Magnesium is a co-factor with calcium in preventing bone loss. According to the Nutritional Magnesium Association 75-80 percent of Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium. Low magnesium has been linked to anxiety, panic attacks, leg and muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, fatigue, depression, nervousness, high blood pressure and a lot more. Magnesium plays a key role in maintaining a healthy body.
Calcium needs magnesium to make strong bones. By itself, calcium has a tendency to make bones brittle, while magnesium has binding properties which strengthen bones. You also need Vitamin D and B6 in the mix as well. Here’s some interesting information on how all these components work together to keep our bones strong.
What if you are at risk to develop Osteoporosis?
For anyone at risk of osteoporosis, the picture is quite different than the conventional norm. The trend has been to recommend calcium supplements to prevent bone loss, but scientific studies do not support such large doses especially after menopause. Soft tissue calcification can result from taking too much calcium.
Is there anything we can do to support this intricate balance?
How can we take care of ourselves? How can we regulate how much of all these minerals and vitamins we are getting?
Nature has a way of handling these requirements so simply. All we need to do is eat the right foods. The balance of magnesium and calcium then takes care of itself. We don’t need to rely on capsules and pills produced by manufacturing plants, to make sure we get the right ratio of calcium and magnesium in the supplements we buy. We don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on supplements, or worry about the quality of the supplements we buy. Supplementation with calcium alone, without magnesium, can result in worsening osteoporosis, production of kidney stones, arthritis, and heart disease.
Which foods are the best sources of Magnesium?
Magnesium Rich Foods:
Raw Cacao or cocoa powder – is the #1 source of magnesium, but no more than 3 tbsp per day because chocolate contains oxalates which attract calcium and bind it so the calcium is not absorbed by the body.
Kelp is another one of the best sources of magnesium.
Nuts: almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts
Seeds: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds
Legumes: peas and beans – white and black beans are excellent.
Unprocessed grains: barley, quinoa, millet, wheat germ, wheat bran
Green, leafy vegetables: swiss chard, spinach, summer squash, broccoli
Coconut water – especially from young Thai coconuts.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my money on great tasting food, than taking pills.
Note: Modern farming practices have depleted vital minerals from our soils over the last 50 years. Magnesium is among those minerals that have been sorely depleted, and that is why eating organically grown foods will ensure you are getting more of the minerals that are supposed to be in our foods. It’s better to get your magnesium from natural food sources.
When Are Magnesium Supplements Necessary?
The National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) says that magnesium supplements should be taken only when there is a serious deficiency. Oral magnesium supplements usually are combined with a salt and produce a compound such as magnesium oxide, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium carbonate, or magnesium citrate. They are found in health food stores and pharmacies, sometimes sweetened to make them more palatable. But remember, because you are taking a supplement doesn’t mean the magnesium in the supplement is actually being absorbed into your body. This is called its “bioavailability” quotient.
- Magnesium oxide has the lowest bioavailability of all supplements, only 4% absorption.
- Magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate show more reliable absorption. Magnesium Oil is made from Magnesium Chloride.
- Magnesium citrate, magnesium bisglycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium taurate have the best bio-availability.
- In supplements look for at least a 2:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium on the bottle.
- A supersaturated magnesium chloride in a water base called Dr. Barbara Hendel’s Magnesium Oil From the Ancient Zechstein Sea is even better if you have a high requirement for magnesium. Because it enters through the skin surface, it does not cause the laxative effect you would normally get with high doses in pill or powder form that have to go through the digestive tract.
You can get economical refills for this at Amazon: Magnesium Oil 64 fl oz (1.9 l) Liquid
Magnesium citrate – least expensive, easily absorbed, has a mild laxative effect. Good for those with rectal or colon problems. Avoid if you have loose stools.
Magnesium glycinate – best bioavailablity and least likely to cause diarrhea. It is the quickest and safest way to deal with depletion of magnesium in the body.
Magnesium malate – helps alleviate tiredness and boosts energy. It plays a key role in ATP synthesis and energy production. A highly absorbable form.
Magnesium taurate – best choice for those with cardiovascular problems. It is known to prevent arrhythmias and support those who have suffered heart attacks. High bioavailability, no laxative effects.
Magnesium carbonate – best choice for those with digestive problems, acid reflux, indigestion. It becomes magnesium chloride when it comes into contact with the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This is the easiest form of magnesium to find in the stores.
Magnesium chloride – best choice to take for detoxing the cells and tissues. Keeps your kidneys functioning, and boosts a slow metabolism. The chloride in this element is not toxic.
Tip: A good way to get magnesium chloride into the body is to spray it on, in the form of magnesium oil.
Magnesium glutamate and Magnesium aspartate – Stay away from these two forms of magnesium. Glutamic acid and aspartic acid are used to make aspartame, and become neurotoxins when not bound to other amino acids.
