What is it?
Magnesium is a mineral that is present in relatively large amounts in the body. Researchers estimate that the average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. Dietary intake of magnesium may be low, particularly among women.
An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds). Other sources include dairy products, meats, chocolate, and coffee. Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.
People take magnesium to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon in the US. It’s particularly common among African Americans and the elderly.
Magnesium is also used as a laxative for constipation and for preparation of the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures. It is also used as an antacid for acid indigestion.
Some people use magnesium for diseases of the heart and blood vessels including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of “good” cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, heart valve disease (mitral valve prolapse), and heart attack.
Magnesium is also used for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, leg cramps during pregnancy, diabetes, kidney stones, migraine headaches, weak bones (osteoporosis), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), altitude sickness, urinary incontinence, restless leg syndrome, asthma, hayfever, multiple sclerosis, and for preventing hearing loss.
Athletes sometimes use magnesium to increase energy and endurance.
Some people put magnesium on their skin to treat infected skin ulcers, boils, and carbuncles; and to speed up wound healing. Magnesium is also used as a cold compress in the treatment of a severe skin infection caused by strep bacteria (erysipelas) and as a hot compress for deep-seated skin infections.
Some companies that manufacturer magnesium/calcium combination supplements promote a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio as being ideal for absorption of these elements. However, there is no credible research to support this claim. Claims that coral calcium products have ideal combinations of magnesium and calcium to cure a variety of diseases and conditions are being carefully evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for MAGNESIUM are as follows:
- Dyspepsia (heartburn or “sour stomach”) as an antacid. Various magnesium compounds are used. Magnesium hydroxide seems to work the fastest.
- Preventing and treating magnesium deficiency, and certain conditions related to magnesium deficiency.
- Use as a laxative for constipation or preparation of the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures.
Likely effective for...
- Conditions that occur during pregnancy called pre-eclampsia or eclampsia. Magnesium must be given intravenously (by IV) or as a shot. This must be done your healthcare provider.
- A type of irregular heartbeat called torsades de pointes. Magnesium must be given intravenously (by IV). This must be done your healthcare provider.
Possibly effective for...
Possibly Effective when given intravenously (by IV) by a healthcare provider for...
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking magnesium seems to relieve symptoms of PMS including mood changes and bloating in some women. Taking magnesium by mouth also seems to prevent premenstrual migraine.
- Weak bones (osteoporosis). There is evidence that suggests taking magnesium might prevent bone loss in older women who have osteoporosis. There is also evidence that taking estrogen along with magnesium plus calcium and a multivitamin supplement daily increases bone strength better than estrogen alone in older women.
- Preventing type 2 diabetes in overweight, middle-aged women, when magnesium is obtained from foods. More evidence is needed to know if magnesium helps treat diabetes.
- Diseases of heart valves (mitral valve prolapse). Taking magnesium seems to reduce symptoms of mitral valve prolapse in people with low magnesium levels in their blood.
- High cholesterol. There is some evidence that taking magnesium chloride and magnesium oxide can produce small decreases in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels, and small increases in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.
- Chest pain (angina) due to artery disease. Taking magnesium seems to reduce pain attacks in people with coronary artery disease.
- Kidney stones. Taking magnesium seems to prevent the recurrence of kidney stones, but other medications such as chlorthalidone (Hygroton) may be more effective.
- Hearing loss in people exposed to loud noise. Taking magnesium seems to prevent hearing loss in individuals exposed to loud noise.
- Metabolic syndrome (a condition that increases risk for diabetes and heart disease). People with low serum magnesium levels are 6-7 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than people with normal magnesium levels. Higher magnesium intake from diet and supplements is linked with a 27% lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome in healthy women and a 31% lower risk in healthy young adults.
- Preventing stroke. There is some evidence that getting more magnesium from the diet might decrease the risk of stroke in men. However, there is no proof that taking magnesium supplements has this same effect.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), when given by an injection (shot). This must be done by a healthcare provider.
- Fibromyalgia pain, when used with malic acid.
- Cluster headaches.
- Migraine headaches.
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- Asthma attacks.
- Nerve pain caused by cancer.
- Pain after a hysterectomy.
- A lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Possibly ineffective for...
- Helping to restart the heart.
- Improving energy and endurance during athletic activity.
- Cerebral palsy, when given in the vein of premature infants.
- Heart attack.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD seem to have lower magnesium levels. Limited research suggests that magnesium might help ADHD in children with low magnesium levels.
- Anxiety. There is some evidence that magnesium, hawthorn, and California poppy (Sympathyl) might be effective in treating mild to moderate anxiety disorder. But this product is not available in the US.
