When we think of the vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function properly, the usual suspects come to mind - iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, potassium, etc. While all of these are important to keep our body in balance and thriving, one essential mineral is required for bone health, immune system health, managing blood sugar, energy production, and muscle and nerve function. This mineral is called magnesium and can be found in several forms including magnesium bisglycinate. Here's why it's important for our health:
Magnesium Bisglycinate and Other Forms of Magnesium
Before we get into what magnesium bisglycinate and other forms of magnesium are, we have to talk about its original form and its function in the body. Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the body for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and plays a vital role in muscle and nerve function, how we adjust blood glucose levels, the production of energy and protein, and keeping our immune system healthy. Magnesium can be found in foods such as leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and seeds, but millions of people still struggle to get enough magnesium in their diets. Because of this struggle, magnesium supplements are readily available on the market, but there are several kinds that vary based on what other ingredients and chemicals they are bonded or mixed with.
Magnesium Citrate - One of the most popular forms of magnesium supplements, in this form, magnesium is bonded with citric acid. At low levels, it is taken to help replenish magnesium levels. At higher dose levels, it can be used to treat constipation.
Magnesium Oxide - Used as the main ingredient in the common digestion medication, milk of magnesia, magnesium oxide is the combination of magnesium and oxygen.
Magnesium Chloride - Combined with chlorine, this form is used mostly in oral medications to help relieve heartburn and constipation, but can also be found in some topical medications for sore muscles.
Magnesium Malate - This form of magnesium is created by binding magnesium and naturally occurring malic acid. Some people prefer this form as it is easily digested and may have less of a laxative effect than other forms.
Magnesium Taurate - Made with the amino acid taurine, early research suggests that this form of magnesium may help manage healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Magnesium L-threonate - Created by combining vitamin C-derived threonic acid and magnesium, this magnesium supplement form is being researched for benefits in those with depression or age-related memory loss.
Magnesium Sulfate - Commonly known as Epsom salt, magnesium sulfate is formed by combining magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Tons of people use magnesium sulfate to soak sore muscles, but it is also safe to use orally as constipation relief.
Magnesium Orotate - Created with orotic acid, which is involved in our body's DNA production, magnesium orotate is often used by athletes for its potential benefits for heart health. Researchers believe this is due to "orotic acid’s unique role in the energy production pathways in your heart and blood vessel tissue."
Magnesium Bisglycinate - This is created by combining magnesium and the amino acid glycine, which has been used alone to help treat heart disease and diabetes, and improve sleep. In combination, magnesium and glycine have been reported to help reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia, though more research is needed.
Benefits of Magnesium Bisglycinate
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that we get anywhere from 310 to 420 mg of magnesium a day, depending on age and gender, to be healthy. But what are the specific benefits of taking a magnesium supplementation? Well, there are more than a few. Magnesium Bisglycinate, also known as magnesium glycinate, has been touted by both natural health advocates and healthcare professionals for its abilities to help relieve symptoms of a myriad of health conditions including:
High Blood Pressure - Those with high blood pressure may benefit from taking magnesium bisglycinate, as it has been shown in studies to help decrease heart rate slightly. By helping to reduce blood pressure, magnesium bisglycinate can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and failure.
Type 2 Diabetes - As mentioned before, magnesium helps our body regulate our blood glucose levels, which is the primary concern for those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Those with this disease don't produce enough insulin, which is called insulin resistance. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to insulin resistance. A magnesium bisglycinate supplement can be used as a preventative treatment for those at risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as a blood sugar management tool (alongside a doctor-approved treatment plan).
Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis is described by the National Osteoporosis Foundation as "a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps." Magnesium is crucial for bone health, as bone tissue has been found to be 60% magnesium. Some studies have found that those who ate a diet with a high amount of magnesium had better bone mass density than those with low levels of magnesium in their diet.
Migraines & Headaches - Low levels of magnesium have been linked to negatively affecting the neurotransmitters in our brains and too constricting blood vessels, which, according to healthcare professionals, are both possible causes of migraines and headaches. Ensuring that you get enough magnesium, either through diet or a magnesium supplement, may help prevent migraines from arising. Even the American Migraine Foundation reports that people frequently use doses of 400–500 mg per day for migraine prevention.
Depression - Magnesium may be able to help those with depression thanks to its link with N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which respond to a neurotransmitter called Glutamate. Glutamate is important for our brain to function normally, but can cause neurological problems when there's an excess amount. This is because too much glutamate excites the cells in our brain and leads to cell death, which is linked to depression and anxiety among other neurological issues. Magnesium blocks glutamate in the NMDA receptors, thus possibly preventing the overstimulating neurotransmitter from killing cells and leading to neurological problems.
