What You Need to Know About Magnesium

by | Apr 19, 2021 | Nutrition Articles

Learn everything you need to know about magnesium in today’s post, from what it is to benefits, signs of deficiency, plus my experience with taking it.

You may have heard of magnesium before, but what exactly is it? Is it something you should get more of in your diet? What about supplementation? In today’s post I’m going to share with you what magnesium is, the benefits, signs of deficiency, and my personal experience with it.

What is Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral with many functions in the body. It helps support heart health, nerve and muscle function and healthy bones. Over 300 enzymes use magnesium for a variety of essential processes in the body every single day. Needless to say, it’s an important one!

Magnesium is found naturally in many foods but can also be taken as a supplement or topically as creams and gels for muscle relaxation. The amount of magnesium that you need per day depends on your age, sex, and life stage you’re at, such as pregnancy. But generally about 300-400mg/day is the recommended amount. Others may require more if there are any issues with digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Food Sources of Magnesium

Magnesium is found naturally in many foods:

  • nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds and sunflower seeds
  • dark leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard
  • whole grains
  • legumes like black eyed peas and edamame
  • potatoes with the skin on
  • and even dark chocolate!

Magnesium Deficiency

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to be low in this vital nutrient due to diets that lack magnesium-rich plant foods. Additionally, a high consumption of alcohol, coffee, phosphoric acid found in sodas, salt, and even stress can deplete this mineral in our body. Those with digestive disorders, diabetes, athletes and older adults may be at higher risk of magnesium deficiency.

Possible signs of magnesium deficiency can include:

  • muscle cramps, pain, or spasms
  • joint pain
  • headaches or migraines
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • depression
  • constipation
  • hypothyroidism

Benefits of Magnesium

Heart health: magnesium promotes healthy blood pressure. Those with hypertension and even arrhythmias can benefit from getting optimal amounts of magnesium in their diet.

Bone health: we all know calcium is needed for healthy bones, but not just calcium alone. We need a dance of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and other minerals to support bone health. Up to 60% of magnesium is stored in our bones. If you’re at risk for low bone density, you’ll want to pay attention to your magnesium and overall mineral intake.

Muscle relaxation: Magnesium is best known for having muscle relaxing properties, making it useful for things like cramps (including period cramps), spasms, or restless legs. Since cramps can be a sign of deficiency in some cases, increasing your intake of this mineral can make a difference in the muscle pain you experience.

Sleep: Magnesium is great for aiding sleep because of its calming and relaxing properties. In fact, many people find that increasing their intake of magnesium helps improve sleep quality and quantity. This may be due to the way that magnesium mitigates stress and anxiety. Try an Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath in the evening to help with a good night’s sleep. Not only with the warm water relax your body, but the addition of magnesium may help, too.

Constipation: Magnesium in the form of a citrate supplement helps draw water into the bowels and soften stool which can relieve constipation.

PMS: Premenstrual syndrome involves a variety of uncomfortable symptoms in the days leading up to your period, like cramps and breast tenderness. Magnesium plays a key role in relaxing muscles and also reducing inflammation, which is why it can be massively helpful for those who suffer from PMS. I have personally found magnesium to make drastic improvements in my PMS symptoms. More on this below!

Migraines: Like most health issues, migraines are multifactorial but low levels of magnesium can play a role. Stress and dehydration can also play a role here, but upping your dietary intake of magnesium may be helpful for you if you suffer from migraines.

How to Get More Magnesium + Should You Take a Supplement?

Food should be the primary focus when it comes to obtaining adequate nutrition. You can start increasing your magnesium intake naturally by…

  • adding more legumes to your diet through salads, soups, or stews
  • adding nuts to baked goods, as a snack (like trail mix), or onto oatmeal or granola
  • enjoying a spoonful of nut butter, like almond or cashew, with fruit, toast, or in smoothies
  • eating more leafy greens. Learn 15 easy wasy to eat more greens here.
  • choose whole grains products instead of white

To fill in the gaps or for those who need higher amounts of a specific nutrient, supplementation can be helpful. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions about taking a new supplement.

My experience

Firstly, I am not being sponsored to talk about this. This is completely my own experience and opinion.

I began taking a magnesium powder supplement (by Natural Calm) a few months ago to see if it might help with the PMS symptoms I was experiencing every month, namely bad cramps, mood swings (including depression and uncontrollable crying spells) and breast tenderness.

I started with 2 tsp/day for a few weeks and then reduced to 1 tsp 2-3 times per week over the span of 3 months.

*The reason I reduced the amount is because, as stated on the label, your unique dose should be to “bowel tolerance”, which means once you reach comfortably loose stools, you should not take any more. Initially 2 tsp (the maximum recommended dose) had no effect on my bowels which indicated to me that I may have been low in magnesium in the first place, but after 3-4 weeks I started to notice that it was upsetting my stomach.

I gave myself 3 full cycles to determine if it truly made a difference. The first month I noticed a reduction (but not elimination) of symptoms but I wanted to see if it was a fluke. The second and third cycle I had zero mood swings, zero breast tenderness, and very brief, light cramping. I also noticed that I felt calmer and more relaxed overall. Suffice to say, it was obvious that it made a noticeable difference for me. It was actually pretty cool because PMS was negatively effecting my life for quite some time, so it was a relief to have found something that was helping so much.

I still take magnesium but only 1-2 times a week as I feel that my overall levels of magnesium have improved.

Please keep in mind that this is my unique anecdotal experience which means that it’s based on personal accounts and not part of any sort of rigorous scientific study. Everybody’s needs are very different. Always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about any symptoms you are experiencing.

by Meghan Livingstone

Note: this post may contain affiliate links. Learn more here.

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2 Comments

  1. Leni

    Meghan, I so agree with the effects with PMS! I’ve only been taking supplements for a month but I’m not stopping soon because I find that I have less muscle pain, I sleep better, I’m in better mood, in addition to the reduced PMS. Thanks for this article!

    Reply
    • Meghan

      Hey Leni! I’m so glad to hear you’re finding it helpful too! It has truly made a big big difference in my life. xx

      Reply

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MEGHAN LIVINGSTONE, CNP

Hi, I’m Meghan. I’m a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, blogger, and YouTuber with a passion for healthy, simple living. I’m here to inspire you to listen to your body, eat mindfully and wholesomely, and create a fulfilling life that’s completely unique to you.

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