Magnesium is an essential mineral that is critical to multiple vital functions of the body, yet it’s one that many of us overlook. In fact, some estimates suggest more than 80 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough.

Magnesium helps to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, as well as normal heart rhythm. It reduces inflammation, helps boost your immune system, regulates blood sugar and is needed for more than 350 biochemical reactions in the body. Together with vitamin D, magnesium also plays a key role in preventing osteoporosis.

Magnesium deficiency has been associated with many chronic illnesses including atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus, asthma, migraine headaches, anxiety and depression.

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are fatigue, muscle cramps, palpitations, headaches, insomnia and anxiety.

The human body does not make magnesium and it relies on dietary intake to maintain adequate levels. It can be found in dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and Swiss chard. Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds will also help add more magnesium to your diet, as well as certain fish like halibut and mackerel. Some dairy products like Greek yogurt can give you 19 milligrams of the mineral in one container.

I regularly check RBC magnesium levels on all my patients and I have found the vast majority to be deficient. In addition to recommending increased magnesium intake through diet, I often suggest a magnesium supplement that can be taken either orally or through the skin.

I recommend patients find a magnesium supplement that ends in "ate," for example magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium threonate and magnesium malate. My personal favorite is magnesium dimalate (JIGSAW), because it has a slow release technology which means better absorption and few, if any, untoward side effects like loose stool or diarrhea.

Magnesium is generally very well-tolerated, inexpensive and safe for healthy patients. However, those with kidney failure should consult their doctor before beginning to take any supplements. To maintain healthy levels of magnesium, I recommend patients begin taking 3 mg per pound doses. For men and women who may be under severe stress, I recommend they increase the dose to 5 mg per pound. The average dose for female patients is 400 mg per day, while the average male patient takes 500 mg per day.

Another excellent way to supplement is to take a bath with one cup of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) once or twice per week. This is very helpful for muscle cramps and helps to relieve anxiety.

Hundreds of my patients have seen improvements in their health after increasing their magnesium level intake. I've seen remarkable results with the disappearance of many symptoms like muscle cramps, palpitations, headaches, insomnia and anxiety. Magnesium supplementation has also helped my patients to lower their blood pressure and avoid or reduce blood pressure medication.

Increasing your dietary intake of magnesium and taking a regular magnesium supplement will lower your risk of some of the biggest killers of adults, like heart attack and stroke. It can improve the quality of your life and will most likely lengthen it as well.

Any patient looking to begin taking a supplement should consult their doctor beforehand.
 

Dr. Goodman is the author of “Magnificent Magnesium” and is board certified in cardiology, internal medicine, lipidology (cholesterol management), integrative medicine & cardiac CT. Dr. Goodman is currently a Clinical Associate Professor and the Director of Integrative Medicine at NYU. His area of special interest is prevention, early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease with an integrative approach for optimal patient health care. dennisgoodmanmd.com.