Magnesium Supplements: The Amazing Mineral for Your Nerves
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Have you ever thought of taking magnesium (Mg) supplements to help with healing your nerves? I’m currently on a quest to do self-experimentation using different natural supplements. My aim is for an improved nervous system and I must say, my magnesium is definitely working. [Update Oct 2016: I use this every day myself now as I feel the benefits]
Working long hours in a clinic, family life with a one year-old and other business commitments has taken a toll on me this past year. I was feeling fatigued and not my normal self. I knew it is time to try find a solution so that I can still do what I need to do in my normal day.
Having recently done so much reading, listening to various health podcasts, and experimenting with a low-carb high-fat diet I have had a quick crash course in nutrition both mentally and physically. Today I want to tell you why I think you need to consider taking magnesium everyday in order to have a happier brain and nerves.
Table of Contents
- 1 Benefits of Magnesium in Your Body
- 2 Magnesium For Our Brain
- 3 Magnesium: A Natural Pain-Killer Option
- 4 My Magnesium Supplement Experiment
- 5 Can I Test For Low Magnesium Levels?
- 6 Who Should Take Magnesium?
- 7 Which Type Should I Take?
- 8 Comprehensive List of Research Studies
- 9 The Bottom Line
Benefits of Magnesium in Your Body
I think medical doctor, Dr Carolyn Dean in the above videos gives a nice simple overview of why you should consider taking a magnesium supplement for a variety of reasons.
Dr Dean discusses the following points:
- A general overview of the mineral, magnesium,
- Some signs and symptoms of low magnesium or magnesium deficiency,
- How calcium and magnesium will try balance out in our cells,
- How low levels of magnesium are linked to depression and anxiety (P.S. more info below),
- Cardiovascular health improvement with correct magnesium,
- Magnesium involved in diabetes treatment,
- Muscle fatigue and cramping in sports and magnesium,
- ADHD and a child’s brain needing magnesium,
- Gynaecological and obstetric improvement with magnesium.
That is quite a long list of what magnesium can help you with, right? Well that’s not all of it. If you like what Dr Dean has to say so far and need more information she has written a book titled “The Magnesium Miracle” that explains even more. You can use the links to get it on Amazon if you’d like.
Magnesium For Our Brain
In my current drive to learn how to improve my nervous system via food and supplements I kept reading how magnesium is a must have. As you saw in the videos above Mg is involved with so many essential physiological systems in our bodies.
I then came across a research paper that summarised why magnesium could be a very good thing to take each day. This is a published paper by author George Eby, which you can read in full here. The research paper looks at the role supplementing with different levels of magnesium, mainly from a psychiatric (mental health) point of view.
Some interesting key points for me in the paper were:
- IV (intravenous) magnesium and oral magnesium can help our moods,
- A small amount of calcium supplement can increase depression in the depressed,
- If you are a Chiropractic student or any other university student maybe you should be helping to boosting your short-term memory ability with some daily Mg,
- Glutamate and aspartate compete with magnesium for absorption inside brain cells. Think of MSG (monosodium glutamate) foods and aspartic acid sweeteners that we tend to crave during stress cos they lift us. These two are excitotoxins which are a bad thing for brain health.
One point that I never realised was that you store magnesium in your muscle cells and bones, but also in our brain cells. It is the missing magnesium in the neurones of the brain, which could be more of a problem from having poor Mg levels in your blood. This is compared to the effect poor levels have on your muscles, which can contribute to muscle cramping and twitching.
For example, I have seen Chiropractic patients come in with a severe neck spasm or low back pain who start on 400 – 800mg of magnesium tablets and 2 days later are spasm free. Now I always thought it must be a function of less muscle cramping which is causing less muscle spasms symptoms. Maybe that’s not the whole story.
Maybe the problem is when our brain (central nervous system) is burning out and cannot handle emotional stress (family, money, work etc..) this causes an overactive nervous system. This state of fatigue and low energy levels can be at a low level that never goes away so it is chronic or it can be a big event like a death in the family causing massive grief. Pain itself is a stressful event and can lead to poor healing ability.