- Restless leg syndrome. Limited research suggests that taking magnesium might decrease the amount of movement and increase the amount of sleep in patients with restless leg syndrome. However, the role of magnesium, if any, in restless leg syndrome is uncertain since some people with the condition have high levels of magnesium in their blood, while other people with the condition have low magnesium levels.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). Some evidence suggests that taking magnesium reduces diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) by about 2.2 mmHg in patients with mild to moderate high blood pressure. This is a small reduction. Magnesium does not seem to lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) much. Some researchers question these results because they think the studies were poorly designed.
- Pregnancy-related leg cramps. Research on the use of magnesium for treating leg cramps caused by pregnancy has been inconsistent. One study shows that magnesium might reduce the frequency of leg cramps. However, another study shows no benefit.
- Sudden cardiac death. Some preliminary research suggests that higher dietary intake of magnesium might lower the chance of experiencing sudden cardiac death. However, it is not known if taking a magnesium supplement would have the same potential benefit.
- Lyme disease.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Premature labor.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate magnesium for these uses.
Magnesium is required for the proper growth and maintenance of bones. Magnesium is also required for the proper function of nerves, muscles, and many other parts of the body. In the stomach, magnesium helps neutralize stomach acid and moves stools through the intestine.
Magnesium is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth or when the prescription-only, injectable product is used correctly. In some people, magnesium might cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other side effects.
Doses less than 350 mg per day are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Large doses might cause too much magnesium to build up in the body, causing serious side effects including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, coma, and death.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Magnesium is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant or breast-feeding women when taken by mouth in the amounts recommended. These amounts depend on the age of the woman. Check with your healthcare provider to find out what amounts are right for you.
Heart block: High doses of magnesium (typically delivered by IV) should not be given to people with heart block.
Kidney problems, such as kidney failure: Kidneys that don’t work well have trouble clearing magnesium from the body. Taking extra magnesium can cause magnesium to build up to dangerous levels. Don’t take magnesium if you have kidney problems.
Be cautious with this combination.
Antibiotics (Aminoglycoside antibiotics)
Some antibiotics can affect the muscles. These antibiotics are called aminoglycosides. Magnesium can also affect the muscles. Taking these antibiotics and getting a magnesium shot might cause muscle problems.
Some aminoglycoside antibiotics include amikacin (Amikin), gentamicin (Garamycin), kanamycin (Kantrex), streptomycin, tobramycin (Nebcin), and others.
Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics)
Magnesium might decrease how much antibiotic the body absorbs. Taking magnesium along with some antibiotics might decrease the effectiveness of some antibiotics. To avoid this interaction, take these antibiotics at least 2 hours before, or 4 to 6 hours after, magnesium supplements.
Some of these antibiotics that might interact with magnesium include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar).
Antibiotics (Tetracycline antibiotics)
Magnesium can attach to tetracyclines in the stomach. This decreases the amount of tetracyclines that the body can absorb. Taking magnesium along with tetracyclines might decrease the effectiveness of tetracyclines. To avoid this interaction, take calcium 2 hours before, or 4 hours after, taking tetracyclines.
Some tetracyclines include demeclocycline (Declomycin), minocycline (Minocin), and tetracycline (Achromycin).
Magnesium can decrease how much bisphosphate the body absorbs. Taking magnesium along with bisphosphates can decrease the effectiveness of bisphosphate. To avoid this interaction, take bisphosphonate at least two hours before magnesium or later in the day.
Some bisphosphonates include alendronate (Fosamax), etidronate (Didronel), risedronate (Actonel), tiludronate (Skelid), and others.
Medications for high blood pressure (Calcium channel blockers)
Magnesium might lower blood pressure. Taking magnesium with medication for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.
Some medications for high blood pressure include nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), and others.
Magnesium seems to help relax muscles. Taking magnesium along with muscle relaxants can increase the risk of side effects of muscle relaxants.
Some muscle relaxants include carisoprodol (Soma), pipecuronium (Arduan), orphenadrine (Banflex, Disipal), cyclobenzaprine, gallamine (Flaxedil), atracurium (Tracrium), pancuronium (Pavulon), succinylcholine (Anectine), and others.
Water pills (Potassium-sparing diuretics)
Some "water pills" can increase magnesium levels in the body. Taking some "water pills" along with magnesium might cause too much magnesium to be in the body.
Some "water pills" that increase magnesium in the body include amiloride (Midamor), spironolactone (Aldactone), and triamterene (Dyrenium).
Magnesium in the blood is processed by the kidneys and excreted into the urine. It then leaves the body. In women, boron supplements can slow this process down and raise magnesium levels in the blood. In young women, age 18 to 25 years, the effect appears to be greater in less active women than in athletic women. In postmenopausal women, the effect is more marked in women with low dietary magnesium intake. It is not known how important these effects are or whether they occur in men.
