The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 969: Magnesium the Neglected Mineral

Magnesium is essential for good health, yet it gets too little attention and ordinary diets may come up short.
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Magnesium the Neglected Mineral

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Are you deficient in magnesium? Chances are you’ve never thought about it. Magnesium is a fascinating mineral that every cell in the body uses for a variety of activities. Yet very little attention is paid to this nutrient.

Learn why magnesium is so vital and how to tell if your levels might be low. Which medications can deplete magnesium stores, and how can you get enough? Find out why magnesium might help heal migraines, diabetes, fatigue, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and a multitude of other disorders.

This Week’s Guests

Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, is on the medical advisory board of the Nutritional Magnesium Association. She is author of The Magnesium Miracle. Her websites are and The photo is of Dr. Dean.

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is Director of Fellowship for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona. She has served as Chair of the United States Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements-Botanicals Expert Committee.

Her latest book is Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well without Prescriptions, from National Geographic. Her website is She also mentioned as a source for supplement information.

Listen to the Podcast

This show is scheduled for broadcast on November 8, 2014. The podcast of this program will be available on Monday, November 10, 2014 The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for six weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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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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I did a little investigating and found that Magnesium Glycinate has a high body absorbability and gentle and feel it is the best of many. Everybody is different so you will have to decide what type of Magnesium is right for you. I take 100 mg once a day.

My multivitamin also contains 300 mg of Magnesium Oxide so I think between the two types, that is plenty to take. I used to get horribly painful feet and calf muscle cramps every night, not any more since I started taking extra Magnesium. The brand name I prefer is PURE.

After listening to this broadcast, I bought a jar of magnesium (250mg), taking one each night with the rest of my supplements (multivitamin, d, b12, niacin). Within a week I was sleeping much, much better, got up feeling good, and was relaxed all day. Maybe I’m just the “outlier” because I’m the only one who reports sleep improvement. To double-check myself, I stopped taking the magnesium, and my sleep quickly deteriorated. A week later, I started the magnesium, again, and quickly got the same good result. Just to mention it .

In response to Frank’s 2015 comment about being an outlier, I also had a dramatic sleep improvement the first day I took a magnesium supplement. It was wonderful. After years of sleeping sporadically with aggressive clenching and even night terrors, I had a long, peaceful sleep the first time I took Natural Calm, the magnesium drink. It has continued being a great sleep aid to me, but the difference isn’t as dramatic now since in general my sleep has improved. : )

I can see there is a lot of confusion from all the comments I’m reading here. I have personally followed Dr. Dean for six months now and use her products which I highly recommend. I have had adrenal fatigue off and on for ten years, hypothyroidism for over 20 years and osteoarthritis.
I started taking her magnesium, later added her 12-mineral supplement and am titration iodine. My adrenal fatigue is gone…no crashing moments, stopped my hypothyroid prescription meds over time, stopped my iron supplement and changed my entire supplementation regimen based on Dr. Dean’s recommendations. You will get all your questions answered and how to do what I did by going to her website……an NO, I am not paid to say this.
You have to be committed to the process and read, read, read everything she has written and her blogs. I read a lot and have always preferred alternative medicine. Dr. Dean’s incredible information she shares makes a lot of sense to me and she doesn’t dangle a carrot in front of you but gives you instructions on how to do what I did and a whole lot more…..I am so thankful to have found her.

Terry and Joe, wondering if you know how controversial Dr. Dean is.

Magnesium is an essential mineral used in over 500 chemical reactions in the body. It affects everything from depression to the efficient functioning of the heart. After trying many different magnesium supplements, I’ve found that the best one is an ionic form absorbed easily by the body. To avoid the laxative effect, add 1-2 tsp to a liter (4cups) of water and sip throughout the day. One other thing to add is 1/4 tsp Celtic Sea salt. This mixture adds magnesium as well as other mineral salts that are needed by the body. I’ve found this combo to help greatly with my atrial fibrillation.

For those wondering what type of magnesium to take, search (in your favorite browser) using something like “types of magnesium” as the parameter. You should find many articles explaining the different types of magnesium and their bioavailability.

I found this article helpful when I was deciding which type of magnesium to take (I take magnesium citrate 250mg by the way but have taken magnesium oxide in the past):
I believe Dr. Carolyn Dean suggested 300mg of magnesium in the interview. The magnesium that I buy from Costco has 250mg softgels. It works for me.

If I miss more than 2 days of my magnesium I can almost be assured of a migraine. I don’t miss many doses. I also eat many foods that are high in magnesium but I need the supplement to avoid migraines. My doctor suggested that I start taking magnesium more than 10 years ago as a migraine preventative. She is a wonderfully compassionate and intelligent doctor.

