Doc's Guide: My Three Favorite Supplements, Part II

"Salt is bad for you."

That's a common line you'll hear from doctors and other health "experts."

For decades, salt has had one of the worst reputations in the food world. But here's the truth...

That's nonsense and dangerous.

The salt they're talking about is sodium chloride – table salt. (Chloride is the other half of the molecule and is found in many other salts.) The best research shows a U-shaped effect from sodium chloride. If you have too much or too little, you're ripe for strokes and high blood pressure. The key is consuming the right amount.

There is another type of salt that you need to include in your diet – magnesium.

On Tuesday, we discussed two of my favorite supplements, vitamin C and omega-3s, as vital nutrients to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Today, we're going to discuss magnesium... by far my favorite of the three.

Magnesium is considered one of the seven essential macrominerals that the body needs in large amounts each day. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. Our skeletal system, muscles, soft tissues, and body fluids all store a combined 25 grams or so of magnesium.

And it plays a role in over 300 mechanisms in the body, like:

  • Helping nerve function
  • Muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Lowering blood sugar

Magnesium helps the brain and body to work together and communicate by acting like a drawbridge, monitoring the sensitivity of the nerve cell's N-methyl D-aspartate ("NDMA") receptors.

The NDMA receptors in the nerve cells impact brain development, memory, and learning. When your magnesium is low, fewer receptors are blocked, which leads to overstimulation, nerve-cell death and... potentially even brain damage.

Magnesium also acts as a natural calcium blocker to help our muscles relax. When calcium binds to the proteins in your muscles, the shape of the protein changes and a muscle contraction occurs. In this way, magnesium sulfate is good for treating cramps and muscle spasms.

Magnesium also can reduce your risk of heart disease. Its anti-inflammatory characteristics prevent blood clotting and help your blood-vessel walls relax, creating more space and allowing blood to flood more freely.

People with type 2 diabetes may be able to lower their blood-sugar levels by taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium also helps people to sleep better by:

  • Improving the quality of your sleep
  • Reducing insomnia
  • Inducing sleep faster
  • Regulating melatonin
  • Calming nerve activity

Magnesium is easy to get through whole foods. Good sources of magnesium include:

  • Spinach
  • Nuts
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Seeds

Unfortunately, as many as 48% of us don't get enough of it in our diets. Men need a recommended daily amount of 400 to 420 mg of magnesium every day and women need 310 to 320 mg. But, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average person only consumes about 75% of their daily magnesium needs.

Do what I do... I prefer to get my magnesium from green leafy vegetables as often as I can. But I will take extra magnesium sometimes after an especially tough workout or when I'm looking to get a little relaxation kicker before bed. I'll take one supplement at least an hour or two before bed, or in the morning when I know I'm going to be standing up for a while.

For the supplement form, plain magnesium will work but I recommend looking for magnesium citrate (magnesium that's bound to citric acid). The citric acid helps your body easily absorbed the magnesium.

While high doses of magnesium can cause stomach discomfort, if you plan to stick to it in food form, you really can't overdo it. But if you're taking supplements, stick to about three 250 mg supplements per week.

It's important to note that a risk with magnesium is that it interacts with some medications:

  • Blood pressure medicines – Adalat, Procardia, Catalan, Isotopin, Verelan, Cardizem, DynaCirc, Plendil, and Norvasc.
  • Blood clotting medicines – aspirin, Plavix, Fragmin, Lovenox, Heparin, Indocin, Ticlid, Coumadin
  • Muscle relaxants – Soma, Arduan, Banflex, Disipal, Flaxedil, Tracrium, Pavulon, Anectine
  • Gabapentin
  • Diabetes medication
  • Digoxin
  • Bisphosphonates

And that rounds out my top three favorite supplements: vitamin C, omega-3, and magnesium.

Remember, it's best to get your vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of healthy foods.

The vitamins and minerals found naturally in food tend to absorb more easily than those found in supplement form. Use supplements to supplement a healthy diet, not replace one.

But if you need an extra little boost, give a supplement a try. The fewer ingredients in the supplement, the better, because that means it's probably more natural.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 23, 2021