a man shaking pills into his hand from a bottle, calcium supplements, magnesium to boost vitamin D

We don’t usually think of nutritional supplements acting in concert, but that is due to a failure of imagination. Food hardly ever supplies a single nutrient. A reader recently alerted us to an interesting and intricate interaction between a mineral and a fat-soluble vitamin. She asked about taking magnesium to boost vitamin D.

Can You Take Magnesium to Boost Vitamin D Levels?

Q. Most of us do not get nearly enough vitamin D but taking a daily supplement of vitamin D3 may not be enough. I recently read that magnesium deficiency can prevent absorption of vitamin D supplements. Is this true?

A. Yes, it is, but the story is quite a bit more complicated. The enzymes that process vitamin D in our bodies require magnesium to function well.

How Scientists Studied Magnesium to Boost Vitamin D Levels:

A recently published study demonstrated that optimal magnesium status is important for improving circulating vitamin D (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec. 1, 2018). The scientists tested the effect of magnesium supplements on 25-hydroxyvitaminD3. They found that if a person’s initial vitamin D level was low (under 30 ng/ml), magnesium supplements helped raise it. On the other hand, if the initial vitamin D level was higher, between 30 and 50 ng/ml, magnesium supplements tended to reduce vitamin D levels. Here is what we wrote earlier about this study. Perhaps this complex relationship between magnesium and vitamin D status may help explain why people who get more magnesium are less prone to fractures.

Does Your Diet Have Enough Magnesium to Boost Vitamin D Levels?

Unfortunately, the majority of American adults don’t get adequate amounts of magnesium in their diets. First of all, pumpkin seeds (168 mg/ounce, shelled), almonds (80 mg/ounce) and cashews (74 mg/ounce) are great sources, but not part of everyone’s weekly fare.  In addition, spinach (78 mg/half-cup cooked spinach), shredded wheat (61 mg/two-biscuit serving) and black beans (60 mg/half-cup serving) are also great sources. Are you eating them regularly? If not, you might want to consider a supplement.

Be careful, though: too much magnesium could lead to diarrhea. Moreover, no one with compromised kidney function should take magnesium supplements except under a doctor’s close supervision. That is because excess magnesium puts too much strain on poorly-functioning kidneys.

Learn More:

You can learn more about what vitamin D does and how you can get optimum levels in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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  1. Jeannette

    Can you please add function to your comments so that we are emailed when a new comment is made? This is done on many other website forums.

  2. Susan
    Gloucester Co VA

    Do you need to take the magnesium at the same time you take a Vit D? Or would several hours apart be ok?

  3. Mike
    Maple Valley, WA

    For those who have difficulty with taking magnesium by mouth there are two other solutions for getting an adequate amount. Epsom salts are 25% magnesium and magnesium can be absorbed right through the skin. A less time consuming alternative is magnesium oil which comes in a spray bottle and can be sprayed on the skin. It relaxes muscles and blood vessels. I use it daily on my back as it helps ease lower back pain. I also mix 70% DMSO and 30% water in a spray bottle and spray it over the magnesium oil which carries the oil deeper in to the muscle. Search “magnesium oil” on amazon.com and you will find a multitude or reviews about magnesium oil.

  4. mary

    How much magnesium is ideal? Since have read most people are low or deficient.
    Thank you

  5. mary

    What about raw spinach? Use raw in smoothie. Is this useless?
    Necessary for spinach be cooked to get the magnesium?
    And this would be ‘steaming’? To not wash away the vitamin/minerals?
    Thank you

  6. Mary Lou

    Have strong family history of osteoporosis and am a thin white female, age 69. began losing some bone mass, but not even osteopenia, @ 46 years and was put on fosamax. 4 months on the fosamax and developed severe bone and muscle pain and weakness. Ended up in a wheelchair, needing 5 – 7 minutes to get in and out of a car, missing work. A month into this I realized 2 things: I had forgot to reup my fosamax RX, and I was beginning to feel a little better each day. looked at the crimp for fosamax, and the words “muscle and joint pain and weakness” jumped out.
    Since then, I’ve taken daily 5000IU Vit D3, magnesium citrate/aspartate/oxide, vit. K2, 6 ounces of almond/coconut milk, fish oil and at least 4 days a week of at least moderate physical activity.

    Bone density scans every 2 years since the age of 49 shows “statistically insignificant bone density INCREASE.” Note: bone density has remained stable and very little if any loss for 20 years!

    Vit D testing has consistently been at the high end of serum levels. I do lessen D levels when at the beach all day or high outdoor activities, out of an abundant sense of precaution. No kidney stones, heart issues, cancer or other indications of problems so far. Cannot find any research that include mag, K2, etc., along with vit D. Research literature cites difficulty of non-standardized testing/result language. It would seem with today’s computers this could be remedied so more definitive results could be known. Frustrating…..

  7. Virginia

    Sounds like DAGONET had a rough morning, up at 5AM. TPP offers us advice on supplements, drugs, and life style changes that make for a healthier you. It is up to each of us to use whatever information that is pertinent to each individual and to not just blindly follow. The Graedons seem to do their best to provide scientific backup for their opinions and clearly state when they cannot. I am certain their research capabilities are way above mine.

