As doctors our patients often want to know what supplements and vitamins are safe and useful for them to take. We often find ourselves talking about the role magnesium can play in assisting people to improve their health and feel better. So you may ask, what is the deal with magnesium? Do I need it? Why? How much?

Magnesium is an essential nutrient. Technically it is a mineral and electrolyte that is important to every aspect of our body’s normal function. It helps regulate how our cells work, especially those in the muscles (including muscles that you work on in the gym but also those in places like your blood vessels, heart and GI tract). Pretty amazing stuff.

It turns out that many of us are low in magnesium. Even laboratory blood testing isn’t always accurate about our magnesium levels because this electrolyte tends to fluctuate in our blood stream constantly. We can consume magnesium via foods such as green veggies, bananas, nuts and whole grains, yet many of us still remain deficient. Some people have trouble absorbing it well from their diets while we also lose magnesium through sweat, urine and through our GI tracts.  For this reason, many people can benefit from a magnesium supplement. People who are low in magnesium are often also deficient in potassium since the kidney relies on magnesium to help it take in and hold on to potassium.

Of course, we are not all created the same. How much magnesium you should take and in what form varies, depending on your lifestyle, diet and health concerns. You can often determine how much magnesium to take via a personalized vitamin quiz that helps you create a custom vitamin.

People who take magnesium supplements often find that its benefits are great. Because it helps muscles and nerves function optimally magnesium can play an important role in helping with sleep, migraine, irritable bowel,  muscle strength, muscle aches, and more. People who have kidney failure should be careful in taking magnesium and consult with their physician.

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Can magnesium play a role in other aspects of preventive health? It appears that magnesium can have a part in helping those with high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis but conclusive data is not yet final. Taking a custom all in one vitamin is a great way to get an array of nutrients (including magnesium) that may help improve your health and allow you to feel better.

Can magnesium do harm? Typically taking too much magnesium can cause side effects such as diarrhea and nausea, but it may also be very harmful in extreme doses, especially in those with kidney disease. Thus, taking safe and medically sound doses is essential (typically no more than 400mg daily).

When our patients ask us about taking magnesium, we usually advise they consider a low dose magnesium supplement to assist with various problems from insomnia to irritable bowel, migraines, muscle aches and more.  Many people are deficient in this key electrolyte and replenishing it can aid all of your muscles (not just the ones you use to lift weights) function at their optimal level. Your heart health, vascular health and GI system may all benefit from additional magnesium, but more is not always better. Take a personalized vitamin quiz to determine your needs for vitamins and supplements and to get safe and healthy amounts.