The People's Perspective on Medicine

Is Magnesium a Miracle Mineral?

Although magnesium gets little attention in office visits, it is critical for good health and can be very useful as a home remedy for a range of problems.

The body needs minerals to function. Without adequate levels of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium we would perish.

Doctors often encourage patients to cut back on sodium and increase calcium. Potassium levels are monitored in routine blood tests, and if low, a potassium supplement is usually prescribed.

Magnesium, on the other hand, often gets short shrift. It is frequently the forgotten mineral, even though it is absolutely crucial for every cell in the body.

Drugs Can Lower Magnesium Levels:

Diuretics are found in most blood pressure medicines. Such drugs not only deplete the body of potassium they can also cause low levels of magnesium.

So can acid-suppressing drugs called proton pump inhibitors. These include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec). Most people are unaware that their heartburn medicine or blood pressure pills could cause hypomagnesemia, (perilously low magnesium levels (Gastroenterology Research and Practice, online, May 4, 2015).

What Are the Dangers of Low Magnesium?

What happens when magnesium levels fall into the danger zone? Symptoms can include weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle cramps, irregular heart rhythms, depression, changes in personality, confusion and disorientation. If magnesium drops too low it can cause cardiac arrest.

Magnesium as a Home Remedy:

Magnesium is not only essential for good health, it has become a popular home remedy.

Constipation:

Readers report that magnesium is their best solution to constipation. After all, milk of magnesia remains a classic drugstore solution to this common complaint.

Here is just one of the many messages we have received along this line:

“I have a solution for constipation I would like to share with your readers. I take around 500 mg magnesium every night. The result is what ‘normal’ people experience: a regular, comfortable bowel movement. Nothing else I tried in the past helped me so gently.”

Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, though, so don’t overdo.

Depression:

Others report that magnesium helps against depression:

“Please tell your readers that taking moderate amounts of a magnesium supplement can alleviate depression. I have personally had good results taking magnesium at a dose of 400 mg a day.

“Last year my girlfriend had a friend who was suffering from major depression and had to go on disability from her teaching job as a result. She was under medical care, but still having a lot of difficulties. After we gave her a big bottle of magnesium tablets, she started to recover. She’s doing much better now and is back to teaching and going out and doing things. I can’t think of another treatment that is so cheap, simple and safe.”

Science supports this concept (Pharmacological Reports, vol. 63, number 3, 2013).

Other Uses:

Other uses for magnesium include as a sleep aid, an antidote to leg cramps, a treatment for migraines and to help control blood sugar. Readers report that topical magnesium in the form of milk of magnesia can help control acne on the face and body odor when applied to underarms. To learn more about “Magnesium the Neglected Mineral” check out our one-hour radio interview with Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and Tieraona Low Dog, MD.

More Amazing Magnesium Stories:

Sleep:

We received this message 14 years ago:

“I have suffered from episodes of insomnia for years and have tried many remedies without relief. Cutting down on caffeine and taking valerian didn’t work. Over-the-counter sleep aids such as Benadryl and Tylenol P.M. made me groggy the next day. Even prescription drugs like Ambien didn’t help.

“Then a friend suggested I try taking magnesium at bedtime. Since I was already taking a calcium-magnesium supplement daily, I started taking the calcium in the daytime and the magnesium (250 mg) at night. Magnesium has helped my insomnia more than anything else I’ve ever tried. There are still occasional nights when I don’t sleep well, but they are few and far between.

“I have heard that magnesium supplements can cause diarrhea, but I haven’t had that problem. I hope this information will help someone else.”

Leg Cramps & RLS:

“Many people have horrible leg cramps and cannot take quinine because it has been taken off the market. I am 70 years old and have suffered with leg cramps all my life.

“Years ago, I used to take OTC quinine tablets, but quinine water never worked for me. A long time ago I found that 250 mg tablets of magnesium at bedtime worked like a charm in warding off leg cramps and restless leg syndrome.”

Magnesium for Migraines:

“I had been suffering from migraines since I was 12 years old. I had suddenly began to suffer from constipation as well. After I learned my food triggers for migraines (FINALLY @ 50 years of age!) and that did help, but if a low pressure weather system visited my area, I would get a raging migraine…what can one do about the weather?

“OK, back to the constipation problem. I started taking chelated magnesium, 250mg, 3 each every night before bed (this is an EarthFare brand). No more constipation, but better yet, I have not had a migraine in literally months!”

