The importance of magnesium

The Importance of Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and plays a role in over 600 enzymatic reactions. Although it’s one of the most important minerals for optimal health, up to 50% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Truthfully, the importance of magnesium cannot be overstated.

Low levels of magnesium can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, poor nutrient absorption, high blood pressure, depression, disrupted sleep, cramps and muscle tension not helped by NSAIDS, migraines, constipation, and other health issues.  

There are many ways to get more magnesium into your body including a healthy diet, supplements, lotions, and even taking a bath! Keep reading to learn more. 

Table of Contents

Why You Need Magnesium

What is magnesium for? Well, it plays a crucial role in hundreds of bodily functions, including:


Will magnesium help you sleep? It certainly can! This humble mineral can help both your mind and body relax, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.

Animal studies have shown that magnesium helps regulate melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle. Magnesium also binds to gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) receptors, helping the body and mind relax into a deep sleep.

Read more about regulating your sleep naturally with intentional routines and habits.
—> 8 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Tonight

Brain Function

Magnesium plays a crucial role in the communication between your brain (nervous system) and body (musculoskeletal system). This important mineral acts as a gatekeeper for receptors that play a role in brain development, learning, and memory. It prevents unnecessary stimulation that can lead to brain damage.

Heart Health

Is magnesium good for your heart? The truth is, magnesium and calcium are essential for generating healthy heart contractions. Calcium stimulates the contraction, while magnesium counters the effect to relax cells. (This is true for all muscle cells!) If magnesium levels are too low, calcium can overstimulate the heart, causing irregular or rapid heartbeat.

Muscle Relaxation

Magnesium’s relaxation effect on heart cells also applies to muscles. Calcium plays a similar role by causing muscles to contract. If the body doesn’t have enough magnesium, calcium takes over and can cause muscles to contract too much. This can lead to spasms and muscle cramps, nighttime “Charley horses” and reduced recovery from exercise.


Magnesium and headaches. The two have walked hand in hand since the dawn of time. Low magnesium levels have been linked to migraines, tensions headaches, and headaches caused by electrolyte imbalances. In one study, participants who suffered migraines had lower magnesium levels than those who did not suffer migraines.

Magnesium is believed to help prevent many of the factors that cause migraines to develop in the first place.

Gastrointestinal Motility

Magnesium can help improve gastrointestinal motility by drawing water into the intestines. The excess water stimulates bowel motility while softening and expanding the stool. The relaxing effect of magnesium also lets your digestive organs become slightly more flexible to allow a more natural ‘flow’.  All of these factors trigger a bowel movement and make it easier for stools to pass.

If you use magnesium for digestive help, make sure you are drinking enough water. You’ll want to replace the water that magnsium pulled into your intensties to help the stool to pass. Additionally, being dehydrated is a leading factor in constipation.
Read more —> How much water should I drink?

Which Foods are High in Magnesium?

Many adults don’t meet their daily recommended intake of magnesium. Modern diets are often high in processed foods and low in nutrient-dense foods that are magnesium-rich. We are notoriously under-consuming nuts, seeds, and vegetables while drinking sodas and processed foods that strip minerals from our bones and body. 

Eating a few servings of these foods each day will dramatically increase your magnesium intake. Here is a list of high magnesium foods:

Magnesium Rich Foods

Even with a healthy, varied diet, it can still be difficult to get all of the magnesium your body needs. That’s where supplements can help.

Magnesium Supplements

In addition to eating foods that are rich in magnesium, we can also use magnesium supplements to meet our body’s needs. The body doesn’t necessarily absorb all of the magnesium in your food and your supplements. If your levels are already low, it’s important to restore and maintain healthy levels. Taking more than the recommended daily amount, as long as you’re a healthy adult, can help ensure that you’re getting enough of this mineral.  

There are several types of magnesium supplements:

  • Chloride: The most popular type of magnesium supplement, which is extracted from either ocean water or brine. Although believed to be one of the most effective forms of supplementation, magnesium chloride can cause diarrhea if you take too much. This is the form found in Magnesium Oil and Lotions used topically to reduce cramps. 
  • Citrate: Derived from citric acid, magnesium citrate is easily absorbed by the body and is often recommended by health professionals. 
  • Sulfate: Also known as Epsom salts. Magnesium sulfate eases sore muscles and is also an effective laxative.
  • Oxide: Although it’s not as easily absorbed by the body as other forms, magnesium oxide promotes digestive health and is commonly found in products like Milk of Magnesia. This is not a recommended form for general supplementation because there are better options out there.
  • Malate: A highly absorbable form that has a slightly sweet taste, commonly used in powdered electrolyte drink mixes. 
  • Orotate: A favorite among athletes. Magnesium orotate includes orotic acid (vitamin B13). This form of magnesium can help with tissue repair, endurance, and athletic performance. 
  • Glycinate: Easily absorbed by the body and known for its relaxing effects. This form of supplementation contains glycine, an amino acid known for calming the mind and body. In my opinion, this is the BEST form to supplement with for general health!

How Much Magnesium Should You Take?

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of magnesium depends on your age and gender. The recommended dosages for the maintenance of healthy magnesium levels in adults are about 300 mg for women and 400 mg for men. These are the recommended daily amounts based on guidance from the NIH, to maintain healthy magnesium levels, but in reality, we need a lot more than this to reach optimal magnesium levels. Some individuals require higher or lower amounts. If you’re sick or have certain medical conditions, you may need more than the recommended daily intake. Sometimes you just need to supplement for a short time, depending on the condition you are trying to benefit. 

On top of your daily intake, from food or a general multivitamin, the following conditions can be helped with additional magnesium;

Insomnia: 500 mg at night
Blood sugar regulation: 900 mg along with cinnamon
Muscle cramps: 300 mg internally, topically, or in a bath
Constipation: 200-300 mg of liquid magnesium at nighttime
Depression or a depressed mood: 250-450 mg along with B vitamins and mood-boosting herbs
Menstrual cramps and related symptoms: 300-400 mg along with zinc
Migraines: 600-900 mg during attacks and a higher daily intake for prevention

Favorite Magnesium Products

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Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion

Simple, clean and safe topical magnesium lotion.

All purpose Magnesium Tablets

Inexpensive single ingredient magnesium.

Magnesium Complex

Magnesium with added zinc (great for additional pain or cramp relief) and B6.

SleepWell Magnesium Spray

Spray-on lotion with cedarwood and lavender for calming and sleep.

Magnesium Bath Flakes

Easily dissolvable magnesium flakes with chamomile for extra relaxation.

Bulk Size Espom Salt

This is the cheapest price-per-pound I've found on plain epsom salts. Stock up if you are a bath lover!

In Summary

The reality is that most of us have lower than optimal magnesium levels. Unless you are eating several servings of magnesium-rich foods each day, then it makes sense to supplement. Even supplementing “as needed” by taking an Epsom salt bath once a week, or applying magnesium lotion to tense muscles after a long day at the computer can help you experience the nearly 600 benefits if this miracle mineral! 

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