Why You Need More Magnesium

This mighty mineral is essential to health

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.


Magnesium is the most important mineral in your body. It regulates more than 325 enzymes, which produce, transport, store, and utilize energy. Magnesium regulates many crucial aspects of cell metabolism, such as DNA and RNA synthesis, cell growth, and cell reproduction. It is also crucial for proper nerve function, heart activity, neuromuscular transmission (a process that allows the central nervous system to control the movement of muscles in the body), muscular contraction, blood vessel tone, blood pressure, and peripheral blood flow (important for carrying cellular waste to the excretory system and overall immunity).

I was first introduced to magnesium during my obstetrical training, where I saw how effective magnesium sulfate was in preventing seizures and restoring normal blood pressure in pregnant women suffering from toxemia. Magnesium is also frequently given to stop contractions in women having preterm labor.

Magnesium is truly a medical wonder. No other mineral does as much to support your cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems while also modulating blood sugar levels and lessening the occurrence and severity of pain, cramping, and headaches

The Calcium–Magnesium Relationship

Calcium received an enormous amount of attention in the past, and generations of women were told they needed to take calcium to prevent bone loss. However, when it comes to maintaining healthy bones, magnesium is just as important as calcium and vitamin D!

Magnesium and calcium work together. Magnesium controls the entry of calcium into each and every cell—a physiological event that occurs every time a nerve cell fires. Without adequate magnesium, too much calcium gets inside the cell. If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles and nerves go into spasm. This can cause cramping and blood vessel constriction and can even set the stage for kidney stones and excess tissue calcification under the right circumstances.

Do You Suffer from Magnesium Deficiency?

Most people today are deficient in magnesium. That’s because farming practices over time have depleted the soil of magnesium. Most farmers do not remineralize their soil, and fertilizers mainly replace nitrogen and potassium.

Lifestyle factors can also lower your magnesium levels, including drinking alcohol; taking certain medications such as diuretics, birth control pills, insulin, tetracycline and other antibiotics, and cortisone; taking supplemental calcium; using antacids; and perspiring. Vaccines will also deplete your magnesium levels.

That said, it’s hard to test for magnesium deficiency. Blood levels are typically steady (around 1% of the body’s magnesium level). If the level of magnesium in your blood drops below that 1%, your body will draw magnesium out of your bones and tissues. This means that a blood test could easily show a normal reading even though the rest of the body is very deficient.

Common Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is associated with many symptoms and conditions. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., author of The Magnesium Miracle (Ballantine Books, 2007), says that some of the more common symptoms include:

Anxiety and panic attacks. Chronic emotional and mental stress is associated with magnesium deficiency. This occurs because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline deplete your cells of magnesium. Proper magnesium levels help keep adrenal stress hormones under control and also help maintain normal brain function.

Asthma. Magnesium helps relax the muscles of the bronchioles in the lungs.

Constipation. Magnesium helps keep bowels regular by maintaining normal bowel muscle function.

Heart disease. Many people with heart disease are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker, so it is an effective treatment for heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmias. Studies have also documented the effectiveness of IV magnesium in helping prevent cardiac damage and even death following a heart attack. The reason for this is because 40% to 60% of sudden deaths from heart attack are the result of spasm in the arteries not blockage from clots or arrhythmias

Hypertension. Without adequate magnesium, blood vessels constrict and blood pressure increases.

Infertility. Magnesium can relax Fallopian tube spasms that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Nerve problems and muscle spasms. Magnesium helps eliminate peripheral nerve disturbances that can lead to migraines, leg and foot cramps, gastrointestinal cramps, and other muscle aches and pains.

Obstetrical problems. Magnesium can prevent premature labor (because it calms contractions) as well as eclampsia. It can also help relieve menstrual cramps.

Some other symptoms and conditions associated with too-low levels of magnesium include bowel disease, cystitis, depression, diabetes, fatigue, hypoglycemia, insomnia, kidney disease, migraines, osteoporosis, and Raynaud’s syndrome.

How to Increase Your Magnesium Levels

Magnesium can be found in certain foods, including nuts, seeds, seaweed, and dark leafy vegetables. But it is very difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone. That’s why I suggest taking a magnesium supplement.

