Caroline Wallace combines two of her passions—science writing and complementary and alternative medicine, along with her knowledge of DoTERRA Essential Oils.

Magnesium: A Mineral Superhero

When we think of superheroes, Spiderman, Captain America, or even Doctor Strange might come to mind. Magnesium may not be a superhero in the traditional sense, but how it helps your body function is such a marvel that it is worth discussing. 

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral (an inorganic element that comes from the soil and rocks) that is an essential nutrient for humans. Since our bodies don’t make magnesium, we have to get it through the plants we eat, as they absorb it from the soil while growing. 

Why Do We Need Magnesium?

Magnesium is a cofactor for hundreds of enzymes in our body, making it essential for survival. Cofactors are compounds, such as vitamins and minerals, that help our enzymes regulate our cells and organs. We are alive because of the thousands of biochemical reactions occurring throughout our bodies. This explains why we may not feel our best or get sick if we have too much or too little of any essential nutrient. 

Magnesium has many essential cellular functions:

  • Energy production – helps our cells perform their intended functions
  • Nucleic acid synthesis – helps our cells make new DNA and RNA
  • Protein synthesis – helps our cells make new proteins
  • Ion transport – necessary for muscle function and nerve signaling
  • Structural development – necessary for proper bone structure 

A magnesium deficiency isn’t easy to detect since most of what we have is stored and used in our bones and soft tissues. The serum magnesium readout from a blood test only tells you what is circulating in your blood, and your kidneys tightly regulate that amount. Your serum magnesium level is likely in the normal range as long as you are properly hydrated and have functional kidneys. However, your cells could have too little magnesium even with a normal serum magnesium level. 

Fortunately, severe deficiencies aren’t common, but some risk factors exist. Gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s and celiac disease increase the risk of magnesium deficiency, as well as diabetes and long-term use of diuretics that may be prescribed to manage some kidney conditions. Drinking too much alcohol, soda, or coffee can also deplete magnesium levels in the body. Low magnesium levels can also affect sodium, potassium, and calcium levels, affecting your heart and muscles. Some symptoms of low magnesium include muscle tremors, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and, in more severe cases, even personality changes and seizures. 

What Foods Contain Magnesium?

The good news is that many whole foods (not processed) are a good source of magnesium. A well-rounded diet containing basic ingredients is one of the best ways to ensure that you get all of your essential nutrients, especially since they contain a variety of micronutrients. Here are some of my favorite magnesium-containing foods:

  • Leafy greens
  • Brown rice
  • Salmon
  • Dark chocolate

Magnesium Supplementation

There are oodles of supplements available, which can get confusing since there are several different types of magnesium that have slightly different benefits depending on what issue you try to correct through nutrient supplementation.

Eating a healthy diet with whole foods is the best, and safest, way to consume most of your micronutrients. However, this theory relies on several assumptions:

  • You eat a whole-food diet most of the time and very rarely have processed food (that includes frozen or pre-made meals, fast food, and meals out)
  • You don’t have an underlying condition that may deplete magnesium
  • You aren’t on any medications that may deplete magnesium
  • You don’t have any lifestyle habits (excessive sweating, prolonged stress, drinking too much coffee, soda, or alcohol) that may deplete magnesium

Supplementation can be a safe and beneficial way to increase your magnesium intake if you cannot get enough through food. But remember – it is possible to get too much magnesium

It’s highly unlikely to overdose on magnesium by eating too many leafy greens (or dark chocolate!), but it is possible to consume too much through supplements. The risk of overdosing on magnesium increases if a person has kidney problems since the kidneys are responsible for getting rid of extra magnesium that your body does not need at that time. Consuming too much magnesium at one time can lead to potentially dangerous problems, including:

  • Confusion
  • Severely lowered blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Serious cardiovascular problems, including cardiac arrest

Using supplements to increase your well-being can be a balancing act. There are medical instances where magnesium supplements are not recommended (for example, for people with weak kidneys). Therefore, it is always important to consult your medical provider if you are on any prescription medicines or have a health condition. 

The next blog post will share the basics of the different types of magnesium, so stay tuned if you are interested in learning about that!

Disclaimer: This article should not replace individual clinical judgment or professional medical advice.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *