magnesium for strong bones, magnesium supplement

Nighttime leg cramps can be quite a challenge. They may well wake you with pain in the middle of the night, and easing the pain can take time. We have written about a number of home remedies that may help end leg cramps quickly, such as swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard or a few sips of pickle juice. Some people keep a bar of soap under the bottom sheet to prevent leg cramps. However, when people have low levels of magnesium in their systems, taking a magnesium supplement may be a great preventive measure.

Low Magnesium and Leg Cramps at Night:

Q. I have used several of your recommendations for leg cramps and they only worked about halfway through the night.

I mentioned it to my doctor and he checked my blood work. My magnesium was low.

I started taking a magnesium supplement and have not had leg cramps since. I would suggest letting people know to have their magnesium checked.

A Magnesium Supplement to Counteract Leg Cramps:

A. Others should follow your good example and ask their doctors to monitor their magnesium levels. As many as half of Americans don’t get the RDA for magnesium in their diets. Moreover, many medications can deplete the body of this essential mineral.

People who are low in magnesium may have high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease. In addition, they may also be more susceptible to migraine headaches and to menstrual cramps as well as muscle cramps. There are numerous benefits to taking a magnesium supplement if your level is low. However, people with impaired kidney function should not take magnesium supplements. They could put too much strain on the kidneys. One reader wrote to us about such a problem.

Trouble with a Magnesium Supplement:

Q. People’s Pharmacy has gotten me into trouble with my dear wife. As a regular reader of your column, I always share stuff with her if I think it may help. Your comment about taking magnesium supplements to help alleviate persistent constipation is a case in point.

She started taking a magnesium supplement and it helped her bowel function immediately. I was happy to have her benefit from your column. So what’s the problem?

Her 90-year-old father, a long-time heavy user of milk of magnesia, is now having significant kidney malfunction issues. His medical advisors have identified the laxative as the cause.

My wife has abruptly stopped using her magnesium supplement because of what is occurring with her dad. Could you kindly comment on any kidney risks associated with magnesium?

How Do Magnesium Supplements Affect the Kidneys?

A. Magnesium is essential for muscles, nerves and bones. This mineral helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rhythm.

The daily RDA is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. American diets are frequently low in magnesium, and commonly prescribed blood pressure medicines containing diuretics may deplete this mineral.

People with kidney problems are unable to tolerate excess magnesium. They should avoid supplements, laxatives or antacids that contain this mineral. Overdosing on magnesium may overwhelm the system and result in magnesium toxicity. This may be what happened to your father-in-law because of his milk of magnesia habit.

On the other hand, if your wife’s kidney function is normal and her physician monitors her magnesium levels, she should be able to tolerate up to 350 mg daily.

EM testifies:

“I added a magnesium supplement after reading your comments in above article & it did for me what no amount of flax, oat bran, Psyllium or other fiber has been able to do- help with regularity without bloating or gas.”

Brent B. cautions:

“Whenever magnesium is taken, it should be balanced out with calcium. I’ve also heard that only a small percentage of the magnesium in magnesium oxide tablets is actually metabolized by the body. So you might want to use a form like magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate to get a greater benefit. I also use the epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in my bath water, and it seems to make quite a difference in my health. And you can also use flax seed oil softgels for a great fiber / regularity solution. Moderation and balance are the right approaches — and be sure to listen to your body and discontinue anything that causes you trouble!”

 

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  1. dee
    VA
    Reply

    For me, what works for leg cramps and constipation is a magnesium supplement and drinking water more frequently. I also add flax & chia seeds to my oatmeal and greek yogurt to add more fiber to my diet. I tried the mustard recommendation, and that worked as well. But the magnesium, drinking more water, and stretching my legs at night before bed are what works for my leg cramps.

  2. W. (Bill) D. Richey
    Oklahoma
    Reply

    I too, have severe leg cramps at night. And it is usually in my calf muscles and I too, have had to actually force my heel down to the floor before getting relief. As one person said, “I am looking for something to do before going to bed instead of waking up with the pain”. In other words, an ounce of prevention before bedtime is worth a pound of cure, when you are actually attacked by the cramp. Mag Oil before bedtime seems the right approach to me. Wish me luck.

  3. Anne
    Bakersfield, Ca.
    Reply

    Neither my husband or I have had many leg cramps since we started placing soap bars in our bed down near the end of our bed. This was a great recommendation from People’s Pharmacy!

  4. Sharon d
    WA
    Reply

    I liked the magnesium for leg cramps and it really helped improve my sleep quality BUT the increase in size and quantity of bowel movements was not sustainable. I can only take 1 tablet250mg only once or twice a week now. It took a few months to figure out the magnesium was the problem.

  5. Pat W.
    Florida
    Reply

    I get leg and foot cramps often. A few times I couldn’t get out of bed. I usually just stand up and stretch them out, but the pain is unbearable. Someone told me to swallow a teaspoon of salt, wait a few seconds, then drink a glass of water. It works for me. Sleep with water and small salt container beside the bed, just in case.

    • Patricia
      PERRY, GA
      Reply

      Try switching to magnesium glycinate instead of magnesium oxide. The gastrointestinal side effects are much less. In fact, for people with colon resections, magnesium glycinate is the recommended supplement!

  6. JJ
    Watertown SD
    Reply

    My brother was bothered by leg cramps until he suspected sleep apnea. When he got a cramp instead of other remedies he started taking deep breaths, and the cramp went away. He was evaluated and indeed did have sleep apnea. Once he got his machine, the leg cramps stopped.

  7. SUSAN DAWSON
    Virginia
    Reply

    I’ve always heard about magnesium supplements, but it confuses me as to what type of magensium to use? Sulfate? Chloride? Oxide? Hydroxide? Which does what?

    • Susan
      Ontario
      Reply

      One of the above answers mentions magnesium glycinate. I have been using magnesium bisglycinate for a few years now, and my nighttime leg cramps have ‘almost’ disappeared. And when I do have a cramping/spasm issue, they are less intense and of a shorter duration than they used to be.

  8. arizonan
    NV
    Reply

    Starbucks uses tap water instead of reverse osmosis. Coffee tastes better with calcium and magnesium in the water. I add a level teaspoon of magnesium sulfate to a gallon of water for my day’s drinking water. Drinking water and coffee taste better.

    Many people buy reverse osmosis water which contributes to magnesium deficiency. Type 2 diabetes and thiazide diuretics are common causes of magnesium deficiency.

  9. S. Horton
    Statesville, NC
    Reply

    To keep my leg cramps at bay, I have to supplement with calcium, magnesium and potassium. I also take Vitamin D to aid absorption

  10. Barbara
    Seattle, WA
    Reply

    I have had different types of leg cramps. The ones that suddenly occur for no obvious reason I am sure are related to the statins I take. They begin in a small spot, such as the front of my ankle, then spread up my leg until it becomes wooden. It usually is worse on one leg, then begins on the second leg, but not as bad. Heat, along with a pain reliever, or using my TENS Unit eases those. I have had very few and much lighter episodes in the past several months and wonder if it’s because I started taking magnesium every day. The other type of leg cramps occur when I lie on my back and stretch. My calves cramp horribly and straightening my legs is very painful. When I had those, I got out of bed, held onto something, and forced my heels down to the floor. If I didn’t do that right away, I would wind up with sore muscles all day. I solved that problem by not pointing my toes down when I stretch. Instead, I point them upwards, with my heel forward.

  11. jrg
    Reply

    If I wake with a leg cramp I drink a glass of water. The cramp rapidly subsides. I assume I was dehydrated. works every time.

  12. John
    UT
    Reply

    I have been taking a magnesium supplement for over one year now. It eliminates my leg cramps and helps with regularity.

  13. Linda
    Montesano
    Reply

    I take magnesium threonate however have had leg cramps recently, daughter asked me if I was taking potassium and no, was not. I looked around the house and came across a bottle of concentrated trace minerals and researched….has 72 trace minerals. No cramps since I began that….but also as I am 70, perhaps I am depleted in other trace minerals?

  14. fran
    virginia mountains
    Reply

    My husband has often suffered from leg cramps at night. I used to suffer with a twitchy foot at bedtime. A (miraculous to me) solution which works for both of us is an externally applied HIGH QUALITY MAGNESIUM OIL. I routinely gently massage mag oil on to the sole of my foot and my lower leg at bed time. Voila! No twitching occurs and I fall asleep. My husband (who doesn’t think to use the mag oil preventively before the cramp occurs) rubs mag oil on to his cramping leg and within minutes the cramp goes away. I understand you can not overdose on magnesium when applied to skin, and that it is better absorbed by your body when applied to the skin vs going through the intestinal tract (where it can also affect kidneys and cause diarrhea.) We ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAY keep a spray bottle of mag oil at our bedside.

  15. Dennis Otto
    WI
    Reply

    I had Atrial fibrillation quite badly, sometimes to the point of distraction. One nite about 15 years ago I went on the internet and read everything I could find about the problem. A lot of it was way over my head, but a number of times I saw it written that ” some studies suggest that elevated levels of potassium and magnesium are helpful”. With that information, I started taking a 99 mg tablet of potassium and a 400 mg tablet of magnesium with about 6 ounces of V8 every night before bed, and I started eating a banana every day. Within a week the problem started dissipating and today the only way I know I have atrial fibrillation is when the doctor hears it on a stethoscope or sees it on an EKG.

