The majority of the population is deficient in magnesium, an essential mineral which contributes to the functions of over 300 biochemical responses in the human body. It is touted as being one of the minerals that we desperately need to incorporate as it helps relieve a multitude of symptoms of various conditions for those who are deficient. Magnesium is a mineral that I promote strongly in my household. It’s a mineral that often goes missed in many holistic medicine cabinets. There are a multitude of ways to supplement magnesium and so, I’ve put together a guide on Magnesium and why it can be so important for us to ensure we get the right amount.
* This post is not meant as medical advice. Please advise your primary health care provider to discuss any and all medical choices *
Oral Vs. Dermal Methods of Magnesium Supplementation
Rapid Dermal Magnesium
This generally comes in the form of either an oil or a lotion that you can apply to the body sparingly (directions should be listed re: amounts on the product you are using). The skin will absorb magnesium within 20 minutes of application and will begin to use it within the body. Many people experience a feeling of calmness/relaxation and have an easy time falling to sleep. For this reason, I apply magnesium at night before bed. When applying magnesium topically, you will experience a very obvious tingling sensation for roughly 20-30 minutes at the site of application. This is well tolerated by most, although, children are especially sensitive to this sensation and so, I always mix magnesium oil with another carrier oil to reduce this effect.
Magnesium lotions and oils also tend to leave a slight residue on the skin which some may find to be an annoyance. If you feel you can not tolerate the texture, you should wait at least 20 minutes before washing off to allow the magnesium to penetrate the skin barrier and be used by the body. I personally leave the oil and lotions on my skin and have no issue with texture, I want to optimize the uptake of minerals at each application.
Dermal application of magnesium may reduce the gastrointestinal side effects that some experience when taking magnesium orally. Magnesium may cause loose stools and constipation and I have found that applying magnesium topically does not affect me in this way personally. For some, who may be experiencing constipation, this side effect may be welcomed.. but if you find you are sensitive when it comes to digestion, it may be an option to consider topical magnesium.
Another way to take in magnesium is orally and generally comes in the form of a powder that you can add to water or juice. During my early twenties, my Naturopath suggested adding an oral magnesium powder to help with anxiety and sleep issues. I personally found this supplementation helpful and tolerated the magnesium well.
You simply add the powder (at the proper dosage in the bottle or indicated by your healthcare provider) to water or a drink of choice and within 20 minutes or so the magnesium begins to take effect. As I mentioned above, sometimes using an oral magnesium powder can cause stronger gastrointestinal symptoms versus other options. If you experience these and they are not pleasant, it would be worth a mention to your healthcare provider to either adjust dosage or switch to a different method of introducing magnesium to your system.
Another way of receiving magnesium orally is by tablet, which can be found in a healthcare store. I have never personally used magnesium tablets and have always opted for oral powders under the direction of my Naturopath/Doctor. Some do not find the powders palatable, in which case a tablet may be a good option.
Other Magnesium uptake methods: Bath Salts/Epsom Salts/Magnesium Flake
The last option I will touch on pertaining to the application of magnesium is the use of Magnesium flake or Epsom salt baths. This is another form of dermal magnesium but has its differences so I decided to put it in its own category.
I have used epsom salt baths since I was a child to help ease sore muscles, stomach pains and induce relaxation. This is one of the most commonly practiced methods of magnesium supplementation and you can find Epson salts at your local drugstore.
By adding Epsom salts to a warm bath and relaxing for 20 minutes, your body will absorb some levels of magnesium from the salts. If you have ever had an Epson salt bath, I’m sure you can attest to a feeling of relaxation, calm and a soothing of muscles that occurs after exiting the bath. This method does not elicit the same level of gastrointestinal effects or tingling of the skin that the above two options would, this could be because you are receiving a lower dose of magnesium. It is hard to tell the amount you will receive during a bath with Epson salts unless you do the measuring and conversions after determining the level of magnesium in the salts itself. If your medical care provider has prescribed a specific amount of magnesium to you, this may not be the most reliable way to get exactly that amount.. it is however, an easy and relaxing way to enjoy the benefits of magnesium. Self care, anyone?
Magnesium flakes is another option that can be used while soaking in a bath. These are more potent than Epsom salt and will cause the tingling sensation. It is a more rapid and effective way to receive magnesium. I personally use Epsom salts in my home, particularly for my children. However, when I find that I need an extra boost of magnesium whether I am especially deficient, my immune system needs a kick or my muscles require support due to soreness then I might opt for a bath filled with magnesium flakes instead.
Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is a difficult thing to pinpoint on its own simply by looking at overt physical symptoms. Many of the symptoms that we notice can be attributed to so many other causes and they range so widely making it important to discuss magnesium deficiency with a professional (ie. Naturopath, Functional MD, etc.). The list of potential symptoms related to magnesium deficiency is so long. This is due to the fact that magnesium has a hand in a variety of functions in the human body.
Another kicker when determining whether you have magnesium deficiency is that many times low levels are hidden as the body will strip bones of magnesium to use when deficiencies are present. This is a major reason why poor bone health can be a major signal to health care providers that this mineral is lacking. Two other major symptoms related to magnesium deficiency are kidney issues and diabetes as magnesium is strongly related to keeping blood sugar/glucose levels stable in the body.