Wheat? What is the issue? Is the “defoliant” the cause or reason for wheat “sensitivity”?

Good presentation BUT the the site for info from Gov agency is the worst site I’ve ever experienced, can’t find anything pages not linked together.
That’s too bad I really wanted to read the recommended publication she recommended on magnesium and MOM

I was suffering from Constipation, Tooth Decay, Back & Neck aches, Fatigue, Lack of Sleep, Left Eye Vision Deterioration (similar to Macular Degeneration), Frequent Urges for Urination at night and Hissing sounds in both ears. After wasting time and money after doctors, I found an answer to my prayers and started taking Magnesium about 6 months ago.
Following are my results (subjective of course).

1. Constipation: 70% improvement or better
2. Tooth Decay: Except for teeth I had lost, it seems to have stopped any further decay.
3. Back and Neck Aches: 70% or better improvement.
4. Fatigue: 50% improvement
5. Eyes: better vision than I had before for sure, confirmed by routine eye exams.
6. Urination: 90% improvement
7. Ears: No improvement and perhaps some deterioration. Not caused by Magnesium I feel.

God has put this healing in this mineral and I am grateful to God for this help. And Calcium was the culprit. I took calcium supplements, juices with added calcium, calcium added foods, etc., etc. before I discovered what was really wrong and what to take and what not to take. Now I take nothing with added calcium if I can at all help it. No milk, no calcium supplements, no juices with added calcium, etc.

What form and how much do you take? How did you decide?

The health food store has several varieties of magnesium. Which one is the best and how much is a good daily dose for blood pressure?

Just want to see the comments threads.

After reading several studies about the vasodilation effects of magnesium, I tried 800 mg per day for a week. It was a combination of magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. The first day went well. After that, I found that it made my legs very weak. I returned to a more moderate dosage and my leg strength improved. I suspect that the magnesium was interfering with calcium which is needed for muscle contraction.

I also take 2000 IU of vitamin D3. I found that I was getting painful leg cramps at night even though I was taking magnesium. By changing the time that I take the two so that they’re separated by several hours, i.e., magnesium in the morning and vitamin D3 in the evening, I have eliminated the leg cramps.

Regarding Dr. Low Dog’s talk on vitamin B12, having elevated levels of methylmalonic acid (MMA) is specific to B12 deficiency. However, antibiotics can cause a false negative giving low MMA results due to disruption of propionic acid metabolism by gut bacteria even if B12 is low.

Lastly, for great information on B12 and its many roles in maintaining health read the book “Could It Be B12?” by Sally Pacholok, RN and Jeffrey Stuart, DO. One thing these authors make clear is that the current US standards for determining deficiency are set too low. Many labs use a range of 200-900 pg/mL. However, neurological symptoms can arise if B12 is lower than about 400 pg/mL. In comparison, Japan uses a range for B12 from 500-1200 pg/mL.

I struggled terribly with insomnia; at the advice of my doctor I added a magnesium supplement. It seems to have worked very well.
I’m just not sure how long I should continue the supplements.

What foods are a good sources of magnesium?

Joe and Terry, I didn’t come away from the show knowing which form of Mg to take. I visited the big 3 pharmacies, and all the pharmacists said to take MgO, but their reasoning was that’s what the MDs prescribe. The show was hardly an endorsement for MD knowledge of the subject. I did hear that MgO is only 4% absorbed, but I don’t know what’s possible for desirable. Also, if there is a big variation in absorption, then there should be a corresponding variation in daily intake.

Magnesium citrate is absorbed well, and magnesium chloride is less likely than MgO (magnesium oxide) to cause diarrhea.

If you get a subscription to Consumer Labs, it will give you the opportunity to evaluate the vitamins you take. It is the only place I know of that actually tests vitamins to make sure they have the stated ingredients. I have used Consumer Labs for years and never buy supplements without checking with them first. There is a fee, of course, and I think it is worth it. My latest search was for magnesium.

As stated before, Magnesium deserves more attention. Dr. Low Dog is a national treasure and usually I learn something whenever she speaks. The recommendation of a multiple vitamin is problematic unless patients live in a soft water/low calcium area, don’t take any of the medications and supplements with cheap calcium binders(not always labeled), don’t take calcium and don’t take the MVI in the morning or every day. Calcium is good for you but not in pill form. An MVI, calcium pill, 3 cheap vitamins with calcium binder, or scores of calcium added foods used in the morning will prevent (through competition for gut receptors where calcium always wins for 16 hours) absorption of Mg++, Fe++, Zn++, Cu++ and all doubly charged medications we need.