Calcium supplements can decrease the absorption of dietary magnesium, but only at very high doses (2600 mg per day). However, in people with adequate magnesium stores, calcium doesn't have any clinically significant effect on long-term magnesium balance. People at high risk for magnesium deficiency should take calcium supplements at bedtime, instead of with meals, to avoid interfering with dietary magnesium absorption. Magnesium does not seem to affect calcium absorption.
Malic acid is used with magnesium hydroxide for reducing pain and tenderness associated with fibromyalgia. Why this works and whether there are any interactions between malic acid and magnesium hydroxide isn't known.
Various forms of vitamin D increase magnesium absorption; especially when taken in high doses. This effect has been used to treat low magnesium in people with conditions that make it difficult for them to absorb magnesium.
High doses of zinc (142 mg/day) appear to decrease magnesium absorption and magnesium balance in healthy adult men. Also, moderately high dietary zinc intake (53 mg per day) seems to increase magnesium loss in postmenopausal women. This might harm bone health. More research is needed to find out how important this interaction is.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For mild magnesium deficiency: magnesium sulfate 3 grams every 6 hours for 4 doses.
- For treating constipation in adults, single doses of magnesium should be taken with a full glass of water and should only be used occasionally. Typical doses are:
- magnesium citrate 8.75-25 grams (150-300 mL of magnesium citrate solution, 290 mg per 5mL).
- magnesium hydroxide 2.4-4.8 grams (30-60 mL of milk of magnesia, 400 mg per 5mL).
- magnesium sulfate 10-30 grams.
- For treating heartburn in adults:
- magnesium hydroxide 400-1200 mg 4 times daily (5-15 mL of milk of magnesia, 400 mg per 5mL)
- magnesium oxide 800 mg daily.
- For reducing the frequency and severity of migraine headaches in adults:
- magnesium citrate 1830-3625 mg in divided doses for up to 3 months.
- magnesium oxide 400 mg twice daily.
- For reducing the frequency and severity of migraine headaches in children: 15 mg per kg body weight of magnesium oxide per day in 3 divided doses for up to 16 weeks.
- For treatment of low magnesium levels in adults with type 2 diabetes: 50 mL of a 5% magnesium chloride solution daily for 16 weeks.
- For weak bones (osteoporosis): 300-1800 mg of magnesium hydroxide daily for 6 months, followed by 600 mg of magnesium hydroxide daily for 18 months.
- For premenstrual syndrome (PMS): 333mg of magnesium oxide daily.
The daily Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for elemental magnesium are: Age 1-3 years, 80 mg; 4-8 years, 130 mg; 9-13 years, 240 mg; 14-18 years, 410 mg (boys) and 360 mg (girls); 19-30 years, 400 mg (men) and 310 mg (women); 31 years and older, 420 mg (men) and 320 mg (women). For pregnant women age 14-18 years, the RDA is 400 mg; 19-30 years, 350 mg; 31-50 years, 360 mg. For lactating women age 14-18 years, the RDA is 360 mg; 19-30 years, 310 mg; 31-50 years, 320 mg. For infants less than one year of age, adequate intake (AI) levels are 30 mg from birth to 6 months and 75 mg from 7 to 12 months. The daily upper intake level (UL) for magnesium is 65 mg for children age 1-3 years, 110 mg for 4-8 years, and 350 mg for anyone over 8 years old, including pregnant and breast-feeding women.
Aspartate de Magnésium, Atomic Number 12, Carbonate de Magnésium, Chelated Magnesium, Chlorure de Magnésium, Citrate de Magnésium, Dimagnesium Malate, Epsom Salts, Gluconate de Magnésium, Glycérophosphate de Magnésium, Glycinate de Magnésium, Hydroxyde de Magnésium, Lactate de Magnésium, Lait de Magnésium, Magnesia, Magnesia Carbonica, Magnesia Muriatica, Magnesia Phosphorica, Magnesia Sulfate, Magnesia Sulfurica, Magnesio, Magnésium, Magnesium Ascorbate, Magnesium Aspartate, Magnesium Carbonate, Magnésium Chelaté, Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Disuccinate Hydrate, Magnesium Gluconate, Magnesium Glycerophosphate, Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Hydroxide, Magnesium Lactate, Magnesium Malate, Magnesium Murakab, Magnesium Orotate, Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphoricum, Magnesium Sulfate, Magnesium Taurate, Magnesium Taurinate, Magnesium Trisilicate, Malate de Magnésium, Milk of Magnesia, Mg, Numéro Atomique 12, Orotate de Magnésium, Oxyde de Magnésium, Phosphate de Magnésium, Sels d’Epsom, Sulfate de Magnésium, Trisilicate de Magnésium.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Magnesium page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/998.html.
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