Some kid friendly brands include “Natural Calm” and “Natural Vitality”, as well as “Douglas” , “Pure Encapsulations” and “Designs for Health”.
YThe adult recommended dose is 200 mg twice a day. Again, this dose can be adjusted by your doctor, if needed.
The doses I recommended for kids are as follows: The dosages will vary by age/weight:
- under 6 years, 10 mg daily in liquid form
- 6-9 years: 50 mg twice a day
- 10-12years; 100 mg twice a day
- 13 and older: 200 mg twice a day
The main side effect of magnesium is loose stools, so if that happens, split or decrease the dose.
I hope you find this guide helpful, and please come in for a consultation if you suspect that your child or teenager has a magnesium deficiency related problem .I can help you customize which tests, supplements and foods are most helpful in your situation.