The combination of Calcium with Magnesium in pills displays ignorance of how medications are absorbed. This gut physiology was worked out before 1975 so pill makers need to start getting with the program. One bit of good news, Costco is switching melatonin to a SL quick dissolve which eliminates the calcium. This kind of calcium-free melatonin is really important for migraine patients who can be prescribed 3 or 4 a night.

Magnesium deficiency causes many patients to be distressed. The diagnosis is not straightforward and the treatment/replacement of magnesium is not easy – further – insurance companies don’t want to pay for new ideas so injections for example are not covered well. Many labs have bad “normal” levels for Mg++, in areas with hard water where docs are pushing diuretics, PPI and send many patients with diabetes to the hospital – that hospital lab may think 1.5 is normal.

At excellent labs, 1.8 is considered normal but at that level, intracellular Mg++ may be deficient and causing symptoms in 25% of patients. The most amazing use of Magnesium is in the treatment of acute migraines -1 gram MgCl IV push causes a thermal flush from head to legs for 60 seconds and resolution of headache in most patients – and they feel good for 50 cents of medication and can go back to work. Thanks to Burt Berkson M.D. for giving me this tip in 2003.

Worry about excessive magnesium doses should be reserved for severe renal failure and they usually don’t have low Magnesium levels. Ask OB’s what doses pre-eclampsia patients can get, I have seen 30 grams given in a day – everybody was pretty floppy after those big doses but all did well.

Just have to add that I cannot take magnesium because it interacts with the Digoxin (Lanoxin) I am on, giving me irregular heart rate.

Just want to see comment threads

I recently found online instructions for making DIY magnesium bicarbonate water.

You first make a concentrate by adding milk of magnesia to club soda or plain carbonated water. A chemical reaction takes place to create magnesium bicarbonate. Then you add a certain amount of your concentrate to regular water, and what you have is supposed to be very similar to some natural spring waters that people find healing.

If you want to make some, look up the instructions for proper amounts. Some fizzing does occur when you first add MoM to the club soda, so be prepared to put the cap back on real fast!

Our bodies need magnesium, and our bodies also use bicarbonates. I love this mag bicarb water, and feel that it’s a wonderful way to get magnesium, bicarbonates, (and water) throughout the day.
It’s also fun being a kitchen chemist.

How can you offer us this without giving us either a reference or the proportions?

Thanks for Magnesium. Started 4 years ago for muscle cramps and spasms and relief since. If I stop, cramps back in a day. 500 mg cheleated total per day, spread across day.

I also started taking Magnesium not quite 2 yrs ago and my blood pressure has gone down to an acceptable and safe level.

I write from Peru, I love Dr. Carolyn. I have read all her book :El Milagro del Magnesio . It is really wonderful. I take Magnesium a long time ago 500 mg. every day and I am feeling very good.
Thanks again
God bless Carolyn Dean

How do I know how much magnesium to take daily?

I test “high normal” on both of the compounds that produce kidney stones.

I was advised to take magnesium oxide to counter-act one and B-6 to counter-act the other.

After finding separate sources of these two, I found a company that produces both in one tablet that does the trick within 5 minutes of feeling renal colic coming on.

This is much better than taking a mild form of a high blood pressure med that my urologist wanted me to take (possible reaction of allergy to sunlight [in a warm climate]).

I am a diabetic, type 2, and have been for a number of years. I took Glucophauge (Metformin) until recently. It worked great. Then, about 6 months ago I started having severe stomach pains and intestinal problems. After tests were done, my Doctor said it was being caused by the metformin. He changed me to Januvia and the pain stopped. Why would this happen? I am not fond of Januvia.

LAST year, in the news, it was mentioned that some new diabetic drugs (one of them januvia) could cause cancer.
It is possible that the problems you had were caused by lack of vitamins or minerals, and deficiencies like B12, magnesium etc. which is normal with metformin.

MY QUESTION IS: I am confused now, and I don’t know what type of magnesium I should buy or take. My doctor told me my magnesium is very low but she didn’t say what type I should take, especially because previously I have had kidney stones. I would appreciate if someone could advise me. I am a little confused with some of the comments (since I don’t understand the ‘vocabulary words’ used)…

I started taking Magnesium 2 years ago after I read that it could help me sleep at night but an unexpected benefit was it lowered my blood pressure and keeps it under control .

Kathy: What levels of magnesium did you take daily and what kind of changes did you see in your BP?

Joe/Terry: Can taking various minerals daily (recommended amount) be a problem? I take selenium, magnesium, zinc, etc. every other day just so I don’t get too much into my body but this is just a guess on my part.


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