Magnesium Oxide – commonly found in pharmacies, but is not readily absorbed.
Magnesium Sulfate – also known as Epsom salts, which is fine for baths, but should never be ingested.
Take a hot bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts – and soak for 12-20 minutes to let the body absorb it.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that nutrients should come primarily from foods. Foods in nutrient-dense, mostly intact forms, contain not only the essential vitamins and minerals that are often contained in supplements, but also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that are not present in manufactured supplements.
Note: When they say “mostly intact forms” this refers to unprocessed foods, which are foods in their original or raw state, not cooked or pasteurized or altered in any way.
Also keep in mind that unlike calcium, magnesium is rapidly lost when you cook the food or buy it processed. Processing usually involves heat, which alters the nutrient value of the food.
Does Calcium Prevent the Absorption of Magnesium?
The short answer is yes. It is not generally well known that:
- because magnesium is so similar to calcium chemically, taking it in supplement form may increase the amounts of calcium eliminated by the kidneys;
- calcium and magnesium in supplement form also compete with each other for absorption from the gastrointestinal tract;
- magnesium supplements may have a laxative effect that forces calcium out of the body before it can be completely absorbed;
- when the body dips into a deficiency of magnesium, bones become brittle, because calcium is leached from the bones;
- the ratio of magnesium to calcium in supplements should be 2:1, if the ratio of calcium is too high, then complications start to develop, causing bone loss.
Remember if you are low in magnesium: The best ratio of magnesium to calcium is 2 parts magnesium to 1 part calcium.
While magnesium helps the body absorb and utilize calcium, taking more calcium without adequate magnesium, interferes with the absorption of magnesium, and that contributes to bone loss. So it’s better to take both, with a lot more magnesium than calcium if you want to have strong bones.
How to Maximize Magnesium Absorption
You can’t go wrong when you get your magnesium and calcium from food sources. They will always be in bioavailable form and easily absorbed in the right proportions. The trick is to eat enough of the foods containing magnesium. Between our depleted soils and fertilizers, and the cooking process, few people get enough magnesium anymore through their diet. But I have a way to squeeze the most out of green leafy veggies.
As mentioned in my article on Calcium, the best way to get the most value from your greens is to juice them. I use a Blendtec Total Blender. I use this Blender everyday to allow me to consume a large amount of greens in their natural form. It’s not only a blender but a juicer and food processor all rolled into one.
And with the self-cleaning feature, I don’t have to spend 10 minutes taking it apart to clean it. There is no assembling or disassembling with this appliance. It’s ready to go immediately. A powerful and practical tool that you will find indispensable in your kitchen.
Do Magnesium Supplements Raise the Risk of Yeast Overgrowth?
Some sources suggest that magnesium supplements that have to travel through the digestive tract, may not be the best way to get your magnesium and for preventing bone loss. Magnesium taken through the digestive route, reduces stomach acid, and that raises the risk of an overgrowth of yeast and other organisms in the intestinal tract. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but a certain sector of the population will be vulnerable to this.
If you are one of 17 million Americans living with a yeast infection like Candida, or leaky gut syndrome with all the nasty complications that come with that, you will know what I mean. It is hard to get rid of these conditions, once the intestinal environment has been optimized to allow them to develop. But you can get rid of it.
Tip: Quick Relief for Leg, Foot, or Menstrual Cramps
If you get a leg cramp or suffer from menstrual cramps and need quick relief, you can use a homeopathic muscle relaxant spray, that was invented in the late 1800’s, and has stood the test of time. It’s called Schuessler Tissue Salts Oral Spray – MagPhos. One squirt into the lining of your mouth and the cramp is gone. It’s the fastest way to get magnesium into your bloodstream and relax the muscles, without it having to go through the digestive system. Get it at your local health food store or pharmacy.
Caution: If you get pain in one leg for the first time – check with your family doctor in case it could be a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot). This is more likely if you have been inactive for awhile, on bed rest with an illness, or coming off a long air trip.
So now you know the facts.
- You have an understanding of the roles of calcium and magnesium in keeping bones strong.
- You know what you need to do to help the body keep you healthy.
- You know the best food sources of magnesium and calcium.
- You know what to look for in a good supplement.
Calcium + Magnesium + You = Strong Bones
You are a big part of the equation in keeping your bones healthy and preventing bone loss. When you know the why, how and what behind it all, it makes it so much easier in preventing bone loss.
Book: “The Magnesium Miracle” – Dr. Carolyn Dean
The National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet on Calcium
The National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet on Magnesium
Nutritional Magnesium Association FAQs
Nutritional Magnesium Association: Bone Density
See Part I of this 2 part post for: The Skinny on Preventing Bone Loss
It provides an understanding of the Calcium aspect of the equation in preventing bone loss.