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A Doctor Explains the Importance of Adding Magnesium to Your Diet After 60

By Anna Lamnari April 01, 2018 Health and Fitness

Why should we care whether we take enough magnesium?

Magnesium has been called a ‘master mineral’ for a good reason. It is involved in over 300 different enzymatic reactions in our body, affecting most of our tissues and organs. Alas, magnesium levels start drifting down with age, mainly due to dietary deficiencies and problem with absorption.

These days we talk about taking trips to Mars, but we haven’t yet quite figured out how to reliably measure magnesium levels. You might have had your magnesium level checked. Unfortunately, this number doesn’t tell us the whole story.

Because this mineral is so critical to proper functioning of our muscles, heart, vessels and nervous system, our bodies tend to be pretty strict about regulating serum magnesium level.

Yet, up to 99% of body magnesium is stored inside the cells, not in the blood stream, which is why the level of magnesium in the blood does not tell us much. In time of need, the body will leech significant amounts of magnesium from its storage in the cells and you might remain none the wiser.

That is, if not for some pesky symptoms.

What Are the Signs of Magnesium Deficiency?

Think of magnesium deficiency if you suffer from hypertension, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), migraines, depression, anxiety, confusion, sleep problems, premature hearing loss, fibromyalgia, unspecified diffuse muscle pain, muscle twitches and cramps, osteoporosis and constipation.

What Else Can Cause Magnesium Deficiency?

You may be at increased risk of low magnesium if you are suffering from diabetes, chronic diarrhea and hyperthyroidism.

Alcohol, caffeine and some medications – most notably proton pump inhibitors, acid reducers from the group of omeprazole and the diabetes drug – metformin – can deplete the body’s magnesium.

Are You Experiencing Chocolate Cravings?

Chocolate cravings might just be a symptom of low magnesium. Chocolate happens to be one of the foods rich in magnesium – and the cravings may go away after proper supplementation. And then, of course, there is nothing wrong with a little piece of dark chocolate.

What Do I Use Magnesium for?

Magnesium is my go-to for insomnia, particularly associated with anxiety – racing thoughts as soon as you put your head down. It is phenomenal for muscle pain and tension. Do you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? Definitely try magnesium.

Osteoporosis is another big indication, even though many physicians forget to mention magnesium along with calcium.

How Do I Supplement Magnesium?

When looking for a magnesium supplement, you will notice there are different forms of it. There is magnesium oxide, citrate, gluconate, malate, taurate etc. Which one do you choose?

Unless your main problem is constipation, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from magnesium oxide which does not absorb well into the body and usually has a massive laxative effect.

Magnesium citrate is often used for muscle pain, particularly in patients with fibromyalgia. Another form worth trying for fibromyalgia is magnesium malate, containing malic acid.

Magnesium taurate seems to have more affinity for nervous system and is a good choice for preventing migraines. I tend to use a lot of magnesium citrate, as it tends to be versatile and relatively inexpensive.

Start with 200 mg of magnesium, and make sure you check for elemental magnesium, not total compound like magnesium citrate.

If you perceive no improvement in few days, you may increase the dose to 400 mg for short periods of time. The Upper Tolerable Level for magnesium is set at 350 mg, but you may take more when treating deficiency.

Your body will let you know if you’re overdoing it. If you develop diarrhea – you are taking too much. And, as always, when in doubt, run it by your doctor.

Magnesium is relaxing and as such usually best tolerated at bedtime.

Any Other Problems with Magnesium?

Overall, magnesium seems to be well tolerated and pretty safe. Aside from abdominal cramps and diarrhea it may rarely cause low blood pressure, dizziness, irregular heart rhythm and slowed breathing.

Can I Get Magnesium from Food?

The best sources of magnesium in the food are seeds and nuts, particularly pumpkin and sesame seeds, cashews, almonds, black beans, spinach and okra. And then, of course, there is dark chocolate!

How do you include magnesium naturally in your diet? What foods do you eat to get the benefit of magnesium? Do you take a magnesium supplement? Please share your choices in the comments below.

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Fran Braga Meininger

Another helpful article, thank you. I began taking Magnesium for restless sleep a few weeks ago and the results have been encouraging. But I still wake up a few times per night. After reading your recommendation on dosage, I realize I’ve only been taking half of what I should. Good to know!

The Author

Anna Lamnari, MD is an internist, geriatrician and integrative medicine practitioner with over 20 years of clinical experience. She is passionate about healthy, vibrant aging and natural ways to improve memory. Follow her at her website, Aging Like a Boss, and on her Facebook page.

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