What it is and why you need it
By Catherine Nelson, LMT, CST, CKTS
Magnesium is a mineral that is critical to the body's functioning. It is required in more than three hundred enzyme processes that lead to thousands of chemical reactions that keep your body healthy. It is responsible for 80% of known metabolic functions. Every kind of cell in your body is affected by magnesium.
Systems that require magnesium:
It also directly affects:
Healthy sleep patterns
Optimal energy production
Healthy cognitive function
The CDC has said that magnesium deficiency is so prevalent in this country and responsible for so many health problems that physicians should be treating magnesium deficiency before they treat anything else.
When was the last time your doctor mentioned magnesium to you?
Benefits of Magnesium (LINK)
It's estimated that 85% of Americans are magnesium deficient. This is due to the quality of our food. Even those who eat an exceptionally "clean" and "wholesome" diet are often low in magnesium simply because the quality of the soil has decreased so much over the last one hundred years.
For the overwhelming majority of us, we will need to supplement.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
When discussing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, most people turn to blood work. And for many elements, that's useful information. As far as magnesium is concerned, less than 2% of the body's stores are reflected in the blood. Most magnesium is held in the body in the bones and organs. This means a blood level within range often does not accurately reflect that state of things inside the body. Said another way, if your blood test says your magnesium is in range, you may still be vitally deficient in magnesium.
Common Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
Body aches, especially at night
Loss of appetite
Numbness or tingling
Low calcium or potassium levels
When people think of "supplements," they automatically think of oral pills and capsules. However, when magnesium is supplemented orally, at most 4% of it will be available to your body for use.
This is because the oral product is broken down and destroyed in the digestive process, leaving only trace amounts for your body to absorb and make use of.
This is also why oral magnesium can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
The Diarrhea Problem
You may find the laxative effect of oral magnesium to either be a benefit or a draw back.
Magnesium has long been used as a laxative, and it is quite effective as such. When the magnesium is broken down in the digestive process, it draws water into the large intestine. In small amounts used on occasion, this will help keep the train moving smoothly through the tracks. In large, regular doses, this can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
This isn't a comfortable way to live. And it's not helping you get more much-needed magnesium.
Magnesium should be supplemented topically with a spray used on the skin. This solves both the problem of absorbability as well as belly upset.
When applied and absorbed through the skin, as much as one hundred percent of the magnesium can be utilized by your body. And it will bypass the digestive system all together, so it won't be destroyed or cause you any bloating, gas, or diarrhea.
The recommended dose for most adults is 500-600mg/day. For women, especially women who experience big hormonal fluctuations, cycle irregularity or problems, and/or migraine headaches, there is considerable research that suggests daily doses of 700-800mg are indicated.
For small children, little, if any, magnesium would be recommended. For teenagers, magnesium may be helpful. The dose would depend on the size of the child as well as activity level. In general, a half to full adult dose could be considered.
500-600mg equates to 30-40 sprays with most bottles. When shopping for your magnesium, be sure to choose a product with dosing information on the label.
For example, most bottles I've seen over the years say 4 sprays = 66mg. Some vary, but this is the most common. Whatever your bottle says, do some basic calculations to figure out how many sprays you will need to get in that 500-600 range.
How Much Magnesium Do I Need? (LINK)
Where To Apply
When you apply the magnesium to your skin, it will be absorbed into your blood stream and be distributed throughout your body. So it is not necessary to use the spray directly on your shoulder if you're having pain or problems with your shoulder. Once it's in your blood, it will go everywhere.
So use the spray anywhere, though I always advise people to avoid using the spray on the head, face, and genitals.
But seriously, forty sprays is a lot. You're going to need real estate! Spread it around.
If you're worried about irritation, be sure to watch the video How to Use Magnesium Topical Spray (Link) for some tips and tricks on getting started.
It is completely normal for the spray to smart a little when first applied to the skin. This happens because the magnesium interacts with the bacteria on your skin. (Bacteria on your skin is normal and healthy, so don't panic.)
This sensation will lessen over time until it stops happening all together. From personal experience, this took somewhere between two to four weeks of daily use. I've now been using topical magnesium for years, and I don't notice a thing any more.
