Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Based on information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), magnesium is practically a wonder drug. Yet few people know about it, and few doctors recommend it. It helps maintain muscles and nerves, regulates blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and prevents heart attacks.

I first learned about magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) when my legs started becoming stiff and jumpy. It was a multiple sclerosis symptom, but what to do about it? The prescribed medicines stopped the spasms, but had the side effect of completely knocking me out. My muscles wouldn’t function at all.

Then someone at a support group suggested I take magnesium. In two days, the spasms and jumpy legs stopped. I’ve taken it ever since. I didn’t realize it had all these other benefits until a comment from Patricia on this blog entry alerted me.

Patricia told us about a book called The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean, an MD and naturopath. According to Dr. Dean, nearly 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and it is often the primary factor in heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and most muscular problems.

The NIH says, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body… [It] is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.” And according to our own Amy Campbell, “Results from three very large studies indicate that people who consume a diet rich in magnesium have a lower risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.”

People with diabetes are more likely than those without to be low in magnesium. According to an article on About.com, “Elevated blood glucose levels increase the loss of magnesium in the urine, which in turn lowers blood levels of magnesium.” So getting enough magnesium is especially important in diabetes.

In spite of these benefits, medical authorities rarely recommend magnesium. That’s why I call it the forgotten mineral. For instance, people on diuretics (“water pills”) are usually given potassium supplements to replace the potassium lost through urination. But magnesium is lost the same way and rarely supplemented.

According to the piece on About.com, “Healthy adults who eat a varied diet do not generally need to take a magnesium supplement.”

Dr. Dean strongly disagrees. She says that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 350 to 400 milligrams per day, but for best health, we may need roughly double this amount. She says the Standard American Diet (SAD) provides very little magnesium. Soils depleted by factory farming may grow foods low in magnesium. Refined grains and processed foods have usually been stripped of most of their magnesium.

Dean isn’t the only one recommending this mineral. Drs. Andrea Rosanoff, PhD, and Mildred Seelig, MD, authors of The Magnesium Factor, state, “Mg has effects that parallel those of statins.”

In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, they wrote, “Both statins and normal Mg levels prevent clotting, reduce inflammation and prevent [arterial] plaques. But statins raise liver enzymes, can cause [muscle damage] and have many other side effects, while Mg supplements tend to protect [muscles] and have temporary diarrhea or mild GI distress as the only side effect.”

The doctors point to studies showing that nations with low-magnesium/high-calcium diets — the US, Finland, and the Netherlands, in particular — have a lethal heart disease rate much higher than in nations with high-magnesium/low-calcium diets, such as Japan. Yet our medical system encourages statins and ignores magnesium.

How to Get Magnesium
One of the best sources of magnesium is seaweed, but there are many other sources as well. According to NIH, green vegetables such as spinach are great sources, because chlorophyll (which gives the vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Beans, peas, nuts — especially almonds and cashews — and seeds are also good. Whole grains, like brown rice, corn, and whole-grain or sprouted wheat bread are good. Wheat bran in any form is high in magnesium. So are avocado, cabbage, cucumber, and many other foods, according to the Web site Whole Food Catalog. This wonderful site can be searched by food or by nutrient and includes tons of foods I’ve never even heard of.

As for the seaweed, some people replace table salt with powdered kelp, which they say tastes better than salt and is loaded with magnesium and iodine.

Most Americans should at least consider magnesium supplements, which come in many available and cheap forms. Dr. Dean says that magnesium oxide is not a good choice, because it is poorly absorbed. She recommends magnesium citrate and magnesium taurate. She also applies magnesium oil on her skin after a shower.

According to Dr. Dean, the first side effect of overdoing the magnesium would be loose stools. In fact, magnesium is used as a laxative, so if you have constipation, that could be a sign of low magnesium levels and another reason to eat more greens and nuts and consider taking supplements. Magnesium could improve your blood sugar levels, protect your heart, strengthen your bones and muscles, and literally save your life.

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Comments
  1. Magnesium has helped me greatly with fibromyalgia pain. I take a supplement 3 times a day and get lots of green vegetables, legumes, and other good sources. The only downside to magnesium, especially if you take a lot of supplements, is diarrhea. (After all, milk of magnesia is a remedy for constipation.) So it’s a good idea to start slow and see how you do. With all it does in the body, it’s really a wonder supplementas long as you don’t overdo.

    Posted by Deb |
  2. This is one element I have been worried about but blood test showed normal levels.

    Posted by calgarydiabetic |
  3. The only Mg to take is chelated Mg for best absorbtion.

    Posted by Bill |
  4. Virtually all tablet medications contain magnesium stearate as a filler ingredient. Does this type of magnesium help in the same way that magnesium citrate or magnesium taurate do?

    Posted by Regina |
  5. I have been taking magnesium for fibromyalgia and leg cramps for years without any appreciable improvement. What dose is recommended?

    Glad I stopped taking statins, just a couple of weeks in, my leg muscles became so weak I could barely walk.

    Posted by Pat Weiser |
  6. I had terrible back pain, especially at night and could not even turn over while lying down without excruciating pain. I read a book about magnesium and back pain and began taking 400 mg. per day, in divided doses and within weeks my back pain stopped. It has been a year since the night back pain ended and I still supplement with 400 mg. of magnesium.

    Posted by Lynne Nelson |
  7. Thank you; great advice! I take magnesium but may be not enough; will check into this issue.

    Posted by joan |
  8. I take magnesium maleate for my fibromyalgia. There have been studies showing this formulation has the best effect for fibromyalgia. The one I use has 425 mg magnesium and 2.5 g malic acid in 3 caplets. It makes a tremendous difference for me. Sometimes I have a spell of leg cramps when it’s cold, and I add 250 mg magnesium oxide until things warm up. (I also eat 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard with turmeric at bedtime to prevent leg cramps. It really works unless it gets really cold out.)

