What is Magnesium?

Author: Emily Seddon   Date Posted:10 August 2016 

Magnesium (Mg) is an element essential for the human body, found at number 12 on the periodic table. It got its name from the location where it was first discovered in the Greek region of Magnesia. Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, the ninth most abundant element in the universe and the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body.


How is Magnesium used in my body?

Magnesium is a co-factor for over 300 enzymatic reactions and biochemical processes in the body. It is necessary for:

  • The transmission of nerve impulses, muscular activity and heart function.
  • Temperature regulation.
  • Formation of healthy bones.
  • Synthesis of DNA, RNA, protein and glutathione.
  • Function in the cellular pathway that makes energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).


How much Magnesium do I need?

Dependant on your age, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of magnesium is:

  • 400 mg/day for men aged 19-30 years, increasing to 420 mg/day for those aged 31 and above.
  • For women aged 19-30 years, the RDI is 310 mg/day, increasing to 320 mg from the age of 31 onwards.
  • Depending on their age, the RDI for adult women who are pregnant is 350-360 mg/day.
  • The RDI for breastfeeding for those who are breastfeeding is 310-320 mg of magnesium each day.


What happens if I don't get enough Magnesium?

Theoretically, every body system can display symptoms because ALL systems throughout the body rely on magnesium. Deficiency symptoms can include:

  • Muscle cramps, weakness & spasms.
  • Hyperexcitability & irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nervousness, restlessness, confusion.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Fatigue.
  • Cramps (exercise induced, PMS related).
  • Migraines.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sugar cravings.
  • Low circulating levels of parathyroid hormone.

Chronic deficiencies of magnesium are also implicated in reduced bone mineral density and increased risk of osteoporosis as well as other health conditions.


Can I have too much Magnesium?

If a healthy individual ingests too much magnesium from their food, their kidneys will eliminate the excess via urine. The risk of magnesium accumulation (hypermagnesia) is rare however increases with impaired renal function or kidney failure. Magnesium taken in high doses (around 5g, 10-15 times the RDI) can exert a laxative effect, be due the salts to attracting water into the intestines. Milk of magnesia was traditionally used to treat constipation, using this mechanism to clear the bowels.


What could be stopping me from getting Magnesium?

  • Low dietary intake.
  • Soil depletion – due to over-cultivation of land, use of pesticides.
  • Certain prescription drugs.
  • Stress.
  • Exercise.
  • Excessive perspiration.
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, salt, sugary carbonated drinks, alcohol.
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as short-term diarrhoea or vomiting and conditions that affect your absorption of nutrients.


Magnesium in food.

Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds). Other sources include full-cream dairy products, fish, meats and chocolate. Water with a high mineral content, or "hard" water, is also a source of magnesium.

A significant amount of Magnesium may be lost from foods during processing, refining and cooking, so in order to maximise your Magnesium intake, it’s best to avoid refined and processed foods.


What else can Magnesium do?

Supplementing with magnesium may be beneficial in helping in:


What is the best form of Magnesium for me?

There are many forms of magnesium, some include: magnesium citrate, amino acid chelate and glycinate. These are most commonly found in nutritional supplements. All are readily available and easily absorbed in small doses (up to 300mg). Amino acid chelate may be a more gentle option on the stomach, and aid in sleep and stress support.

Magnesium oxide and carbonate in high doses of 2-5g (as found in Milk of Magnesia) is not well absorbed by the body and exerts an osmotic, laxative effect. These high doses may also contribute to digestive upsets and cramping.

Magnesium sulfate and chloride are most commonly found in topical magnesium applications, like Espom salts and magnesium flakes respectively. They have low levels of absorption when ingested and is better absorbed trans-dermally (through the skin).

For the different types of Magnesium we stock at Australian NaturalCare, read our blog post 'Which Magnesium is best for me?'


Written by Emily Seddon
Emily Seddon

Emily (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath with a love of science. Growing up with a hippy mum and dad, Emily grew used to thinking outside the box for her own health. She has since completed a degree in Health Science, majoring in Naturopathy, combining that passion for healthy living with scientific and traditional evidence to help others to live happy and healthy lives.

She loves using herbal and nutritional medicine to treat ailments and lives by the philosophy of "there is no such thing as too much tea."

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