OK. We could go on and on about the benefits of magnesium. You can learn a great deal more about this amazing mineral by putting “magnesium” into a search on our PeoplesPharmacy.com website.

A word of caution: too much magnesium can be hard on the kidneys if they are not functioning normally. As mentioned, diarrhea is often a tip off that someone is getting too much of this mineral.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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My doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia over 15 years ago, and in the years since then I have learned — largely on my own, using information gleaned from The People’s Pharmacy and elsewhere — the importance of magnesium in controlling this condition, at least in the form in which it affects me. The key, I have found, is that stress — whether physical, mental or emotional — quickly depletes my body of magnesium, and if this depletion is not quickly rectified, it results in the pains that I identify with fibromyalgia.

My last bout of fibromyalgia occurred just about a year ago, and I have been keeping detailed records ever since regarding magnesium intake, pain, constipation and other factors that I discovered to be of possible interest over the course of many months. I will try to summarize my experience and my findings as briefly as possible; I could go into more detail, if desired.

This most recent bout was precipitated by an allergic reaction when the road outside my house was repaved, during a period when all the house windows were open. An allergist had identified a serious allergy to petrochemicals (as in tar) many years ago, but unfortunately I did not think about this quickly enough when I began suffering first from headaches, and then from constipation and soon after that from fibromyalgia pain. Although I eventually increased my magnesium intake, well over a week had passed before I thought to do this, and it then took several months to bring the condition under control.

One factor that I have since hypothesized may be significant — a factor that you may find of interest — is that I ran out of gin-soaked raisins during the early stages of this recent bout of fibromyalgia. I had long been taking them for arthritis (per your recommendations), but in the midst of my fibromyalgia agony, I figured that arthritis was the least of my worries, so I just let the gin-soaked raisins go — until, some months later, when something I read in your column about the raisins, if taken before bedtime, perhaps reducing the number of times one had to urinate during the night. This info clicked with some other observations I’d been making, so I began taking the raisins regularly again. I cannot say for sure whether my improvement at this point was a coincidence or whether it may have been due in part to the raisins, but I am inclined to think they were a factor.

I have concluded that, for me at least, replenishing magnesium as promptly as possible is critical for averting serious affects of fibromyalgia. The longer the depletion continues, the harder it is to rectify and the longer it takes. I used to regard the onset of constipation as my guide to when I needed to increase my magnesium intake, but as a result of the records I have kept for these many months I have now found that the number of nighttime urinations is a much quicker and more accurate guide: urinating once during the night is normal for me, but anything more, even just one more time getting up to pee, is a sure sign that I need to take more magnesium in the morning. As long as I do that, all is well.

I have terrible migraines daily but still need to go to work, etc. I am going to try the cream magnesium and see if that works. I’m really excited about magnesium as a supplement. For constipation I use Metamucil, I stir two small spoons of the orange flavor into water everyday and it works wonders. Try it!

Restless Leg Syndrome could be the cause of low minerals: potasium , or iron or magnesium, zinc or…. so it is important to check whitch one is the one you are defficient. Our vegetables and fruits are not as rich in minerals as once were. Also some medications (or foods) can deplete the amounts we absorbe.

Several people who commented had problems one way or the other with magnesium supplements. This advice on magnesium is from Dr. William Davis, author of the book, Wheat Belly. I can’t seem to take any form of magnesium supplement but this DIY magnesium water works for me and is actually quite pleasant to take.

Magnesium water
This simple recipe yields magnesium bicarbonate, a highly absorbable form of magnesium to restore tissue magnesium with least potential for diarrhea. A 4-ounce serving provides 90 mg of elemental magnesium; 4 ounces twice per day thereby adds an additional 180 mg of elemental magnesium to your diet.

Note that the milk of magnesia must be unflavored, as flavorings block the reaction. Be sure to label your bottle to prevent any unexpected guzzling by someone (which results in diarrhea). Magnesium water does not need to be refrigerated if consumed within 1-2 weeks. The end-product will no longer be carbonated, as the carbon dioxide reacts with magnesium oxide of the Milk of Magnesia to yield magnesium bicarbonate.

2 liter bottle of seltzer (not club soda)
3 tablespoons unflavored milk of magnesia

Uncap the seltzer and pour off a few tablespoons. Shake the milk of magnesia, then pour out 3 tablespoons. (Most brands come with a handy little measuring cup.) Pour into the seltzer slowly.
Cap securely, then shake until all sediment has dissolved. Allow to sit for 15 minutes and it will clarify. Drink 4 ounces twice per day. Label the bottle to keep others from inadvertently drinking it (and experiencing diarrhea by drinking too much).

If rapid restoration of magnesium is desired, e.g., chronic migraine headaches or atrial fibrillation, I’ve had patients drink 8 ounces twice per day to provide 360 mg elemental magnesium per day. Just be aware that even this great preparation has potential to cause loose stools.

What are the kinds of magnesium, which are the best, and what are the baseline dosages? Should it be taken with anything like calcium or potassium? The article gave us just enough info to be dangerous!

I take 250mg of magnesium nitrate daily to help with leg cramps that will awaken me at night, and for regularity. Works like a charm for both. I see a difference very quickly if I forget to take it (I take it about noon with a few other sulpplements). I’m 66 and just had my yearly check up and everything (except cholesterol) is well within accepted range (cholesterol is regulated by statins, which I take every other day, which keeps me from getting muscle pain).

Kat, interesting that you have used magnesium nitrate. Can you share with me why you decided on this form? And where did you purchase it from? Thx.

I have quite severe insomnia, so after some research, I purchased some Magnesium Taurate, which is supposed to be the best absorbed kind, but it did absolutely nothing for me. I was quite disappointed. What are the different types and which one should I buy?

I’ve been taking magnesium citrate nightly to prevent leg cramps in my calves. If I don’t take the tablet (200 mg) I do get leg cramps (even with the bar of soap under the bottom sheet). My former PCP, who I really liked, had no idea what magnesium citrate is. I think he thought it was some sort of liquid laxative. Anyway, when I go to any Dr., I always mention the magnesium I’m taking in case there are any negative interactions with my usual BP and cholesterol meds. Haven’t heard of any.

Magnesium is truly a wonder mineral that I discovered 12 years into my 32 years as a physician. Apologies to all of those prior patients. All 11 organ systems benefit or will suffer without a full, and reserve, TISSUE LEVELs of magnesium.

Be careful!
Blood levels, RBC levels, tissue levels or tissue effective levels are all not equal. So in my office, I will give IM injections to boost the levels. Ouch – they can hurt withOUT lidocaine in the mixture.
I used to give IV mag but that was too time consuming.

Also, if you do not stir or mix the magnesium into the tissues the mag can not be used effectively so you will not have full benefit from your doses. Mixing, blending and kneading these trace minerals into the flesh is mandatory with unwinding, yoga, acupuncture, dry needling, deep needling and travell type deep injection stimulative needling.

In the office setting, I go by what I witness and think lo-mag with these clues (in addition to the above):
Muscle System: Aches, wandering pains, stiffness, cramps, spasms, weakness, loss of muscle power and stamina.
Electrical/Mind: Erratic and quirky feelings in the body; memory loss.
Cardiovascular: Erratic BP, pulse with dizziness and vertigo
Pulmonary: stubborn asthma and bronchitis.
Endocrine: Unstable or erratic blood sugar readings.
Gut: Bowels that are loose or blocked, etc.

If you have chronic pain of any type which is caused by stressed, contracted, tight and jerky muscles any of your physical therapy or pain therapy will likely falter without a full tank of magnesium in your peripheral tissues.

I took a 200 mg Magnesium Citrate with my evening meal and it caused me to break out in a cold sweat and I couldn’t get off the couch. After resting I was finally able to fall in bed and slept 10 hrs. Had some upper pains, though above the rib cage. I have a colon hernia caused from a colonoscopy which doesn’t help, have a kinked up colon caused from laxatives and am taking Linzess 72 mcg in order to eliminate.

But the Magnesium helped and I didn’t have to take the Linzess that drains me and keeps me chained to the comode. I only have the Linzess Rx and 1 other that I don’t take but take lots of vitamins. The pharmacist advised to eliminate the vitamins with Magnesium & I did that this morning. I would like to try and take maybe a half of the Magnesium, but am concerned about another reaction. What do you suggest?

Most doctors won’t suggest a mag supplement to patients, because they are going to push prescription drugs. There are many types of magnesium, which I didn’t know until I joined a magnesium group. I take mag malate during the day, because it’s supposed to help with energy, and mag glycinate before bed to help relax me.