It is possible for the magnesium to cause some skin irritation. This is different than the brief, mild sting that happens to most people in the beginning. True irritation is a more severe stinging sensation that either takes a long time to stop or doesn't stop until the magnesium is washed off the skin.
Some areas on the body have very tender and sensitive skin. There may be some areas where you just can't use the spray. For some folks, that the chest and abdomen. Some it's the arms. For me, it's my forearms.
If this happens for you, there are several things you can do.
Rotate application sites
In the beginning, you may find it helpful to rotate where you apply the spray. For example, when I started, I used the spray on the front of my body one day, and the back of my body the next day. Some folks alternate upper body and lower body.
Either way, this gives each area a day off in between. Back-to-back applications can sometimes be too much in the beginning.
The spray can also sting if the skin is dry. Here in Colorado, especially the colder months, it's very dry, and that means everyone's skin is dry, too. Moisturizing with lotion before using the spray is often enough to eliminate the problem. You could also use a small amount of coconut oil, too.
You can use the magnesium immediately following the lotion or oil, and it will still be absorbed. However, in this circumstance, I do recommend waiting an hour or more before rinsing or showering.
Use after showering
After a shower, the amount of bacteria on your skin will be at a minimum. This can help reduce the amount of stinging or smarting you experience when applying the spray. Some patients over the years have found this to be the best solution, and it may be useful for you, too.
Using the spray immediately before exercise or immediately following, when the skin is still very sweaty, can cause the magnesium to sting and burn when it otherwise wouldn't. Some of the athletes and tradesmen I've worked with for a long time use their spray right before training or events, or in the morning before work, and they report no issues. However, this can be a problem for others, so keep this in mind for yourself and consider when might be the best time to apply it yourself.
Avoid sprays made of a brine
Be sure to read the "What to Look for When Purchasing" section just below this for more information, but know that products made from a brine tend to be more irritating to the skin. I recommend reading the label before you purchase and steering clear of any made of brine.
Upgrade your spay
If you are known to have highly sensitive skin, easily prone to irritation, you may consider jumping right to this option (Link). It's the most expensive, but also the most refined, and very unlikely to irritate the skin.
Per the product information, this bottle delivers 22mg of magnesium per spray and recommends 25-50 sprays per day. That is in line with our recommendation of 500-600mg per day.
If you use the spray and it causes a rash or raised, red bumps, discontinue using it on that area. That may be an area where you won't be able to use the spray.
If you're worried about irritation, be sure to watch the video How to Use Magnesium Topical Spray (Link) for some tips and tricks on getting started.
Magnesium is an unusual supplement in that any magnesium will benefit you. Unlike nearly all other supplements, the quality of the magnesium--and therefore the efficacy--is not reflected in the price.
This means you can buy the cheapest magnesium spray you can find and it will work just fine, and just as well as the most expensive.
What you get when you spend more on a spray is refinement. The more expensive it is, in general, the more refined the spay is.
Refined sprays are far less irritating to the skin. If you have sensitive skin, would like to use the product for your whole family, including children, or find the sprays you've tried to be irritating to your skin, try a more refined product.
For this, I recommend Ease Magnesium (Link). It's one of the most expensive brand I've seen, but I've never once heard of it stinging or irritating anyone's skin.
Most sprays run between $8-12 for an 8oz bottle. More refined sprays may be in the $20 range, and the Ease Magnesium runs around $30, give or take a sale. An 8oz bottle lasts most adults 4-6 weeks, depending on dose and consistency.
What To Look For When Purchasing
In addition to the price, as discussed above, another factor to consider when shopping for a spray is the ingredients. Look for one that has only magnesium and water, or perhaps saline. Many sprays include all kinds of other things to make the product more appealing, but even if you want those ingredients, topical spray form usually isn't the most useable form.
I also recommend avoiding any magnesium made from a brine. Here locally we really only have two products to choose from in stores. In the early days of recommending magnesium to patients, a whole bunch of them brought in the magnesium they purchased. It was all the same brand, the same product, and they all brought it in because it bothered their skin and they didn't want to use it anymore. The people who had no trouble with the spray had purchased the other brand, not made from a brine.