So the way I see supplementation helping muscles spams now is via the brain is three ways:
- Anatomically the spinal nerve roots feed the muscles in the neck and back so you need the nerve to not be hyper-excitable, which can contribute to a muscle spasm. Mg helps calms the nervous system.
- Mg helps to reduce feelings of stress levels and help us manage our daily stress better
- Mg helps control pain levels. (read more below)
That means improving magnesium levels in those with back pain could be working on two fronts. One in the muscle and the other in the brain & spinal cord tissue.
Magnesium: A Natural Pain-Killer Option
Talking about magnesium working inside the brain, here is another mind-blowing fact.
Intravenous magnesium is classified in the same category as heavy-duty trapped nerve pain-killer medications. Technically it falls into the NMDA receptor antagonist drug class. NMDA stands for “N-methyl-D-aspartic acid“.
When someone has a trapped nerve pain in their neck (a.k.a cervical radiculopathy) or sciatica pain (a.ka. lumbar radiculopathy) then one of the pain-killers for a trapped nerve that a doctor could look to prescribe is an intravenous magnesium solution.
Magnesium is the only natural mineral that is classified in the South African Acute Pain Guidelines for a doctor to use to control neuropathic pain. Kind of cool that this mineral is classified as a powerful natural painkiller. You can see the guidelines in the document below.
Another interesting finding was that people with poor magnesium intake are likely to have higher levels of inflammation in their blood.
My Magnesium Supplement Experiment
For the last 3 months nearly I have been researching and self-experimenting (a.k.a biohacking) on myself with various changes. One of those is to include taking regular daily magnesium tablets to see if I feel any different from taking them.
As you may have read in the paper above by George Eby he suggests that healthcare professionals (which can include chiropractors like me) might benefit from using 500 – 800mg of magnesium per day to reduce stress effects.I have never really thought about it, but dealing with lots of people’s problems in a day is a stress. Living that day in day out can definitely wear you down. So why not experiment with magnesium to improve my mood/energy. So I did.
I have never really thought about it, but dealing with lots of people’s health problems and listening to other life issues in a day can be stressful. Living that day in day out and a regular basis can definitely wear you down. So I thought why not experiment with some magnesium to try improve my mood or energy levels. So I did.
I started with magnesium glycinate for a month at 400mg/day. I think I felt a bit better, but wasn’t quite sure. Interesting to read on nootropedia how someone who sweats a lot (medically known as hyperhidrosis) found that they needed more glycinate to feel the benefits. So for month 2 I decided to change brands and chemical versions to the Solgars magnesium citrate and wow!
I started noticing: clearer thinking, a better sleep feeling and maybe even more energy in my day. I have been playing with the 400 – 800mg per day dose range since. Right now I feel good on 400 – 600mg per day so that is 2-3 tablets per day.[Update: 26 October 2016] I now have switched to taking daily magnesium l-threonate
Like Dr Dean said in the video you’ll know when you have taken to much magnesium. You’ll end up having a loose bowel movement because too much magnesium acts as a laxative 🙂
I’m not interested in taking magnesium oxide cos of the low absorption rate. Magnesium sulphate is what they use in the IV drip so haven’t gone there, yet 🙂
Can I Test For Low Magnesium Levels?
The answer is yes you can test, but only via a blood test. Not saliva at this point.
However, it looks like your wasting your time and money if you do a magnesium blood test. That is because 99% of magnesium is stored inside our cells with only 1% floating in the blood.
I think this is the best way to test if you are low or deficient in magnesium:
Start by looking out for common symptoms like: muscle spasm or cramping, muscle twitching (especially the cheeks and eyelid), headaches, poor sleeping, depression and irritability. Then take some daily magnesium for a month and just see how it makes you feel. If you notice an improvement in your mood, feel you are getting a better nights sleep that is longer or deeper, maybe experiencing less frequent headaches, or having fewer muscle issues then you probably had some type of deficiency.
