Your resource for health and wellness information
Magnesium is an essential mineral for life. It is the catalyst of over 300 different enzymatic reactions. It is also tricky to absorb and requires the perfect environment.
Even if everything is perfect, dietary magnesium is, at best, 50% absorbed.
When you are low in magnesium, it is important to make sure you are absorbing as much as you. Knowing what increases and decreases absorption is the first step.
Factors the Decrease Magnesium Absorption
When the gut is inflamed, digestion is impaired, and the absorption of dietary nutrients is affected. Gut inflammation and magnesium creates a vicious cycle, as the inflammation reduces magnesium absorption, magnesium deficiency is associated with more intestinal oxidative stress inflammation. Gut inflammation can be caused by conditions such as dysbiosis, Celiac Disease, Crohn's Disease, IBD, Short Bowel Syndrome, and many other digestive inflammatory diseases.
Single Dose Magnesium Intake
Your body is not designed to absorb all its nutritional needs at once. It is designed to take lesser amounts throughout the day, with meals spaced out. Taking one large dose of magnesium at one time means that overall, you will absorb less magnesium than if you took the same dose and spread it out throughout the day.
Nonfermentable Fiber Intake
Partially fermentable and non-fermentable fibers, such as cellulose and wheat bran, decrease magnesium absorption. Studies show more magnesium excretion in the stools in diets that are higher in these fibers. This is important when looking at the capsule in which your magnesium supplement comes in. The absorption of magnesium supplementation in cellulose coated capsules was 67% less than the same magnesium supplement in a gelatin capsule.
Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT)
LCT's are specific types of fatty acid found in oils like soybean and safflower oils, and other polyunsaturated oils. These fats create magnesium salts that are poorly absorbed.
Phytates are stored forms of phosphorus. This bounds phosphorus as an affinity for other minerals and will bind to them and push them through the gut, decreasing absorption. High dietary intake of phytates is associated with an increased risk of magnesium deficiency.
Oxalates are compounds found in plants, specifically plants with brilliant, large green leaves. (AKA our broad leaf veggies, like spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, beet greens, etc....) Studies show that diets high in these veggies decrease magnesium absorption. Oxalates are chelating agents, meaning they bind to minerals. So, like phytate they bind to minerals in the gut and push them through the stools reducing absorption. Cooking your greens is important. Anyone who knows me, knows I frown upon consuming raw broad leaf greens. Cook these greens and keep our smaller less oxalate rich greens for raw consumption. Boiling is the most effective method to remove oxalates.
Your ability to absorb magnesium decreases with age, and magnesium deficiency speeds up aging.
Medications, such as asthma medications, antacids, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, birth control, and others can cause medication induced magnesium deficiency. If you are taking these medications, your need for magnesium is higher.
Factors that Increase Magnesium Absorption
Low Magnesium Status
If you are deficient your body will increase absorption. Magnesium levels are controlled by the kidney.
Smaller, Frequent Dosing
Consuming magnesium foods and supplements throughout the day, vs in one big single dose is more effective at raising serum magnesium levels and increasing absorption. I like powdered Magnesium products for this...you can add the dose to a 32oz water bottle and drink small amounts throughout the day (with meals preferably)
Better Absorbed with a Meal
If you are taking a magnesium supplement, know that it absorbs better if you are taking with foods. In a cross-over study scientists investigated the difference in magnesium absorption with and without a corresponding meal. They found that magnesium consumed with a meal was better absorbed (59-72%)
Twenty percent of magnesium is protein bound and amino acids found in foods, such as malic acid, aid in increasing absorption by binding to magnesium in the gut.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT)
MCT fatty acids are found in foods like coconut. Studies show that replacing MCT oil with LCT oils in the diet increases magnesium absorption. It is possible that soapy mixture main when MCT and magnesium come together is more absorbable that the salts that LCT and magnesium form.
Sprouting and Fermenting Grains
Phytates are found, primarily, in grains and legumes that have not sprouted. Sprouting these foods releases stored phosphorus (to allow for baby plant growth) and increases the absorption of all minerals. Souring grains is the most effective way to remove phytates. Magnesium absorption is high when sourdough bread is consumed, vs yeasted breads.
Resistant starch is fermentable fiber that helps fuel healthy gut bacteria growth. Studies show that diets higher in these fibers increase magnesium absorption. A cool little fact about potatoes. Cooked potatoes do not contain fermentable fibers and reduce the absorption of magnesium. BUT, if you cook and cool the potatoes and then reheat them again, you have just created resistant starch! Other ways to make resistance