Yes, we all need it, but why, and what is it and what does it do?
Magnesium is the 8th most common mineral in the Earth’s crust. It is important for humans but equally as important for animals and plants. In fact all of life on Earth is based around the Magnesium atom, the organising ion in Chlorophyl, which is responsible for the process of photosynthesis. Without Magnesium we would not be here at all!
"It truly is an amazing mineral."
We all need Magnesium which according to the Australian Ministry of Health is required for more than 300 functions of the human body’s biochemistry. We need it for energy, brain function, DNA function, muscle and nerve function and blood glucose levels as well as the proper functioning of the heart. Magnesium may also prevent problems during pregnancy. So are we getting enough through our diets?
The soils in many countries may be woefully deficient in Magnesium. Therefore it simply does not enter the food chain in adequate amounts for ongoing health. Additionally, almost every single drug from headache tablets to antibiotics can cause a significant drainage of Magnesium from the body. (Medical references below) Any use of energy also uses large amounts of Magnesium. Yet tablets and powders simply may not provide an adequate replacement due to their (magnesium oxide) bioavailability being as little as 10% of intake. (Cohen medical ref below.)
The acidity levels of our digestive systems makes it very difficult to absorb Magnesium from anything we put in our mouths. Magnesium requires a very low PH level to be able to dissolve and be absorbed into the intestines. Foods which may contain high levels of Magnesium, such as brown rice and oat bran, may actually be very poor in terms of bio-availability due to their mineral content being bound to phytates. We cannot digest these (phytates) at all and so may not get the benefits. Similarly, taking oral supplements may impede magnesium uptake as does alcohol, coffee, sugar and stress. Excessive sweating from exercise can do the same thing.
High doses of magnesium taken orally may become problematic for the GI tract. Basically, they can upset your digestive system causing nausea and diarrhoea.
So transdermal or topical magnesium avoids the digestive system completely, thus avoiding the digestive problems. In the words of M. Sircus:
"Traditional methods of administering medicine such as tablets or capsules get watered down and become much less effective due to stomach acids and digestive enzymes, before they eventually get into the bloodstream. Bypassing the stomach and liver means a much greater percentage of the active ingredient goes straight into the bloodstream where it's needed. In many cases, trans-dermal methods are used to help avoid potential side effects. The full potential for trans-dermal medicine has not been explored by modern medicine though it has been practiced for thousands of years in hot springs around the world."
Jahnen-Dechent, W., Ketteler, M. Magnesium Basics. Clinical Kidney Journal 5, 3-14 (210).
Schweigel, M. & Martens, H. Magnesium transport in the gastrointestinal tract. Front Biosci 5, D666-677 (2000).
Spencer, H., Fuller, H., Norris, C. & Williams, D. Effect of magnesium on the intestinal absorption of calcium in man. J Am Coll Nutr 13, 485-492 (1994).
Adam, A. et al. Impact of whole wheat flour and its milling fractions on the cecal fermentations and the plasma and liver lipids in rats. J Agric Food Chem 50, 6557-6562 (2002).
Fine, K. D., Santa Ana, C. A., Porter, J. L. & Fordtran, J. S. Intestinal absorption of magnesium from food and supplements. The Journal of clinical investigation 88, 396-402, doi:10.1172/JCI115317 (1991).
Firoz, M. & Graber, M. Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations. Magnesium research : official organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium 14, 257-262 (2001).
Walker, A. F., Marakis, G., Christie, S. & Byng, M. Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Magnesium research : official organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium 16, 183-191 (2003).
Swaminathan, R. Magnesium metabolism and its disorders. Clin Biochem Rev 24, 47-66 (2003).