Who Should Take Magnesium?
If you suffer from:
- Muscle cramps at night (e.g. restless legs, calf, feet)
- Wake up in the morning with a crick neck,
- Regular tension-type headaches or migraines,
- Low back pain,
- Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep,
- Anxiety, nervousness, depression etc…
I’d say consider trying some magnesium.
Another example situation for you. I have seen patients come in with a severe neck pain. The kind of one where they can’t move their head position because the pain in their neck is sore. Then two days later are able to move their neck like nothing has happened after just from taking some daily magnesium tablets.
There has been some research for migraine sufferers that using 1830mg (1.8grams) of magnesium citrate can help to reduce the severity and frequency of their headaches.
Is this going to be an instant miracle cure for pain? No, sorry not for everyone. However, it is worth a try since it such a simple thing to try out with very little side-effects.
This is really linked to people who are also following a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet (LCHF diet). Some popular examples include:
- Bulletproof Diet from Dave Asprey.
- Banting Diet. In South Africa, where I am from, “banting” is popular for weight loss and diabetes control because of Professor Tim Noakes who promotes this way of eating in his book the real meal revolution.
If you are going even lower carb in your diet and eating a more ketogenic diet in order to try raise your ketone blood levels then a Mg supplementation is a must I’d say.
I did hear nutritional ketogenesis researcher, Dr Dominic D’ Agostino, say in a podcast with 4 hour work week author Tim Ferris that he finds living in ketosis he needs to take a magnesium supplement to prevent muscle cramping. This is because when you move into a state of nutritional ketosis your body excretes more Mg via the kidneys in your urine. So you need to replace it to reduce any side-effects like muscle cramps.
If you are like me and did not know you could be low in Mg in your system and you want to take vitamins or minerals that make you feel better, then definitely this is a must try.
Which Type Should I Take?
Magnesium can be used in different ways. It can be used as:
- an oil to rub on the skin,
- transdermal spray for the skin,
- epsom salts in a bath tub or foot bath,
- tablets or liquid to swallow,
- IV drip in a clinic or hospital.
To get a clinical benefit, the tablets and IV drip forms have been tested best. The oil, salts and sprays not so much. However, I do know of patients reporting feeling so much better after spraying magnesium on tight muscle areas. Same with adding some epsom salts in warm bath water definitely can make you feel very relaxed.
Then there is the question of which chemical form should you use. Mg oxide is very common. However, I recommend taking a supplement where the word after magnesium on the bottle ends in “ate” for example, magnesium glycinate. These chemical versions are the most bio-available form for our bodies. This means you absorb the most and your body can then use it. Some examples to look for when buying a bottle include magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium malate and my personal favourite magnesium l-threonate.
Comprehensive List of Research Studies
If you need a decent list of research articles on magnesium I would suggest scrolling through the MedLine Plus page.
For extra reading like possible side-effects with medications, other health conditions it is used for, and a list of magnesium rich foods I like what is written on the University of Maryland Medical Centers’ page here.
The Bottom Line
After all my reading and self-experimentation taking a daily magnesium supplement makes sense to me. I feel good when I do take it and it is essential for a long-term healthy nervous system. So it ticks all the boxes for me as a useful tool to help improve your nerves and to improve your life.
If you are trying to learn how to control your stress levels then I feel another tip I want to leave you with is to stop eating food with MSG and aspartic acid additives. Start using magnesium either in the oral format or if you’re a keen biohacker with access then an IV drip of the stuff whilst being monitored would be interesting fo a quick boost.
Have you started taking or been taking a Mg supplement for a long time? What type and what dosage do you take to feel a benefit? I’d love to know please leave a comment below to let me know.
- Eby GA 3rd, Eby KL. Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):649-60. Epub 2009 Nov 27.
- South African Acute Pain Guidelines SAJAA 2009;15(6):1-120
- King DE, Mainous AG 3rd, Geesey ME, Woolson RF. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):166-71.
- Royal Society of Chemistry periodic table