Do You Need More Magnesium?

Dr. Rebecca Tocher-Richmond, ND
Magnesium is involved in over 600 biochemical pathways in the body (1).  As a result, it plays an important role in many common health conditions and symptoms.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps and twitches, headaches, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, chocolate cravings, and much more.  Some people don’t experience any obvious magnesium deficiency symptoms at all, yet magnesium still becomes a very helpful part of their naturopathic treatment plan.

Magnesium has been shown to help all types of headaches.  Since magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant it’s useful in the prevention of tension headaches (2).  Other studies have used IV magnesium in the emergency room for the treatment of severe migraines.  In one study, complete elimination of pain was observed in 80% of patients within 15 minutes of the infusion of magnesium (3).

Menstrual Cramps
Due to its role in relaxing muscles, it’s not surprising that magnesium is also helpful for the treatment of menstrual cramps (4).    The research has shown that magnesium supplementation decreases the need for additional pain killers for cramps (5).  It has also been shown to help with other symptoms associated with PMS and peri-menopause.

High Blood Pressure
Interest in the ability of magnesium to help with cardiovascular disease has been growing for years.  High blood pressure or hypertension is a significant public health challenge because it is associated with cardiovascular disease and premature death.  Low magnesium levels increase the risk of developing hypertension (6).  Fortunately, research has shown that supplementing with magnesium can naturally bring blood pressure back into a healthy range (7,8).

Magnesium plays an important role in mood disorders such as anxiety.  Neurotransmitters are the brain messengers that control mood, and magnesium is important for neurotransmitter production.  In several studies, people who took magnesium supplements reported less anxiety (9).  Since chronic stress depletes magnesium, many of our busy patients feel calmer and more productive when taking magnesium supplements.

Magnesium may also help boost athletic performance, fight depression, decrease inflammation, resolve constipation, treat insomnia, and help with the treatment of diabetes.

Magnesium is found in many common foods such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, fatty fish, avocados and bananas, but it is very difficult for many people to meet their needs through diet alone.  Certain health conditions, lifestyle habits, and medications can disrupt your body’s ability to absorb magnesium and increase your magnesium needs even further.

Blood tests for magnesium are readily available but aren’t very useful for evaluating magnesium status in the body overall.  Magnesium is kept mostly in our bones and soft tissues.  The amount of magnesium in our bloodstream is only about 1% of the total magnesium in our bodies.

The recommended dose of magnesium is very individualized.  Magnesium is also available in various forms such as magnesium citrate, magnesium bis-glycinate, liquid magnesium, magnesium lotion, or even magnesium injections.   As always your naturopathic doctor is the best person to consult regarding your specific magnesium needs!

  1. de Baaij JH, Hoenderop JG, Bindels RJ. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2015;95(1):1‐46. doi:10.1152/physrev.00012.2014
  2.  Woolhouse M. Migraine and tension headache–a complementary and alternative medicine approach. Aust Fam Physician. 2005;34(8):647‐651.
  3.  Mauskop A, Altura BT, Cracco RQ, Altura BM. Intravenous magnesium sulfate rapidly alleviates headaches of various types. Headache. 1996;36(3):154‐160. doi:10.1046/j.1526-4610.1996.3603154.x
  4.  Proctor ML, Murphy PA. Herbal and dietary therapies for primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(3):CD002124. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002124
  5. Parazzini F, Di Martino M, Pellegrino P. Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnes Res. 2017;30(1):1‐7. doi:10.1684/mrh.2017.0419
  6. Schutten JC, Joosten MM, de Borst MH, Bakker SJL. Magnesium and Blood Pressure: A Physiology-Based Approach. Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2018;25(3):244‐250. doi:10.1053/j.ackd.2017.12.003
  7. Hatzistavri LS, Sarafidis PA, Georgianos PI, et al. Oral magnesium supplementation reduces ambulatory blood pressure in patients with mild hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2009;22(10):1070‐1075. doi:10.1038/ajh.2009.126
  8. Guerrero-Romero F, Rodríguez-Morán M. The effect of lowering blood pressure by magnesium supplementation in diabetic hypertensive adults with low serum magnesium levels: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Hum Hypertens. 2009;23(4):245‐251. doi:10.1038/jhh.2008.129
  9. Boyle NB, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety. Magnes Res. 2016;29(3):120‐125. doi:10.1684/mrh.2016.0411