There are several different forms of magnesium. If you are purchasing from your local store, you can try magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, or chelated magnesium. Capsules usually contain 250–500 mg of magnesium.

You can also use a calcium/magnesium supplement. Most combined calcium-magnesium supplements are 2 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium. But, you should try to find a supplement with a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium; or better yet, try to find 1 part calcium to 2 parts magnesium. You will know when you are getting too much magnesium if your stools become loose. To avoid this, simply lower your magnesium dose to tolerance. And be sure to take your magnesium in divided doses throughout the day with meals.

Another way to get magnesium is to add Epsom salts to your baths. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. It’s absorbed through the skin and will help replenish magnesium stores. This “treatment” can easily include a relaxing bath with a good book. Epsom salt with lavender is widely available, too. It’s the perfect “end of the day” relaxer.

Dr. Dean recommends angstrom magnesium, a form that is completely and instantly absorbed through the cell wall due to its incredibly tiny size. Because of its high absorption rate, the dose for this form is about 10 times lower than for most other types. I take a highly absorbable magnesium and a mineral formula created by Dr. Dean. I do this first thing in the morning with water, some Himalayan sea salt, and a little apple cider vinegar for taste.

After taking magnesium supplements, many women have said that their symptoms have reversed. This includes PMS, painful periods, improvement in symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, muscle spasms, and greater enjoyment of sexual activity.

The only contraindications to magnesium are for people with outright kidney failure, bowel obstruction, myasthenia gravis, or heart block. Also, if you have a heart condition, you may find that taking magnesium can lessen the need for heart medication, but you should be under your doctor’s supervision to guide this process.

Have you tried magnesium supplements? What was the result?

Last Updated: June 15, 2020

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


Add comment
  1. Louise
    10 months ago

    As a 72 year old woman with 1 main artery on both left and right side are partially blocked..but also have to address the bone density and have been advised to take calcium..would that not block arteries more..if there is a type of calcium that can be taken by people with blocked arteries could you tell me what that would be.

  2. Francisca
    1 year ago

    Hello Dr. Northrup,

    I’ve been following you since my dad gave me your video about 25 years ago! Thank you so much for what you do.

    Is there a calcium you recommend? Also a vitamin D one? To rebuild bone I’ve been told to take calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. I have a very bad dental situation (iatrogenic malocclusion) that has seriously affected my whole body.

    Thank you!

  3. Robin Jones
    1 year ago

    Does Magnesium Malate work for bone health or is another type better? I have been told that this one is easier on the stomach and easily absorbed.

  4. Sara
    1 year ago

    thanks for the insight about magnesium

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      I have also recently learned that if you don’t have enough magnesium, then vitamin D doesn’t get used properly. Glad you could use this info!!

      1. Elaine
        1 year ago

        Hi Dr.Northrup,
        My gosh what a delight you are and thank you for all the wonderful help!
        What is the difference between ReMag and the pico?
        I do indeed need to take vitamin D and I’m always low in B12. Do you recommend a daily multi? If so what kind do you recommend? Love the Radical light videos!!

  5. Janet Stuart
    1 year ago

    So many different forms of magnesium . How do u know what diffraction forms do
    ?? And have been to aking Mag Oxide because its the least expensive and helps tremendously with constipation.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      Indeed there are SO many different kinds. Magnesium oxide is definitely the cheapest and if it’s working for you, good. The most absorbable that I’ve found is the pico magnesium created by Dr. Carolyn Dean. It’s the one I recommend the most. http://www.rnareset.com

      1. Joyce Boylan
        1 year ago

        Do you recommend the liquid pico magnesium created by Dr. Carolyn Dean? or is there a pill form?
        Thank you for your help.

  6. Renee
    1 year ago

    Magnesium is miraculous!!!
    I started experience anxiety about going to work. It made no sense. I love my job!
    I was getting horrific muscle cramping, where my hands would cramp up in a deformed manner.
    I did some research and found the very job I love, was causing me to sweat out important minerals.
    I started taking Magnesium daily. Holy smokes! I immediately noticed a huge difference! No more anxious thoughts or racing heart. No more cramping! I had an abundance of energy!
    Magnesium is a life saver! I will never go without it again!!