The easiest way (and most obvious) to determine if you have low magnesium is to order a simple blood test through your doctor, this is called a ‘total serum magnesium test’ and is taken the same way as other standard blood testing. I generally prefer to have my nAturopath or functional medicine doctor review these findings as allopathic professionals use a range for normal that is so wide that their definition of deficiency is limited.
Other related symptoms that could signal magnesium deficiency are as follows (but not limited to):
- Behavioral Shifts
- Low Mood
- Memory Issues
- Change to Appetite
- Impaired Cognitive Function
- Muscle Spasms
- Impaired Muscle Coordination
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Mineral/Electrolyte Imbalances
- Unusual Heart Beat
- Insulin Resistance
- Low Testosterone
- Body Aches and Generalized Pain, etc.
Additionally, Here is a list of conditions that could potentially be related to magnesium deficiency (but are not limited to):
- Mental Health Conditions (ie. Depression/Anxiety)
- Chronic fatigue
- Bruxism (Tooth Grinding)
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep problems (Insomnia, etc.)
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Coronary artery disease
- Type II diabetes
- Metabolic Disorders
- Aids in prevention of certain Cancers
- Bone Health
- Preeclampsia (Pregnancy related disorder)
- Oxidative Stress
- Body Aches & Generalized Pain
Application & Uses for Magnesium
I have used magnesium in many forms to address different symptoms and am always amazed at how this magical mineral performs. When I was younger in my late teen years and twenties, I used an oral form of magnesium to address anxiety and low moods. As with anything that relates to mental health, it takes many factors to address things like mood and anxiety, but I did notice notable improvements when adding magnesium to my regimen.
You can always find magnesium oil, magnesium powder and Epsom salts in my medicine cabinet. I use them daily and when necessary for myself and my family. It’s very important to dilute and reduce the amounts used with children, so discuss using this mineral with your health care provider before use. My children enjoy a good leg massage with a carrier oil and magnesium oil blended and I pour Epsom salts into baths at least once per week. These are easy and effective ways to keep the mineral present for my children and ensure optimal health and immunity.
Applications of Magnesium Supplementation during Pregnancy
More recently, magnesium has come in handy during my pregnancies when sore muscles, restless legs, insomnia and parental stress began to creep in. I have also discovered the power of transepidermal forms of magnesium which work via uptake from the skin. Generally it comes in the form of a lotion or an oil and it is applied to the skin and absorbed within twenty minutes or so to provide benefits. This can be a good option as it’s slightly more tolerable than the oral form of magnesium as it does not elicit as much of an intestinal response, a major side effect of using too much magnesium can be loose stools and quicker digestion. That being said, this can be a nice side benefit if you are experiencing constipation or slow digestion.. something that often creeps up in pregnancy.
Magnesium and Insomnia:
When taken at night, Magnesium has been shown to help induce sleep. During pregnancy, sleep can become a tricky thing. Some women find it very easy to sleep during all trimesters, something I was fortunate enough to experience during my first pregnancy. However, many women find themselves having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and sleeping in general due to discomfort. My second pregnancy came with bouts of insomnia and difficulty falling asleep at night even after experiencing exhaustion during the day. I noticed that adding magnesium oil to my routine at night helped reduce the time and difficulty it took to fall to sleep.
Magnesium and Preeclampsia:
Magnesium has even been shown to help reduce the chances of developing preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication where high blood pressure begins to cause damage to certain organs. This complication generally begins after the 20 week mark of pregnancy and affects blood flow to the placenta. Preeclampsia is a condition that is watched for closely by primary health care providers during pregnancy, you may notice blood pressure is something you are tested for consistently throughout your pregnancy and this is a major reason why. There are many ways to try and prevent this from occurring: drinking plenty of water, avoiding too much caffeine consumption, managing salt intake, etc. but studies have shown the addition of magnesium as a supplement for pregnant women will also aid in preventing this from occurring in some cases.
Magnesium and Gestational Diabetes:
Magnesium has been touted for its ability to aid in regulating blood sugars in the human body. This is why it is strongly linked to gestational diabetes in pregnant women and can be a great option to help reverse the effects of this disease during pregnancy.
As with anything you supplement, there are side effects when not taken at proper dosages. Discussing the amounts to take and testing your current levels with a health professional is an important step in using magnesium.
If taken in the wrong mode or taking too much it can produce side effects. It’s important to discuss your level of magnesium and if you are deficient as well as how much you should be taking with your healthcare provider (ie. functional medical doctor or nAturopath).
Where to find
It’s easy to find Epsom salts in any grocery store, pharmacy or natural food store. I opt for plain old Epsom salts with no scent added and if I feel the need to amp up my bath I will add my own essential oils to the salts myself. Magnesium flakes can be harder to find, but I prefer to use Ancient Minerals Magnesium Flakes which can be found on Amazon.
In terms of a magnesium oil, I love the ATIVO brand which is pictured in this post.
ATIVO is a Canadian brand who sources their magnesium incredibly and it is one of the purest forms of magnesium. It is rapid dermal meaning it absorbs quickly via the skin. To check out ATIVO’s magnesium you can visit their website HERE. Use discount code: ‘CBLOOM’ at check out for 15% off till the end of October 2019.
Oral magnesium powders are easiest to take and can be added to filtered water. Many come in different flavours. You can find them in most natural food stores and amazon.