Fibromyalgia - Fibromyalgia is "a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues," according to the Mayo Clinic. A magnesium supplement like Magnesium bisglycinate may help avoid the muscle spasms, weakness, and back pain associated with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. It's worth noting that several studies of women with fibromyalgia have been found to have lower levels of magnesium in their bodies than that of healthy women.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is exactly what it sounds like - extreme tiredness that lasts for six months or more coupled with problems with memory, concentration, balance, and sleep. Those with CFS have been found to be deficient in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main source of energy in living cells and something that magnesium helps our bodies create.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Symptoms - Some of the most common symptoms that women experience with PMS include cramping, fatigue, and mood swings. Magnesium can possibly help with all these pesky symptoms. In one study, the pain score on the given questionnaire was significantly reduced 2 months after the women started taking 360 mg of magnesium. In another, 200 mg of magnesium was linked to reduced water retention compared to women who took a placebo.
What About Magnesium Deficiency?
When our bodies don't get enough magnesium or lose magnesium at an accelerated rate, we could experience symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Certain individuals may have trouble absorbing dietary magnesium due to excessive drinking, kidney problems or kidney disease, digestive issues, Celiac disease, or take certain medications, which may lead to a magnesium deficiency.
While it is true that more than half of Americans don't get their daily recommended amount of magnesium, only 2% experience true magnesium deficiency. Not getting enough magnesium could lead to struggles with some of the health concerns mentioned above including osteoporosis, depression, fibromyalgia, and fatigue. Some other signs of a magnesium deficiency include:
Muscle Cramps and Twitches - Health professionals believe this occurs due to the extra calcium that flows into nerve cells and overstimulates the muscle nerves. Magnesium helps our bodies absorb calcium into the bones, preventing too much from entering the blood and soft tissues, and protecting and fortifying our bones, which may help prevent osteoporosis.
Mental Health Issues - Beyond an increased risk for anxiety and depression, low magnesium levels have been linked to feeling numb or having no emotions at all.
Myasthenia - AKA muscle weakness. Just muscle weakness alone isn't enough to justify a magnesium deficiency, but it could be a sign when coupled with other symptoms. Healthcare researchers believe that muscles may become weak due to a lack of potassium in the muscle cells, which has been linked to magnesium deficiency.
High blood pressure - There have been several animal studies that suggest not enough magnesium can lead to high blood pressure. While human studies have not directly linked magnesium deficiency to high blood pressure in published studies quite yet, there are several showing that taking magnesium helps lower blood pressure in our species.
Asthma- While the research is fairly limited on how magnesium deficiency is linked to the respiratory condition, it is important to mention that those with asthma often have lower magnesium levels than those without asthma.
Heart Arrhythmia - Low levels of magnesium have been linked to irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. An irregular heartbeat can lead to heart palpitations, lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting.
If you're experiencing one or more of these signs and symptoms, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about testing the magnesium levels in your body. The most common way to test magnesium levels is through a blood test, sometimes called a "total serum magnesium test". Other magnesium testing forms include measuring the amount of magnesium in urine, red blood cells, or through cells found in the mouth (this is known as an EXA test and is very expensive). Once it is determined whether your magnesium levels are normal or too low, you and your doctor can work together to decide on a plan that works for you.
How to Get Enough Magnesium
With all the health benefits of magnesium and the concerns that come with not getting enough magnesium, why wouldn't we work to get enough of the essential mineral? As it turns out, it is a little harder than you might think to get a healthy amount of magnesium into your diet, as it's been reported by the National Institutes of Health that nearly half of Americans aren't getting enough magnesium. As mentioned before, our daily magnesium intake should vary from 310 to 420 mg of magnesium, depending on age and gender, and getting enough starts with the foods we choose.
Even with all of these delicious magnesium-rich foods to add to our diet, sometimes we still fall short. This is where adding dietary supplements containing magnesium may be beneficial! As we mentioned above, there are several types of magnesium supplementation formulas on the market, so take some time to find one that is formulated with beneficial ingredients and works for your body. For example, if you're looking for relief from temporary problems like constipation or muscle soreness, magnesium in the form of Epsom salt or milk of magnesia may be your best choice. But if you're looking into taking magnesium for overall wellness and to relieve chronic symptoms of other health concerns, a supplement like magnesium bisglycinate may be your best bet. Look for the term "chelate" when shopping for a magnesium bisglycinate supplement. Chelating "is a binding process that combines minerals like magnesium with organic compounds to improve stability and bioavailability of nutrients." Chelating also helps our bodies absorb the magnesium faster and easier.
Side Effects of Taking a Magnesium Supplement
Before we get into the possible side effects of taking a magnesium bisglycinate or any other magnesium supplement, make sure you're talking to your doctor about starting a dietary supplement before you add it to your routine. This may help you avoid any unwanted interactions with medications or preexisting conditions.
In general, it is very difficult to overdo it on magnesium, as our kidneys flush out the excess, but not impossible. In too high doses, magnesium can lead to:
hypotension, or low blood pressure
cardiac arrest in severe cases
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