Not everyone is bothered by the brine. However, I always recommend avoiding it just in case, to save patients the risk of wasted money.
Del Sol purchase:
We sell one by Now Foods (not made from a brine) both in the office and online. It's $7.88 plus tax, and it's a pretty basic spray, but it works just fine.
Pick this up at your next appointment or give us a call and we can set one aside for you.
Use this link to purchase online. (Link) You may be prompted to create an account before you're able to view/purchase the item. To avoid paying the high shipping rate for a single item, consider picking up your magnesium in person from our clinic.
Everyone always asks me about magnesium lotion or cream. Do these work? Can you use them? Why don't I recommend them?
I love magnesium lotion. In fact, I have one at my desk that I use regularly.
And they do work. It's magnesium, after all.
The problem with them is that I have rarely seen a bottle with dosing information on the label. It is really important that you are getting an adequate dose of magnesium every day, and as noted above, an adequate dose is quite large. If you don't know how much magnesium you're getting with each application of lotion, how are you truly benefiting?
It is rare, but I have seen a couple of products that do have dosing information on the label. If you have trouble with the spray and would like a lotion instead, you will need to do some shopping, and read a lot of labels. It will be really important to find one that has this information included so you know how much you need to use each day.
Topical sprays work better. Hands down.
I say this after years of both personal use and observation of hundreds of patients.
However, there are circumstances in which oral magnesium is required--either in addition to or in place of the topical spray.
I only recommend ONE oral option. Check out this short video to learn why oral magnesium can't be used by your body.
Shortly after hiring her, I set my on-staff nutritionist on the task of finding an oral magnesium option. She spent dozens of hours researching products, and finally found one. It's the only option that works internally. And that's because it's absorbed differently and very early.
Because it is absorbed so early in the digestive system, it doesn't cause bloating, gas, or diarrhea.
It doesn't taste the best, but if mixed with strawberry lemonade or similar, the taste is not detectable.
For anyone who has a hard time using the topical spray for any reason, this oral supplement is a good option.
To purchase, follow this link (Link) and save 15% off your first purchase.
How to Take Magnesium: Oral vs Topical
Can You Overdose On Magnesium?
Technically, yes. However, it's incredibly unlikely in those who are otherwise healthy. Folks with compromised or reduced kidney function will need to use caution when considering a magnesium supplement, and may need to do so under the supervision of their physician.
Additionally, magnesium can interfere with the absorption of some antibiotics. If you're currently taking antibiotics, consider consulting with your physician about using magnesium at the same time, or simply wait until you're done with your antibiotics.
This website (LINK:) is a good source of information for those wishing to know more.
Most side effects of magnesium are experienced by those who take it internally, for the reasons we've discussed above. As I'm advocating for the use of a topical spray, the chances of an overdose or adverse effect are very small.
If you are concerned about this, begin with a very small dose and slowly increase to an appropriate dose over several weeks. Pay attention to how you're feeling. If anything feels off, you can discontinue use and seek medical advice.
Magnesium is critical to your health. It's something you'll need to supplement daily, and that's best done with a topical spray.
Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables always increases your body's provision of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium. However, due to the low quality of our food today, we can't get optimal amounts of magnesium from our food alone.
Providing your body with the required amount of magnesium will, in most cases, radically change your health and the way you feel every day. From having more energy to sleeping better, from being in a better mood to fewer digestive issues, from reduced muscle aches and pains to better metabolism, you'll notice the difference.
So no matter what else you're doing as part of your self-care and nutrition routine, you need to add magnesium and use it daily.
Nothing written here is medical advice, and should not be taken as such. This is a cumulation and presentation of information available freely online for anyone willing to take the time to find and read it. For those who don't wish to take that time, I've gathered it all here for you in this article and in my videos on the same topic.
If you choose to use magnesium in any form, based on the information in this article or any of my videos, you do so at your own risk. You are responsible for your own health and safety.
Catherine Nelson, LMT, CST, CKTS, is a long-time massage therapist with a long and varied background in Western medicine. She specializes in CranioSacral Therapy for PTSD and anxiety, medical massage therapy for injury rehabilitation, and sports massage therapy for all phases of training and competition. She can be reached directly at Catherine@DelSolCommunityWellness.com.
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