Magnesium and Metabolism

Magnesium and Metabolism

Did you know that on average 60% of people in the U.S. are deficient in magnesium (Mg); an essential mineral responsible for the regulation of over 300 enzyme systems. One of its most important functions is that it plays a key role is producing energy, making it of vital importance to and for all cellular functions and processes.

Low magnesium levels can be caused by many factors, some of which include:

  • The over consumption of phytates; antioxidant compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Phytates bind to certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and, to a lesser extent calcium, and slow and/or block their absorption. Additionally, phosphates, from most dark colored sodas, can actually bind to magnesium inside the digestive tract, rendering it unavailable to the body. 
  • Medications such as birth control pill, asthma medications or estrogen replacement therapy. “Both thyroid and progesterone improve magnesium retention. Estrogen dominance is often associated with magnesium deficiency, which can be an important factor in osteoporosis (Abraham and Grewal, 1990; Muneyyirci-Delale, et al., 1999).”
  • An imbalance of calcium and magnesium supplementation. Where calcium supplementation can have negative effects on magnesium levels, magnesium supplementation actually improves the body’s use of calcium.

According to Dr Ray Peat, “Magnesium deficiency and Calcium deficiency have some similar symptoms (such as cramping). But Magnesium is antagonistic to Calcium in many systems. It is the basic protective Calcium-blocker. G. Jasmin, showed that Magnesium deficiency causes inflammation. A deficiency of either Calcium or Magnesium can stimulate the parathyroid glands to produce more hormone (parathyroid hormone, PTH), which increases Calcium absorption, but also removes Calcium from the bones. This hormone, responding to a dietary Calcium or Magnesium deficiency, is an important factor in causing cells to take up too much Calcium. And its excess is associated with many inflammatory and degenerative diseases.”

  • But the #1 cause of magnesium deficiency is stress, which can and often does include any or all of the above.

**Note: Chronic stress leads to excess production of adrenaline and cortisol, which wastes magnesium.  The inability to regulate blood sugar due to inefficient metabolic function leads to chronic states of elevated adrenaline and cortisol.


The body is a system of systems, meaning, no one part of the body works in isolation of itself. Every function is coordinated through two main control systems, the nervous system and endocrine system.  The body works 24/7 to maintain homeostasis, and the ability to maintain homeostasis depends largely on the ability to meet the body’s daily energy demands. What does this mean? It means, when we are not consuming the proper amount of nutrition to make up for the energy demands we have placed on the body each and every day, we force the body into a state of compensation, also known as inflammation.

Under states of chronic inflammation the cells become very excitatory. Cellular excitation causes an imbalance of intra-cellular minerals (potassium and magnesium) to extra-cellular minerals (sodium and calcium) which can result in edema (swelling), changes in skeletal bones and hormonal imbalance in the body. It also influences the immune system.  In addition, magnesium deficiency increases the production of parathyroid hormone and reduces the production of vitamin D which functions as a hormone and is also needed for mineralization of the bones.

Parathyroid hormone signals the body to release calcium from the bone, which is then deposited in the soft tissues and joints. While this is a corrective feedback mechanism, when calcium is out of balance with magnesium, the high levels of calcium cannot mineralize the bone. This leads to  a build up of calcium in the joints,  reduced articulation of the joints and joint pain.

This can get pretty tricky but in keeping it simple, anything blocking metabolic function can cause a magnesium deficiency and a magnesium deficiency can block metabolic function. Eating foods containing high amounts of magnesium such as bone broth,fresh fruits, animal protein, shellfish, dark chocolate and in some cases coffee, while avoiding foods containing phytates, such as legumes, beans, grains, nuts and seeds along with proper stress management are all essential pieces to upregulating metabolic health and restoring magnesium deficiencies.

Some of the benefits of magnesium include:

  • Protein and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Muscle and nerve function
  • Blood glucose control
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Energy production
  • It’s a natural tranquilizer

Now, lets talk supplementation…

Not all magnesium supplementation is the same, as the bioavailability of magnesium from its salts vary.

Magnesium oxide for example, has the highest magnesium content by weight of all magnesium supplements but it is also the one with the least bioavailability.  This means the amount of magnesium released from it, and available to cells for use is rather low. If taken orally, the amino acid salts have a better absorption profile and of these, magnesium citrate is the best.

With this being said, we are not strong supporters in the use of supplemental magnesium but do find the use of whole food magnesium sources (as listed above), magnesium sulfate/epsom salts or a combination of both to be the most optimal in any attempt to restore balance, and here is why.

Magnesium deficiency is more often corresponding to some degree of metabolic breakdown. Any degree of compromise to the metabolic system results in a compromised digestive system, which leads to a slow peristaltic function and a decrease in digestive enzyme production. Both of which interfere with the breakdown and absorption of supplemental magnesium.

Although magnesium is a relatively safe water-soluble mineral, and when obtained from dietary sources can be easily excreted through the kidneys with urine, toxicity can occur from oral magnesium supplements especially after the ingestion of large doses by people with poor renal function. Renal function can be easily compromised by low metabolic health depending on how chronic the inflammatory processes have become.

Additionally, studies have shown magnesium sulfate is most effective in reducing chronic inflammation and increases the metabolism of the cells, further upregulating energy production and restoring metabolic health.

The Benefits of Epsom Salts and How To Use Them

To begin, epsom salt baths rule! They are a very powerful resource effective for all the reasons listed above but the reason I love them most is their ability to promote self-care, nurturing, time out and relaxation.

When using epsom salt baths as one of your own personal self-care resources, we recommend using no less then 2 cups of Epsom salts. You can slowly increase this by a half cup weekly and/or until you find your sweet spot.  Epsom salt baths will relax and calm your system. Experiencing extreme lethargy can indicate too much.

Dizziness and sleep disturbances can be induced by blood sugar dys-regulation. When taking baths it is important to plan them between meals to help keep blood sugar stable. For some, particularly those with extreme fatigue, scheduling your bath mid day, when energy is at its peak, is optimal. Sipping on a small glass of OJ and salt can help stabilize blood sugar if needed.

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