    Posted by Deb |
  9. I was taking magnesium injections biweekly to help with severe leg cramps from fibromyalgia. Even taking this much my blood test always registered low norm. Suddenly last July I could no longer get the drug from the pharmacy. They said the manufacturer stopped making it. I do not absorb supplements well so I am very frustrated. Why do the Doctors ignore this important drug and why on earth would the drug company stop manufacturing such an important injectable.

    Posted by Carol |
  10. i drink diet tonic water for leg cramps. It contains quinine and works for me. But I’m going to try the magnesium also.

    Posted by Mariel Tyler |
  11. Greetings All ~

    I discovered Magnesium Malate and enjoy chewing it up each evening and feel my aches and jumpy legs relax. I chase it with coconut water. The green coconut produces water that calms diarrhea.

    The product I use is canned coconut water from green coconut and they include some of the jelly like fiber. Since I have Crohn’s with daily diarrhea, this has been helpful to keep me in control.

    Good Luck, Ya’ll
    Wendy

    Posted by Wendy Cooper |
  12. When I feel my legs starting to cramp, or the first signs of Restless Leg syndrome begin, I take 2,000 mg of Magnesium Gluconate. I order it from wwwHock.com. I have never had a problem with diarrhea. I obsorb Magnesium Gluconate much better then the Oxide. The reason you blood test is showing normal is because the deficiency is in your cells and not your blood. You have to rely on your symptms, and not that blood test.

    Posted by LInda Green |
  13. Be careful how and when you take that magnesium supplement. Many magnesiumm compounds make the upper intestinal tract more alkaline, and that’s where the absorbtion of Vitamin D takes place. The altered alkalinity interferes with the absorbtion of the Vitamin D, making the supplement almost worthless. Google “Vitamin D and Magnesium” to check this out. WebMD and Rxlist.com can help here. A suggestion would be to take the Mg at night, and the Vit. D in the morning.

    Posted by David Schulze |
  14. Some four months ago fellow members of Diabetics UK suggested that I consider taking Magnesium for the ‘world’s worst leg cramps’ which would cause both legs from the hips down to go into spasm for at least two hours; the resulting pain causing me to go
    fall unconscious and collapse causing severe facial injuries. This, being at night and living alone, made me so terrified of a repeat occurrence that I went to my doctor who prescribed Quinine Sulphate on a continuous basis. I took QS for over eight years it was wonderful with not a hint of cramp all that time then only to find that it had damaged my kidneys.

    I came off QS and re-experienced stronger and stronger leg cramps until I had a near repeat of the first major attack 8 years ago.

    It must be 4 months now that I have taken Magnesium Malate x 1.250mg x 1 am and x 1 before bed and, although I have had suspicious pre-cramp feelings, none have resulted in full painful cramps. I realise as I write this that I have had one or two weeks now without concern.

    I am a Type 2 Diabetic and did suffer very bad leg cramps before diagnosis. By the way, it is a good idea to place a small pot/jar of salt by the bed in case of cramp starting because a small amount on the tongue if taken immediately will arrest the pain and spasm within 20 minutes or so.

    Yes, Magnesium will loosen the bowels, but the upside is worth it. Also, Oralit taken at night will help to replace the salts, etc., lost through
    the stomach effect.

    Posted by BaliRob |
  15. Magnesium Threonate is some pretty potent stuff and the only form that crosses the blood-brain barrier (based off of research). Magnesium Chelate (magnesium and calcium) is also pretty potent but slightly different in-effect than magnesium threonate. I just started taking magnesium threonate and I wasn’t expecting anything, however it’s like my entire brain lit up and I got a little extra energy, drive, and focus. I may just be magnesium deficient, however I eat healthy. Maybe my brain is deficient in it… I don’t know.

    Posted by Dave |
  16. I use a magnesium spray after a meal or shower and at night before bed. If you have anxiety or insomnia or sore knees or muscles a cup of organic chamomile tea and spray the magnesium on your wrists or armpits or knees or ankles and you will have a deep rejuvenating sleep and your anxiety will come down immediately… you will go from racing heart or a feeling of racing high blood pressure or adrenaline rush to calm and peaceful. Just a couple of sprays of magnesium and in minutes you will notice calm. It really helps to almost instantly relieve high blood pressure… within 30 minutes after magnesium you will have lowered blood pressure.

    Posted by Renata |
  17. I recently started taking Liquid Magnesium Threonate. Is it safe to take with 25mg of spironlactone? Which I take for acne?

    Posted by Jessica |
  18. Hi Jessica,

    The one study I found said that spironolactone lowers magnesium levels, which is a bad thing. So taking some magnesium would be a good idea.

    Posted by David Spero RN |
  19. Started using magnesium citrate by now 400 mg 2 days ago can walk without pain so my job becomes lot easier I have type 2 diabetes hopefully this will help

    Posted by a brown |
  20. Does magnesium stearate cross the BBB?

    Posted by Betty |
  21. For the past 4 years l have been down with diabetes.l have visited the big hospitals without cure. A friend recommended Magnesium Malate from source Naturals which l started using about a week ago and it seems the signs would appreciable

    Posted by BLAY JAMES REDMAN |
  22. Hej..ngn som vet om det kan hjälpa för lindra Artros i fötter? Min son har väldig smärta kan inte gå för långt etc. är bara 37år..som mor vill jag försöka hitta allt som kanske kan hjälpa han vägrar ta Kortison!! Mvh ann

    Posted by ann andersson |

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