I sometimes think about what supplements I might grab in a house fire, and magnesium is one of them. I'd never diminish the evidence-based power of B vitamins, fatty acids, and fat soluble-vitamins like A, D, and K, but if I want one mineral that does it all, magnesium is it.
Understood to participate in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, this mineral was recently identified to have 3,751 binding sites on human proteins and may be critical in answering the question: How does human complexity emerge from so few genes?
On a more technical level, magnesium is an essential NMDA receptor modulator, which is a brain chemical port that regulates the actions of the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate. It's also critical for the production of cellular energy (ATP), and SAMe, the body’s major methyl donor and precursor to important agents like neurochemicals, fatty acids, and antioxidants.
In many ways, having enough magnesium allows the body to do what it does best.
Depression, Anxiety, PMS, headaches
Magnesium has been demonstrated to be a rapidly effective intervention for depression, likely related to its role in regulating neuronal function through calcium flux in and out of cells, and potentially its role in optimal thyroid function—an underactive thyroid is a known cause of depression.
Magnesium is also critical for those struggling with PMS, including premenstrual migraines, irritability, low mood, and cramps. Of women supplemented with a conservative dose of 250mg daily for three months, 34% experienced relief of PMS. Similarly, by the second month of treatment with magnesium, women with PMS experienced improvement in mood and pain in a randomized, controlled trial.
In a randomized, blinded, cross-over trial, magnesium with B6 was effective in relieving PMS-related anxiety and menstrual migraines. If women are cycling with low levels of magnesium, then they enter pregnancy depleted (up to 70% of women do), go on to deliver and breastfeed, and the cumulative deficiency may play an important role in the onset of postpartum depression.
Importantly, magnesium may have anti-inflammatory properties, as was found in a study of women consuming the mineral dietarily.
How to take it?
Magnesium occurs in leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and is notably depleted by stress, alcohol, sugar, and sodas (high in phosphoric acid). As discussed by Dr. Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel, the herbicide glyphosate (used on genetically modified crops including corn, soy, vegetable oils, and sugar) chelates minerals in the gut, including magnesium. Above and beyond the daily recommended allowance, many women benefit from doses of magnesium in the 5-800mg range.
My preferred product is magnesium chelated to glycinate (as in mag glycinate) or taurate which are inhibitory amino acids. However mag citrate may be used if a more osmotic effect is sought after (think constipation). Dividing doses throughout the day (say, with each meal) may be helpful if you get loose stools, but magnesium may have a calming effect that is preferable at night.
For my patients struggling with insomnia, incorporating an Epsom salt bath into your nightly ritual helps warm the body and provides a healthy dose of this sought-after mineral.
Conventional doctors are well-aware of the power of this nutrient—it’s used in hospitals for constipation, heart arrhythmias, seizures and contractions in pregnancy—but they seem to forget about it when they sit down behind their desks in the office. Use this information to experience the power of nature’s natural relaxant.