Magnesium: Important for every cell
Updated: May 29
Magnesium is a nutrient that deserves it’s own article. Every cell in the human body needs it to function. Magnesium is a helper molecule in over 600 reactions that happen in the body! Unfortunately, over half of Americans get less than the recommended amount of magnesium. Therefore, my goal is to explain why magnesium is important and how to make sure you get enough!
Magnesium has many functions. One of magnesium’s main roles is acting as a co-factor or “helper molecule” in the chemical reactions performed by the body. The “Mg+2” in the diagram above is magnesium which is necessary to perform the cell’s functions.
Magnesium is important to all cells and all systems as seen in the chart below. Magnesium functions When there isn’t enough magnesium, those functions aren’t done as well, and dysfunction or problems can occur.
Magnesium helps a body stay healthy in many ways. If you do not get enough magnesium, these bodily functions are affected. Too little magnesium can cause decreased energy, fatigue, and muscle weakness. Magnesium plays a role in brain function, and deficiencies can contribute to problems such as depression, ADHD, and anxiety. Because the gastrointestinal tract uses muscles to move food along, not enough magnesium can cause constipation. The lungs and respiratory tract also need magnesium for its muscles, therefore low magnesium can worsen nasal congestion and asthma. Blood vessels also have muscles in their wall, and low magnesium plays a role in high blood pressure. Magnesium is used to regulate blood sugar, so low amounts can contribute to high blood sugar in diabetes. It is anti-inflammatory, so deficiency can increase pain and inflammation. For the reasons above, I use magnesium to help patients with conditions such as headaches, asthma, mental health troubles, and constipation.
Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral. It can be combined to form compounds or salts. For instance, epsom salt is magnesium with sulfur called magnesium sulfate. Magnesium can be found in vegetables, seeds, and nuts. The standard American does not eat much of these foods, that is why most Americans are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is not found in highly processed and fast foods. For instance, a McDonald’s hamburger has 10 mg of magnesium. The recommended daily amount is 400 mg, and that would be hard to do with highly processed foods that only have 10-20 mg of magnesium.
So how do you make sure you get enough? Well, make sure to eat whole, real foods such as vegetables and nuts at least a couple times per day. For most Americans I recommend a daily supplement, since magnesium is so important and not easy to get in the standard diet. The 2 forms of magnesium I recommend are citrate or glycinate.
Citrate is the form that has more action in the gastrointestinal tract, so it is the form I use for patients with constipation. In individuals without constipation, the citrate form can cause diarrhea.
The glycinate form has less action on the gut, so it is what I use for patients without constipation but with other ailments such as migraines, depression/ADHD/anxiety, or asthma.
Typically I tell patients who are above 90 pounds to start with 200 mg once a day, if tolerated go up to 300-400 mg per day divided twice a day. For children less than 90 pounds, they will most likely need a liquid or chewable form, and the directions will be on the bottle.
Pedialax brand has a chewable magnesium that is easy to give kids, and is my treatment of choice for constipation. If a calming effect is needed, Natural Vitality has Kid Calm supplement which has Magnesium and other nutrients that support calming. There are many options I discuss with families to find the best supplement for your child.
In summary, every cell in your body needs magnesium to function, yet magnesium is found in foods that aren’t consumed in high amounts by most Americans. Therefore, magnesium deficiency may be another unhealthy part of the standard American diet of highly processed foods that maybe contributing to the rise in chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, chronic fatigue, and mental health problems. Another reason to eat whole real foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts!