It has been a while since I started this series but it is time to add to my “5 favorite,” supplements.
With so many supplements to choose from and many of them claiming to be the next great thing, I typically try to have my patients focus on what they need first rather than piling on a bunch of supplements that may or may not be doing them any good.
Getting into my top 5 requires a supplement to first be one that is needed by most people and must have a proven track record of well-researched benefits.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient that is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies. I recommend it for many different health issues but the top three are bowel irregularity, insomnia and muscle cramps.
As an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle contraction, when deficient, it can cause muscle cramping, constipation, heart palpitations, and impair athletic performance. It helps with regularity by regulating the smooth muscle contraction of the bowels as well as by the osmotic effect it has by pulling water into the intestines.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and has been shown to suppress cortisol, the hormones released in response to stress that can cause insomnia, cause elevations in blood sugar, and contributes to that stubborn abdominal body fat. This double whammy of relaxing the muscles and suppressing cortisol will help you sleep better but also indirectly helps your body produce more growth hormone while you sleep.
Growth hormone is our youthful hormone that declines as we age and as it declines, aging accelerates and disease incidence rises.
Magnesium is also a key mineral used to turn carbohydrates, fat and protein into energy. It is found in high levels in foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, and dark chocolate.
Magnesium is a very safe supplement in that your body has a built in mechanism which makes it hard to take to much. Taking too much magnesium will cause loose stools or diarrhea. I typically tell my patients to increase their dose until they have the desired results or until they develop loose stools and then back off by 100 – 200 mg. I typically start patients on 300 – 600 mg before bedtime to help with sleep. Dividing doses twice a day is another option if bowel regularity is an issue.
Not all forms of magnesium are created equal. If you choose to take it as a supplement, find one that is chelated which means it is attached to an amino acid that makes it much more bioavailable and easily absorbed. Magnesium glycinate, citrate, and taurinate are examples of forms that are well-tolerated and easily absorbed.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Dr. Heim’s top 5 supplements as well as other topics that will help you live a longer and healthier life.
Until next time, stay healthy and live well… Dr. Mike