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      so GLAD you discovered this!! It is so TRUE!!

  7. Michelle
    1 year ago

    I was always craving chocolate and thought it was normal because I’m a woman. I also had horrible muscle cramps in my legs. My herbalists suggested taking a supplement and I have been doing so for years. I can tell when I have forgotten to take it in a few days. Honestly one of the best things I have done!

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      thanks for checking in here. It really helps others to know of your experience!

  8. Linda
    1 year ago

    I started to take magnesium several years ago after my boys both passed away within two years. I was having a lot of anxiety and not sleeping and I had read about magnesium so I started to take the supplement along with some other things I find that it does help you to sleep better and feel more sense of calm I also have been doing meditations as well! Thank you for the great information on magnesium

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      First of all, I can’t even believe your two sons passed. I am so so sorry. Grief is physical. ANd I’m so glad that magnesium helped a bit.

  9. Joanna Johnson
    1 year ago

    I started taking magnesium supplements because I was having trouble sleeping due to heart palpitations. The magnesium was incredibly effective.

  10. Ellen Brown
    1 year ago

    Hello Dr. Northrop,
    Just yesterday, I meet a stranger while having lunch who told me to check you out !
    I am glad I did and now you have another dedicated follower !
    Women need women doctors who are compassionate like you.
    I will look into the magnesium but I have to be careful, I have digestive issues and an under active thyroid.

    Thank you for all your information and please keep it coming !

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      So glad you are here! If you try a bit of ReMag formulated by Dr Carolyn Dean– and start really really slowly, you should be just fine. Check it out. http://www.rnareset.com

  11. Kathy Hanson
    1 year ago

    Hi Dr. Northrup, Several years ago, I developed an irregular heartbeat where my heart would actually skip beats. My doctor recommended magnesium (pharmaceutical strength) and I have not had a problem since. Thanks.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      That’s one of the main benefits– smooth nerve conduction in the heart muscle

  12. Brigitta
    1 year ago

    I started taking extra Magnesium several years ago, when I realized that it’s not normal to be constantly anxious and worried. (At the time I was in my late 50’s and had anxiety my entire life, so I thought it was normal to be anxious and “wired tight” all the time!) I also was having sleep issues, both being unable to get drowsy no matter how tired I was, and waking up at 4 am and not being able to fall asleep again. The Magnesium has had an immense calming effect on my thoughts, and I am able now to fall asleep. Whenever I forget to take the Magnesium supplements for several days, the worry and obsessive thoughts slowly return. There is no question in my mind that I need Magnesium!

    1. Patti Cone
      1 year ago


      Thank you for sharing. Which Magnesium supplement did you take, may I ask?

      Thank you,

    2. Helene Rochstein
      1 year ago

      I agree. Thank you for sharing.

    3. sheryl zaiko
      1 year ago

      oh wow that response could be written by me including waking up at 4 a.m. guess I need some magnesium..

  13. Joy Kole
    1 year ago

    excellent article!

  14. Patti Cone
    1 year ago

    May I ask how one gets Dr. Dean’s magnesium? And, are there other magnesium formulas equally effective as angstrom magnesium?

    Thank you,
    Patti Cone

  15. Cindy H
    1 year ago

    What brand magnesium is easily absorbed?

  16. Pat Weiser
    1 year ago

    Hi Dr Northrup,
    What I find in my stores is magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate. I have had gastric by pass surgery and have been prescribed magnesium for headaches. Which of those will be better absorbed by my altered plumbing?

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      I recommend REMag by Dr. Carolyn Dean. http://www.rnareset.com

  17. Nancy Kalef
    1 year ago

    I take Calcium 600 mg., magnesium citrate 300 mg., w/ 500IU vitamin D daily. I also take Dr. Mercola’s magnesium l-threonate averaging 2000 mg./day. I go to a physical therapist who does cranial sacral and lymphatic drainage therapy. She checks my magnesium level monthly. I usually run in the 90% level. HOWEVER, I have Myasthenia Gravis, diagnosed 7 years ago.
    Do you have any thoughts about combination of magnesium and MG?

