Magnesium is probably on your health radar already, but like a lot of micronutrients, you may hear it referenced without understanding precisely what it does, or why. Magnesium is one of the main electrolytes in coconut water and commercial sports drinks. We know that it helps with hydration, but aside from this, what is magnesium, and why is it important?
Magnesium is a cation, s a positively charged ion that exists in the body and is active in more than 300 enzymatic systems (1). It plays a role in protein synthesis, glucose regulation, cell membrane transport, and muscle and nerve function. Over half of the magnesium in the human body exists in bone matrix, so not surprisingly, magnesium is particularly important in maintaining bone health. Most of the remaining magnesium resides in muscles and soft tissues (2). Magnesium works in concert with calcium to help regulate muscle contraction and blood clotting; while calcium promotes contraction, magnesium promotes relaxation.People with magnesium deficiencies can develop hypertension, because the walls of arteries and capillaries tend to constrict. For this reason, magnesium is critical to heart function and to maintaining healthy blood pressure.
There are typically only a a few ounces of magnesium in the body (0.05% of body weight), but that small amount is important. Serious magnesium deficiencies can result in hypertension, impaired functioning of the central nervous system, and even tetanus. These kinds of deficiencies are rare, since our kidneys tend to regulate the amount of magnesium we excrete in our urine. They usually present themselves either with certain types of diseases (such as kidney or bowel disease) or in cases of alcohol abuse, protein malnutrition, or prolonged vomiting and diarrhea (3). People who abuse diuretics and those with anorexia can become deficient as well.
While full blown deficiency may be unlikely among people who don’t have complicating health factors, it’s still important to put dietary magnesium on your radar. When magnesium isn’t consumed in adequate amounts, magnesium in bones will serve as a reservoir from which the body draws, which may not be ideal for bone health (4,5). Meanwhile, low serum and tissue levels of magnesium may be associated with a number of common health complaints, such as migraine headaches (6), hypertension, insomnia, and irritability. Magnesium supplementation may also be helpful to people who suffer from uncomfortable or prolonged PMS (7), and it’s sometimes recommended in the management of cardiac conditions.
Of course, the therapeutic potential of magnesium that interests me most has to do with gut health–my personal area of fascination! In addition to easing anxiety and helping to relax muscles, magnesium has a laxative effect, and it tends to be particularly helpful in easing chronic constipation. (If you’ve ever noticed that coconut water helps with your elimination, this is part of the reason why!) If you suffer from IBS-C (the type of irritable bowel syndrome that tends to cause constipation) or any other type of chronic constipation, supplemental magnesium may be tremendously helpful for you.
The recommended daily allowance of magnesium for men ages 19-30 is 400 mg/day, and 420 mg/day for men 31+. For women, it’s 310 mg/day between the ages of 19 and 30, and 320 mg/day for women ages 31+. Plant based eaters have an advantage in meeting magnesium needs, because many of the best sources of the mineral are plant foods. They include
- soy milk
- black beans
- brown rice
- pinto beans
- Brazil nuts
Absorption of magnesium depends on an acidic stomach environment. People with histories of digestive illness often have a hard time absorbing this vital nutrient, as do people with damaged gut linings. Supplemental magnesium can be very helpful in these cases. It can also help folks with constipation, anxiety, and PMS. If you suffer from any of these conditions, you may want to explore a supplement. And if you do, I have a recommendation for you!
In the gastroenterology practice where I work, many of our patients suffer from poor magnesium absorption due to a history of celiac, bowel resections, or bowel removal. Magnesium supplements are vital in these cases, and Dr. Chutkan only recommends one: Natural Calm. Natural Calm, which is made by the Natural Vitality company is a powdered magnesium supplement–the best-selling one on the market–and it happens to be vegan, non-GMO, and gluten free! It contains 350 mg of magnesium citrate, which is thought to be one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium (magnesium oxide and sulfate may be more difficult to absorb) (8).
Natural Calm comes in five delicious flavors: orange, raspberry-lemon, lemon, cherry, and natural. They can all be easily mixed into liquid, and they create a delicious, fizzy drink when you prepare them. The only sweetener is organic stevia.
I really enjoyed the Natural Calm flavors–with the exception only of cherry, which isn’t really my jam 😉 My favorites are lemon and orange, which are tangy and refreshing. I also really enjoyed the natural flavor, which is tart and a little less sweet than the others. Natural Calm is a great way to re-hydrate after a hot yoga class or any sweaty workout–it’s tasty enough that you can simply empty it into a water bottle, shake and drink. But if you want something a little more tasty, you can mix it into coconut water or fresh juice. I’ve been enjoying the orange flavor mixed into a morning combination of orange, carrot, ginger, and grapefruit juice–a refreshing way to start the day (note that I didn’t have a sedative effect from the Natural Calm, but some may, so if you feel yourself getting sedated from it, you should drink it at night or whenever works for you).
While I no longer suffer from IBS-C, I do think that Natural Calm is a great support for me when I’m feeling stressed out or tense. I’ll be keeping it close to me as I continue my studies, for sure. If you’re curious about trying the product yourself, you’re in luck: the folks at Natural Vitality are offering one lucky CR winner a special care package, featuring 6 packets of each Natural Calm flavor. They’ll also be throwing in samples of E-28, their energy shot, which is whole foods and based in chlorella and maca:
As well as a bottle each of their Vitamin-B complex and Vitamin-C complex:
To enter the giveaway, you can:
5. Tweet about this giveaway
6. Leave me a comment, telling me why you’re interested in exploring Natural Vitality products
*For each of these actions, please leave me a separate comment telling me you did it!*
Good luck! I’ll be announcing the winner next Tuesday, October 15th.
1. Elin, RJ. Magnesium: the fifth but forgotten electrolyte. Am J Clin Pathol. 1994 Nov;102(5):616-22.
2. Volpe SL. Magnesium. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Ames, Iowa; John Wiley & Sons, 2012:459-74.
3. Whitney, E, and Rolfes, S. Understanding Nutrition. p. 422
4. Haas, EM. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. p. 163
5. Kitchin B, Morgan SL. Not just calcium and vitamin D: other nutritional considerations in osteoporosis. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2007 Apr;9(1):85-92.
6. Sun-Edelstein C, Mauskop A. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine. Expert Rev Neurother 2009;9:369–79
7. Bendich A. The potential for dietary supplements to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Feb;19(1):3-12.
8. Lindberg JS, Zobitz MM, Poindexter JR, Pak CY. Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. J Am Coll Nutr. 1990 Feb;9(1):48-55.