  8. Frances

    I have been using a powdered magnesium supplement called CALM to treat chronic pain in my neck (C6-C7). After years of using prescribed narcotics, I weaned myself off and began the magnesium supplement. It works!! I have Tramadol as a back-up pain reliever but only need it about 5-6 times per month. My neurologist informed me that magnesium is often given by IV in hospitals to treat pain. I wish he had told me years ago.

  9. Animalia

    FIrst of all, I appreciate the People’s Pharmacy very much for discussing and exploring all types of medicine–AMA, Alternative, and Folk/natural medicine. One thing I wonder about though, is the poor kidney function and low magnesium diet. I know several people with compromised kidneys, and all are having calcification problems–stones in organs and calcified heart valves. Since magnesium is needed to dissolve dangerous calcium excesses, why doesn’t anyone talk about reducing these patients’ calcium intake? Instead, some nephrologists are pushing Tums and Rolaids on these people. The American diet is RICH in calcium but LOW in magnesium. So the calcium levels are building up and causing all sorts of harmful blockages. Is there an answer for people with low kidney function? Will reducing calcium in the diet help?

  10. james

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking of nutrients like you think of drugs. When you think about supplementing Vitamin D, your first choice should be sunshine, the most natural source. Also be aware that calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron are going to be affected. Vitamins A and K are also affected. Since vitamin D is a hormone, changes in thyroid, pituitary, beta cell, estrogen and testosterone will also occur. The microbiome will also shift. Nobody said nutrition was simple.

  11. Alice M

    At a conference for people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, we were told that soaking one’s feet in Epson salts was a better way to get magnesium into our system than taking oral supplements. The panel of doctors said that what we took in through our skin was more than our stomachs would comfortably handle. I asked my pharmacist, and she didn’t know.

  12. Laura
    Richmond VA

    Are there supplements to build bone–not prescription?

  13. Mat Ratra

    Yes, Mg 500mg plus 1000 unit of D3 at night daily.

  14. Luke

    taking supplements is no substitute for exercise..preferably outdoors like bike riding.

  15. aki

    I am aleays low on Vitamin D, but I make it ip with a multivitamin and extra magnesium oxide. A separate vitamin D supp seems to bother my thyroid and no can say why.

    • Torrey

      If you react poorly to vitamin D it might be due to wool allergy since most D is made from lanolin from sheep. consider a Vegan D3 from lichen or algae.

    • Carolyn

      I’m interested in learning more about the thyroid/vitamin D connection, Aki. How was it determined that it was the supplement that caused your problem (even though the cause is still unknown)? I’m on Armour Thyroid after having surgery, but feel that my dosage may not be high enough, despite the “numbers” showing otherwise. And I take supplemental D and magnesium.

    • Fred

      Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed; you still may be deficient. You might consider switching to magnesium glycinate, or a chelated form.

  16. Dagonet

    The Peoples Pharmacy constantly pushes the dangerous drugs vitamin D2, D3, why? They NEVER push natural sources for it. If this is all TPP knows, then you need to get your information elsewhere. If TPP pushes these dangerous drugs for their own agenda, then they need to be shut down, and you need to get your information elsewhere.

    • Eleanor

      Am very grateful for TPP newsletters & information, especially the way they keep me informed on all the meds that are being compromised. My pharmacy does not nor my doctors who seem to hear about them at a much later date if at all. TPP gives out the RIGHT info, and anyone who says they do not has their head buried. Again, thank you.

    • Bill
      St. Maries ID

      Happy New Year to you. Following TPP has vastly improved my health in numerous, numerous ways.

    • Kat

      On what do you base your statement about D2 and D3 being dangerous? My doctor has prescribed D3 for me.

    • Bob

      Dagonet. You need to be more specific about your comments on D2 & D3. These vitamins have been proven to be safe (with limits) for many years and doctors recommend these supplements for those patients who have low D levels. Furthermore, if the chemical make up is identical than it doesn’t matter where the source is from.

      Now if you are referencing the added ingredients that some manufacturers add to the vitamin D compound then I would agree. However, most (if not all) reputable suppliers of vitamins do not put additives in their products. Need more information regarding your comments.

    • Jim

      Vitamins are not drugs, and Vitamin D3 is not a “dangerous drug.” It’s probably better, in general, to have a grasp of the terms you’re using in your comments.

      Further, the People’s Pharmacy isn’t “pushing” anything. It’s just an informative article.

      Good grief. More careful reading might be helpful. Just a thought.

    • Peggy G.

      “Bother my thyroid” is not a medical term. Could you be specific?

    • Lonne

      I’ve never felt The Peoples Pharmacy “pushed” anything except good health and common sense. Their advice has helped me maintain excellent health.

    • Laurie
      Waseca, MN

      You are mistaken on this article. TPP gave natural sources for Magnesium: Pumpkin Seeds, Almonds, Cashews. I have no idea why you made this ridiculous comment.

    • Mike
      Madison, Wi.

      If you read this site regularly or listened to their broadcasts, you would not get such an opinion. You seem to be jumping to unnecessary conclusions. Start your new year right, and do some research.

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