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      HI Nancy– I do not have any thoughts about MG. But I know people who have recovered. Might I suggest a consult with Medical Intuitive Julie Ryan? http://www.askjulieryan.com

  18. Angelita - Lia
    1 year ago

    Hello Dr. Northrup, I have been taking magnesium for almost a year now. I was worried because my thumb was shaking and thought I was going to get Párkinson or something crazy. I went to the health food store and the women recommended I take it. So I take 500 mg since and I’m doing well. I did get a little scare for a whileI’m feeling great now. But if I forget one day to take it my thumb reminds me rapidly. Lord

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      How great that you have such a remarkable reminder!!!

  19. MZG
    1 year ago

    Very useful. I am 45 and have MusK Myasthenia gravis but have constant leg cramps and muscle spasms every night how can I increase my magnesium levels safely?

  20. Denet Honiotes
    1 year ago

    I have been taking magnesium for sleep and leg cramps. It worked but I also take nature throid. My levels got extremely high and I needed an increase in thyroid meds.
    How much magnesium can I take and when should it be taken to not effect thyroid levels?

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      One you get the right level of magnesium ( which can change hour to hour depending upon stress and lifestyle), your thyroid should stabilize.

    2. Rachel B
      1 year ago

      Magnesium should be taken 4 hours away from Naturethroid. This is also the same for iron, calcium, and vitamin D as they will impair absorption of your NDT.

  21. Tracy
    1 year ago

    I am currently having a very bad time with arthritis and muscle spasms which are creating lower back pain as the psoas muscle keeps pulling out my L3 when it goes into spasm. Between that and the pain I am in my chiropractor recommended that I take two magnesium pills and add one each day until I reach bowel tolerance. It took about seven days but I have to say, the spasms were much much less and the feeling of stiffness from the arthritis was almost gone! This is not doing it in conjunction with calcium.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      I love hearing how well you are doing with magnesium!! Thank you for posting this.

  22. Tasneem
    1 year ago

    Thank you Dr Northrop for writing such inspiring and clear articles! One way to that can also work well is using pure organic magnesium oil on the body after a shower at night, it helps with sleep and is soothing.

  23. Rita
    1 year ago

    Is magnesium citrate a good form of magnesium ?

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      It can be. There are better ones. Magnesium threonate. And the pico Magnesium from Dr. Carolyn Dean http://www.rnareset.com

  24. Elise
    1 year ago

    I’m happy to read that you confirm what my teacher, Hanna Kroeger, Kroeger Herbs preached to us on magnesium – calcium ratio being 2:1!! When I tell this to my clients they are surprised to hear this because of the mainstream narrative.
    Thank you-
    Elise Rowe
    Warrior of the Radical Light

  25. pei
    1 year ago

    as I suffer from Raynaud’s, using a magnesium body butter help moisturise the dry, cracked skin on my hands and circulation in general, especially around winter when weather is cold.

    1. Lynn
      1 year ago

      I’m interested in where you can get magnesium body butter as I also have Raynauds
      Lynn fromAustralia

  26. Elene
    1 year ago

    What is the difference between magnesium and chelated magnesium glycinate?
    Thank you for all your information. I love it.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      1 year ago

      Chelated magnesium is absorbed far better.

  27. Melissa
    6 years ago

    How much magnesium do you need for sleep?

  28. Fitness Guru
    6 years ago

    Fresh air impoverishes the doctor. ~Danish Proverb

  29. 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this great write-up. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)

  30. Ruth Renwick
    6 years ago

    Dear Doctor Northrup, My bff, who is almost 87,(Im 68) takes warfarin so cannot eat a myriad of healthy foods like green leafy veggies I grow. Her problem is leg cramps at night. I told her she needs magnesium but she cant take it or she gets diarhrea ..also she has takes thyroid supplement..She takes a calcium supplement but wonders how much. can you advise?

    1. Barb
      1 year ago

      There are many forms of Magnesium, some cause loose stools, others do not. Magnesium Glycinate is well absorbed and does not have a laxative effect. Switching should help your friend feel better.

    2. marion
      1 year ago

      dear ruth try Pure Magnesium Oil – 8 fl. oz (237 ml)
      by Life-flo it helped my leg cramps now gone blessings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *