Before, going deep into understanding the role of Magnesium in the detoxification process, let’s look at the role magnesium plays in our body as a whole, its importance to our health and its vital implementation in our diet.
Amongst other minerals including calcium, sodium, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur, magnesium form part of the macrominerals. While minerals such as: boron, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc are called trace minerals.
What is a difference between a Macro Mineral and a Trace Mineral?
To answer this simple question, it is important to understand how food is classified once it has been ingested. Minerals, together with Vitamins, form a group called micronutrients. Protein, fat and carbohydrate form a group called macronutrients.
The difference between a macronutrient and a micronutrient is simple: while both groups are essential to the optimal functioning of our body, macronutrients are indeed the nutrients we desperately need to survive – and for energy, calculated in calories –, and we need lots of it (A diet – based on 2000 calories – should include 50-55% Carbohydrate (261 grams), 20-30% Fat (65 grams) and 18-30% Proteins (91 grams) depending on individual needs and physical activity). Micronutrients have no calorific value and do not contribute directly to energy needs; therefore, vitamins and minerals cannot be quantified in such percentage, and their value is calculated in microgram (µg).
A macromineral should have a preponderant place in the diet (usually above 100 µg) and a trace mineral in infinitesimal quantity; although, It would be wrong to think that one is more important than the other.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are everywhere on the planet, and with the result of erosion, and other elements, minuscule particles of it are thrown everywhere on earth. Minerals become soluble and enter the soil. Plants, including vegetables and fruit trees, absorb those minerals, and through a chain reaction, are eaten by herbivores, that subsequently are eaten by carnivores. As humans, we place ourselves anywhere on this scale, ingesting minerals with all the food we eat.
It seems that it is unlikely to not meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), since all food contains some levels of Minerals.
Looking at the NHS and other countries social security deficit, it seems that we do not. This is explained by our modern lifestyle, our love for fast-and-easy food, snacking, and most of all – the result of food industrialisation – processed and refined food: highly calorific food, containing a large array of dangerous chemicals, lacking the vital nutrients our body needs, including minerals (refined sugar has 95% less magnesium). (see article: “The difference between Wholefoods and Processed Food“)
What do Minerals do?
Minerals act as catalysts for many biological reactions within the body, including, muscle response, the transmission of messages through the nervous system, and the utilisation of nutrients in food.
Magnesium, too, has specific action on our body.
Magnesium is an important electrolyte needed for proper muscle, nerve, and enzyme function. It keeps heart rhythm steady, support a healthy immune system and keep bones strong. It also helps the body make and use energy and is needed to move other electrolytes (potassium and sodium) into and out of cells. Keeping in mind the osmosis process, the ratio magnesium, potassium and sodium must be kept at all time; a fall in the level of one will create an imbalance: the start of many diseases.
A healthy cell allows nutrients to enter and be utilised, eliminates toxins, and the environment around the cell supports the cell’s chemical activities. If the cell is not able to maintain the correct balance of magnesium, potassium and sodium within itself (and also calcium), then potassium and magnesium will be lost, and sodium levels will build up in the cell (processes that utilise calcium, such as muscle contraction and nerve excitability, become overactive – calcium helps muscles to contract, and magnesium helps them to relax).
Cellular processes reliant on magnesium and potassium, including DNA synthesis, enzyme manufacture and energy production, become sluggish: the cell becomes extremely stagnant.
At the same time, the environment of the cell changes: pH (acid-alkaline balance), temperature, hydration and light availability. This will affect many other cellular activities, and together with the increased toxic load, will lead to chronic inflammation1 and impaired function, including changes in pH (the body becomes acidic) and the slowing of the metabolic rate: the cell then receive less oxygen, gradually reducing the ability to take up oxygen in the lungs and by the blood. The root of many cancers.
Otto Warburg, awarded Nobel prizes for his work on cancer, said that “Cancer has only one prime cause. The prime cause of cancer is the replacement of normal oxygen respiration of body cells by an anaerobic (oxygen-less) cell respiration.”
Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure2, and is known to be involved in protein synthesis3. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines and excreted through the kidneys.
Most of the magnesium in the body is found in the bones (50%) and inside the cells of body tissues and organs. Only a tiny amount of magnesium is normally present in the blood (1%); however, the body works very hard to keep it constant4. A lack of magnesium can also cause contractions in the arterial walls leading to headaches and migraines.
Looking again at the electrolyte exchange at the cell membrane, if the calcium-magnesium pump is not working efficiently, due to a lack of magnesium, then calcium will build up in the cells and have restricted access back into the blood – leading to arthritis. Magnesium actually helps calcium to be absorbed in the first place and stored inside the bones in the form of calcium phosphate crystals. Magnesium also helps calcium to stay in solution in the body; preventing gallstones.