  16. c
    usa
    Reply

    I went on the low carb, low protein, high fat diet a couple of months ago.
    I use to have leg cramps at night and hand cramps during the day at work. I use my hands in my profession. Mustard, vinegar and soap did help after the cramps started.
    Over 2 weeks ago, I had bad hand cramps that continued from work to home. Then the calf cramps. Mustard,etc helped but did not eliminate. I realized that it had been a while since I had hand cramps and wondered what brought them on. Could not think of anything until I walked into work the next morning. It was sugar.
    A huge bowl of Halloween candy that the day before I had been DIGGING into because of stress.
    I looked back and realized I had cut back on carbs/sweets on this diet. None. Which all came to one conclusion. The amount of sugar I had ingested during the day had something to do with my .cramps. The candy was easy to avoid that day and since then no more cramps. Hands or legs have not cramped since and it has been almost two weeks.
    Is this something new?

  17. Trish
    Bridgton, ME
    Reply

    I have suffered from nighttime leg cramps for years and have tried everything under the sun. Now I make sure I get enough electrolytes, especially sodium and magnesium. But since I can’t test my blood for them, I still get cramps from time to time. So… if I have a night with cramps, the next night I soak my feet in epsom salts water and use a cloth to soak my calves as well (which is where I tend to get the cramps). So far, after many months of doing this, it ALWAYS works. No cramps the next night. The cramps remain at bay until something gets off balance again, usually several weeks. Such a relief to have finally found a solution!

  18. Penelope
    FLorida
    Reply

    As someone who suffered for 40 years from menstrual cramps, I was saddened to hear that my problem could have been simply solved with magnesium. Telling this to a nurse brought the reply that it is what they give to new mothers after childbirth to stop the post delivery cramps. Wish someone had told me that 60 years ago!

  19. Karen
    GA
    Reply

    I had leg cramps each time I was pregnant, and the doctor told me I had a magnesium deficiency. He suggested that I regularly saute spinach in olive oil. I ate the spinach, and it worked. Spinach is a high magnesium food.

  20. Anne
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    Magnesium helped me, but I believe I needed at least 800 mg., which made my blood levels too high. Also, I have a small cyst in one kidney. I tried soap under the sheets, and it didn’t work at all. I’m sorry to say I could not drink HotShot, or any of the other concoctions which all seem to be intended for when you actually have a cramp. First, I don’t want to have to wait until I’m in pain; I want to prevent it from happening. And second, having to drink something really sour in the middle of the night actually made me nauseated. I won’t mention any brand names, but I have found something I can rub on my legs before going to bed, and it’s been a miracle. I very rarely get leg cramps now (it’s been at least two months), and before I was getting them almost nightly. I keep hoping you’ll talk about it on your show because it’s starting to be sold in stores.

    • Ann
      Lakeland, fl
      Reply

      Anne, sure would like to know what you are taking. I have cramps almost nightly.

      • Stella
        US
        Reply

        Ann, regarding your question above: I have read that applying magnesium oil to affected areas will help in reducing leg cramps, and it sounds to me as if the original poster might be referring to that. You can make magnesium oil at home – you can find instructions online – or buy it commercially on Amazon and elsewhere. I know how painful nighttime leg cramps are and hope you find relief soon!

    • Susan K
      Ontario
      Reply

      I sure would like to know what this mystery product is.

      • Mike
        Maple Valley, WA
        Reply

        The chances are that the “mystery” product is magnesium oil. I buy mine from a major online pharmacy. Put it on each calf every night at bedtime. I follow it with a 70% DMSO 30% water solution in a spray bottle which drives the magnesium deeper into the muscle. Since the magnesium is not going through the digestive system there are no bowel problems. Some people mention Epsom salts. Epsom salts are 25% magnesium which is why they ease or prevent cramps. Just a bit more time-consuming and messier than magnesium oil. I also use the oil for back pain daily and shoulder pain.

  21. c
    usa
    Reply

    I went on the low carb, low protein, high fat diet a couple of months ago.
    I use to have leg cramps at night and hand cramps during the day at work. I use my hands in my profession. Mustard, vinegar and soap did help after the cramps started.

    Over 2 weeks ago, I had bad hand cramps that continued from work to home. Then the calf cramps. Mustard,etc. helped but did not eliminate. I realized that it had been a while since I had cramps and wondered what brought them on. Could not think of anything until I walked into work the next morning. It was sugar. A huge bowl of Halloween candy that the day before I had been DIGGING into because of stress.

    I looked back and realized I had cut back on carbs/sweets on this diet. None. Which all led to one conclusion: The amount of sugar I had ingested during the day had something to do with my .cramps. The candy was easy to avoid that day, and since then no more cramps. Hands or legs have not cramped since, and it has been almost two weeks.
    Is this something new?

  22. Joseph
    Valatie NY
    Reply

    Several years ago, a physician recommended magnesium supplements to relieve my nighttime leg cramps. After experiencing no appreciable improvement, I researched it online and learned that magnesium had been tested in a clinical trial for that purpose and was not found to be effective. However a study did find significant benefit to B-complex taken 2-3 times a day. Although I was already taking it once a day, I increased the frequency of the B-complex and experienced dramatic improvement.

  23. Bernita
    Bradenton, Florida
    Reply

    What about Magnesium OIL (magnesium chloride brine) either taken internally or rubbing on a swollen leg?

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