Should YOU be Taking a Magnesium Supplement?

Nutritional supplements seem to be becoming more popular these days as people are trying to work toward healthier lifestyles.   Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body and is an important part of over 300   enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions in our bodies.   Soil depletion and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals in our food have led to a significant decrease in the amount of magnesium available in our foods. Therefore, magnesium deficiency has become a more common problem and is thought to be linked to several chronic disease states, including diabetes, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, asthma, heart disease, colon cancer, and osteoporosis.     Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency progresses, numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, anxiety, and abnormal heart rhythms may occur.   Magnesium is also part of the regulation of calcium and potassium transport in our cells; therefore, severe magnesium deficiency can lead to low calcium and potassium levels in the blood.   There are certain risk groups that are more at risk for magnesium deficiency, including those with gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, type 2 diabetes, alcohol dependence, and older adults.

Generally, the recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300-400 mg, but can vary dependent on age and other factors.   There are two main sources of adding magnesium to our bodies: food and supplementation. Magnesium is widely distributed in plant and animal food, and is even in some medications.    The most common foods with high levels of magnesium are green, leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seed, and whole grains.   However, some types of food processing, such as refining grains in ways that remove the nutrient-rich germ and grain may deplete the magnesium content.   The body absorbs approximately 30-40% of magnesium ingested through food.  There are also some medications that contain magnesium, including laxatives and antacids; however excessive use of these may lead to side effects and can even lead to magnesium deficiency in some cases.

As stated previously, due to changes over the years in how our food is grown and processed, magnesium is not as abundant in our foods as it once was. Therefore, supplementation with magnesium may be necessary in cases of deficiency and for overall health. There are several magnesium supplements available in a variety of forms, including magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, magnesium aspartate, and magnesium lactate. Small studies have found that magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms is absorbed more completely than others. Additional magnesium supplements that have shown benefit, include magnesium chelate, magnesium threonate, and magnesium glycinate.   When choosing a magnesium supplement (or any nutritional supplement), it is important to find a good quality supplement and know the potential risks associated with their use.   A consult with your health care professional (including pharmacists) is a good way to get help with this. Too much magnesium (>600 mg per day) can cause diarrhea, and large doses of magnesium-containing laxatives (more than 5,000 mg/day) have been associated with magnesium toxicity.   The risk of magnesium toxicity is increased in those with impaired kidney function.

In addition to nutritional supplements, there are other ways to supplement with magnesium. One is to take an Epsom salt bath. Not only is this relaxing and a good way to soothe muscle tension and anxiety at the end of the day; it may also help replenish the body’s magnesium levels. Another good source is magnesium oil; this can pass through the skin and into the body and help with digestive issues such as malabsorption.   One of my favorite ways to supplement with magnesium is using homemade body butter.   I use it at night to moisturize my skin and help with relaxation after a long day. Here is the recipe (from


1 cup of coconut oil
1 cup shea butter
¼ cup magnesium oil
¼ cup almond oil
20 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops of sandalwood, cedarwood, or vetiver essential oil


~Stephanie Hunziker, PharmD~



  1. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D and fluoride. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
  2. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium. [Internet]. Available at:   Accessed September 13, 2015.
  3. Rosanoff A, Weaver CM, Rude RK. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? Nutr Rev. 20-12 Mar; 70(3): 153-64. [Abstract]. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2015.
  4. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplements: what you need to know. Available at:   Accessed September 13, 2015.
  5. Axe, J. 9 Signs you have magnesium deficiency and how to cure it. [Internet]. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2015.
  6. Natural News: the remarkable benefits of Epsom salt baths. [Internet]. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2015.
  7. Whipped magnesium body butter. [Internet]. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2015.

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