Neurotransmitters in the brain use magnesium, calcium and zinc to stimulate and regulate electrical activity. Calcium-rich brain cells can fire excessively, which will deplete their energy, and sometimes lead to seizures, or even cell death. Magnesium will lower the threshold for those seizures, and so reduce the likelihood that they will happen. Brain cells damaged by toxicity will also fire inappropriately. Chemicals such as food additives, pesticides, herbicides, solvents and cleaning products can all cross the blood-brain barrier and poison brain cells. Magnesium can help to protect the brain from the toxic effect of these chemicals.
Magnesium is also required for the production of serotonin, making it a useful nutrient for those with depression, and also for the production of dopamine, low levels of which are associated with Parkinson’s disease.
What food contains magnesium?
Shellfish have the highest levels of magnesium.
Eating a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables (especially dark-green, leafy vegetables) daily will help provide recommended intakes of magnesium and maintain normal storage. Green vegetables such as spinach, Kale, etc. are good sources of magnesium because it is at the core of the chlorophyll molecule. Some legumes (beans and peas), avocado, nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are also good sources of magnesium.
Avoid Processed and refined cereals-based food, including breads and pasta; the magnesium-rich germ and bran have been removed (15g of wheat bran contains 89 mg of magnesium)5, leaving a product literally minerals-free (and fibre-free), made mainly of carbohydrates (including lots of added sugar, and salt).
Almonds contains as much magnesium as wheat bran, making it an ideal snack (and is also very rich in essential fatty acids). Other nuts such as cashews are also rich in Magnesium.
Beans and rice have lower levels of magnesium (a portion contains between 35–50 mg); however, they are still considered to be a good source5, as they cover between 10–19% of the Daily Value (the DV for magnesium is 400 milligrams (mg). See table below).
It is important to note that, in general, boiling vegetables and freezing will reduce their mineral content including magnesium.
A healthy digestive system and kidneys can influence greatly the absorption and magnesium retention. Approximately one-third to one-half of dietary magnesium is absorbed into the body. Gastrointestinal disorders (such as Crohn’s disease) impair absorption and can limit the body’s ability to absorb magnesium, deplete the body’s stores of magnesium and in extreme cases may result in magnesium deficiency.
Chronic or excessive vomiting and diarrhoea may also result in magnesium depletion6.
Healthy kidneys are able to limit urinary excretion of magnesium to make up for low dietary intake; however, excessive loss of magnesium can be provoked by some medications (including antibiotics (Gentamicin, and Amphotericin), Cortisone, insulin, contraceptive pill, cancer-fighting drugs (anti-neoplastic medication), diuretics7, caffeine and phosphates (also found in fizzy drinks), and can also occur in cases of poorly-controlled diabetes8 and alcohol abuse9.
Magnesium supplementation may be indicated when a specific health problem10 or condition causes an excessive loss of magnesium or limits magnesium absorption. Chronic malabsorptive problems such as Crohn’s disease, gluten sensitive enteropathy, regional enteritis, and intestinal surgery may generate loss of magnesium through diarrhoea and fat malabsorption11.
Magnesium absorption decreases with age and renal excretion of magnesium increases, when also taking drugs that interact with magnesium.
Oral magnesium supplements are a combination of magnesium and another substance, often salts (magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, magnesium carbonate…). Elemental magnesium refers to the amount of magnesium in each compound.
The diagram below compares the amount of elemental magnesium in different types of magnesium supplements12.
The amount of elemental magnesium in a compound and its bioavailability influence the effectiveness of the magnesium supplement.
Bioavailability refers to the amount of magnesium in food, medications, and supplements that is absorbed in the intestines and ultimately available for biological activity in your cells and tissues. It is also important to mention that the outer layer of a Magnesium tablet or capsule that allows it to pass through the stomach and to be dissolved in the small intestine can decrease its bioavailability13.
The results of a study comparing four forms of magnesium preparations suggested lower bioavailability of magnesium oxide, with significantly higher and equal absorption and bioavailability of magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate14. This supports the belief that both the magnesium content of a dietary supplement and its bioavailability contribute to its ability to restore deficient levels of magnesium.
For best uptake by the cells, magnesium requires an alkaline environment and good levels of vitamin B6.
The information is provided to demonstrate the variable amount of magnesium in magnesium supplements.
What are the risks of taking magnesium?
Many supplements contain carbonates and oxides, as these are cheaper forms, however, these forms will also reduce the stomach acidity, and therefore how well absorbed the magnesium is. To be assimilated, magnesium requires stomach acid and as such, supllemental magnesium, must always be taken with food. It is the acidity of the stomach that breaks down magnesium so it can be assimilated by the body.
Magnesium chloride is the form that the stomach converts magnesium into.
Magnesium is so important to our body that research is constantly trying to understand the mineral role in our body and health.
Magnesium and Detoxification
Our detoxification processes also require energy supplied by the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. So without enough magnesium, toxicity will build up in our cells and damage their functions further still = poisoning. As we are essentially made of approximately 100 trillion cells, if our cells are lacking energy and underperforming, then so are we.
Magnesium is also essential for the production of glutathione, which is important in our detoxification pathways. (see article: Detoxification: The truth)
In addition, the importance of magnesium to cellular integrity and function described above shows just how crucial magnesium is to general tissue health in the body, including the tissue lining the bowel.
Together with zinc, vitamin C and essential fatty acids, magnesium can help reduce the inflammation and repair damage to the inside of the digestive tract, and so help with IBS, Crohn’s disease, colitis and many conditions arising from malabsorption in the gut.
To avoid the occurrence or reoccurrence of bowel disorders, we need to ensure that our intestines have the resources they need to stay healthy, and the correct magnesium:calcium ratio to avoid spasms and help the bowel move in a way that helps prevent stagnation and fermentation.
Phytic acid and lectins found in grains, seeds and legumes, prevent the absorption of magnesium. Soaking and sprouting can help remove phytates and lectins.
Heavy metals compete with magnesium for absorption in the small intestine and brain, and so as well as depleting magnesium, they will be depleted by magnesium if we consume enough and there is enough entering the small intestine.
Magnesium also plays an important role in detoxifying our cells from heavy metals, not least through production of detoxifying glutathione. Studies have shown that magnesium will in fact protect the whole body from heavy metals15
As magnesium will increase the detoxification pathways in the body16, we need to make sure that the routes of elimination can cope with the extra workload. This may require additional support for the lymphatic system, blood, liver, kidneys, lungs, skin and/or colon.
Always seek advice from your health practitioner. Never try a detoxification plan unsupervised, and remember it may get worse before it gets better: also known as a healing crisis. (see previous articles on detoxification)
Chronic stress and anxiety also increase magnesium requirements.
1 Mark Sircus tells of a Medical University of South Carolina study of blood inflammation levels, using C-reactive protein as a marker, in 3800 men and women, which showed that those who got consumed than 50% of the RDA for magnesium (310-420mg) were almost 3 times more likely to have dangerously high CRP levels. (“Inflammation and Systemic Stress” 2008)
2 Wester PO. Magnesium. Am J Clin Nutr 1987;45:1305-12.
3 Saris NE, Mervaala E, Karppanen H, Khawaja JA, Lewenstam A. Magnesium: an update on physiological, clinical, and analytical aspects. Clinica Chimica Acta 2000;294:1-26.
4 Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1999.
5 Rude RK. Magnesium deficiency: A cause of heterogeneous disease in humans. J Bone Miner Res 1998;13:749-58.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2011. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl.
6 Rude KR. Magnesium metabolism and deficiency. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 1993;22:377-95.
7 Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR. Metabolic effects of diuretics. Cardiology 1994;84 Suppl 2:48-56.
8 Tosiello L. Hypomagnesemia and diabetes mellitus. A review of clinical implications. Arch Intern Med 1996;156:1143-8.
9 Elisaf M, Bairaktari E, Kalaitzidis R, Siamopoulos K. Hypomagnesemia in alcoholic patients. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1998;22:244-6.
Abbott L, Nadler J, Rude RK. Magnesium deficiency in alcoholism: Possible contribution to osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease in alcoholics. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1994;18:1076-82.
Shils ME. Magnesium. In Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th Edition. (edited by Shils, ME, Olson, JA, Shike, M, and Ross, AC.) New York: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1999, p. 169-9
10 American Diabetes Association. Nutrition recommendations and principles for people with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care 1999;22:542-5.
11 Rude RK and Olerich M. Magnesium deficiency: Possible role in osteoporosis associated with gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Osteoporos Int 1996;6:453-61.
12 Klasco RK (Ed): USP DI® Drug Information for the Healthcare Professional. Thomson MICROMEDEX, Greenwood Village, Colorado 2003.
13 Fine KD, Santa Ana CA, Porter JL, Fordtran JS. Intestinal absorption of magnesium from food and supplements. J Clin Invest 1991;88:296-402.
14 Firoz M and Graber M. Bioavailaility of US commercial magnesium preparation. Magnes Res 2001;14:257-62.
15 M Speich et al “Correlations between magnesium and heavy metals in blood and sixteen tissues of rabbits.” Magnes Res. Sep 1989
16 by increasing glutathione levels, aiding in the production of ATP and helping to drive electrolyte exchange at the cell membrane
 Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, 2012.
S Apte & R Sarangarajan “Cellular Respiration and Carcinogenesis” (Humana Press 2009)
J Anastassapoulos & T Theophanides “Magnesium–DNA interactions and the possible relation of magnesium to carcinogenesis. Irradiation and free radicals“ Oncology Hematology April 2002
Dr Carolyn Dean “The Miracle of Magnesium” Ballantine Books 2003
D Thomas “A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation” 2003Dr Carolyn Dean “The Miracle of Magnesium” Ballantine Books 2003
LG Plaskett, “The Truth About Mineral Supplementation” Nutrigold 2000
Registered Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Iridologist, Lecturer, NLP practitioner and Personal Performance Coach.