Peer Reviewed

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential in many of the body's vital functions. This mineral helps uptake of calcium and potassium, and may help prevent soft tissue calcification (calcium deposits in arteries, kidneys, and other tissues). It may help improve sleep.
Foods High in Magnesium, avacado, almonds, bananasSome of the richest food sources include nuts, green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, soybean flour, and blackstrap molasses. Magnesium may help reduce:

  • Blood pressure
  • Effects of stress, anxiety and depression
  • Cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Cramps
  • Water retention associated with menstruation

Magnesium may help prevent osteoporosis, some types of cancer, heart disease, and complications of pregnancy (preeclampsia and eclampsia). Magnesium may be used to prevent premature labor and convulsions in pregnant women.

Supplementing the diet with magnesium may help prevent depression, dizziness, muscle weakness and twitching, and premenstrual syndrome.

A deficiency in magnesium may cause the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Poor digestion

Magnesium's balance in the body may be disrupted by vomiting, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach or bowel disease, diuretics, and pancreatitis. Research has shown magnesium deficiency may contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

The test for magnesium deficiency is called an intracellular magnesium screen. This is a sensitive test that may be more accurate than a standard serum magnesium screen.

Sources of Magnesium
Some of the richest food sources include nuts (Brazil nuts, cashews, black walnuts), green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, soybean flour, and blackstrap molasses. Other sources for magnesium are apples, apricots, bananas, avocados, garlic, lima beans, and salmon. Even many herbs/spices contain magnesium (sage, basil, lemongrass, peppermint, parsley, paprika, and many more).

Magnesium is available in capsule and tablet forms as magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium lactate. Look for supplements that are soluble—it is easier for the body to absorb. Other sources include Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and milk of magnesia. These are used as laxatives.

Guidelines and Cautions
The recommended daily doses are:
Recommended daily doses

  • To avoid diarrhea, take magnesium throughout the day with a full glass of water.
  • Do not take magnesium supplements if heart or kidney disease is present. Too much magnesium can cause serious problems or death. Seek the advice of a medical professional prior to taking magnesium.
  • Calcium (Vitamin D), manganese, phosphorus, zinc, iron, fat, certain medicine, and some foods/drinks can increase the body's need for magnesium.
  • Diuretics, digitalis, alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sugar can cause the body to lose magnesium.
  • Do not overuse milk of magnesia or Epsom salts as laxatives. Serious health problems may result.
  • If taking medication on a daily basis, consult a medical professional before taking magnesium.

Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 01/18/19
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Vincent Traynelis, MD
Although many patients describe improvement in their condition after taking one of the supplements previously described, the Editorial Board is unable to endorse these supplements, as there is insufficient peer reviewed research available. Hopefully the role of these compounds will be better understood once more scientific research is compiled.
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