I have been taking 400-500mg of Magnesium Citrate and Magnesium Maleate for several months now. I am amazed at how much my health has been improving! I have always eaten a healthy diet and exercised but apparently I needed Magnesium. I have had terrible digestives issues, insomnia, restless legs, constipation, and nighttime leg/feet spasms. Every one of these conditions have improved a lot with taking Magnesium! I find it miraculous as I had tried EVERYTHING else to help with the above problems.

There are several forms of Magnesium, some much more absorable than others, so it is very important to do your homework. One of the many helpful sites is drugs.com; there you can find overviews of drugs, uses, dosages, interactions, etc. Check a few reliable sites, not advertisers. If you have a doctor, BE SURE to inform him or her of ALL drugs and supplements you use so they can check out potential drug interactions. Pharmacists can also be good help in this regard. 500 mg of Magnesium Oxide daily has helped greatly with my constipation. Due to somewhat decreased kidney function shown in Spring 2015, I was directed to stop all RX and otc anti-inflammatories (ouch!); better but still low 6 weeks later, so directed to remain off them another 3 months (triple ouch!!). If it’s still low next check, I will remind doc of Magnesium supplementation. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

I had 18 inches of my colon removed in 2009. It was not due to cancer. But I am having a difficult time being able to take magnesium. I cut 250 mg into four pieces, which helps my constipation, but causes me bowl movements several times during the day. Can’t seem to find the right amount.

The article on magnesium was very helpful. I never knew it could help insomnia. Thanks!

It should be noted that there are many types of magnesium. Some which absorb well and others that don’t. For constipation, I take magnesium citrate because it absorbs well.

nutritious

There are several forms of magnesium pills. Can you explain the difference and which is preferred?
Epsom salt baths are relaxing.
Epsom salts can be used in the garden. Would using it on my Swiss chard make my veggies more nutrucious?

I would really like to see references to clinical studies of the absorption rates of various forms of magnesium supplements before committing to a supplementation regime. In other words, objective measures rather than assumptions which we, including doctors, are prone to make.

The reason MoM is used as a laxative is because magnesium hydroxide molecules are big and grab onto water, keeping it from passing back through the intestinal wall. If magnesium hydroxide and water doesn’t get through, then Magnesium alone shouldn’t in appreciable amounts. Similarly with magnesium chloride, and other laxatives in general. I would expect that like B12, a tiny amount gets through with megadoses, but unlike B12 a megadose of a laxative has substantial side effects.

Topical magnesium chloride that I have been using now for several years delivers as much magnesium as you need and/or want and because it does not have to go through the digestive system but is absorbed through your skin, has no adverse effects on kidneys, nor does it cause diarrhea – it has a wonderfully calming effect and I love it! I’m pretty certain it has helped me have better blood pressure readings also.

What I remember being told a few years ago at a “Living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome” conference, was that magnesium can be helpful in dealing with chronic pain. They suggested, however, that soaking our feet in Epson salts would be a better way to get magnesium than taking it orally. They suggested that diabetics consult their doctors first, but that for the rest of us it should be a safer alternative to taking it orally, which we were told was hard on digestive systems.

Many people drink alcohol–more often than not in excess–which causes frequent urination. It will also deplete magnesium. Perhaps some of these people who have to be on stomach acid inhibitors are alcoholics (most will rarely if ever admit it to their doctor being afraid of being judged) which is why they have to be on those medications.

I was experiencing severe vertigo. My doctor sent me for several tests including scans. When no solution was found I spent several months in ineffective physical therapy. My doctor then prescribed a highly absorbable magnesium supplement that he sells through his practice. Though I was already taking magnesium with my daily supplements he explained that many inferior supplements are not properly absorbed. The result was most favorable was almost instantaneous.

Al would you please tell us which form of Magnesium that is highly absorbable that your doctor recommended you take?

Did you have other symptoms along with the dizziness when you were deficient in magnesium?Have you tried epsom salt?Thanks!

Magnesium helped greatly with my Restless Leg Syndrome. I took it until one of my doctors told me that my feratin (iron) levels were too low and should be at least 60. I got on an iron supplement and was able to get off of the magnesium. If your iron isn’t low and you have RLS try magnesium.

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