Updated recommendations for magnesium supplementation

Daily magnesium supplementation is definitely more than a no-brainer, it is really very important, and this, for everyone. I hope that I managed to convey just how important it really is in Why you should start taking magnesium today, Treating arthritis Ias well as in At the heart of heart disease. In terms of supplementation, however, I would like to refine my recommendations.

Nigari, or magnesium chloride, is excellent because it is inexpensive and easily absorbed. I continue to stand by this, and also continue to use it very regularly. However, I now only use it trans-dermally (on the skin), and recommend you do the same. The reason for this is very simple. Taking it internally, is fine, but because absorption goes through the digestive system, the most that will be absorbed is estimated at 25%, and the rest will be eliminated.

And how will it be eliminated? Well, naturally, through the stools. And I, after using a 2% nigari-water solution orally for supplementation for several months (even with some breaks as recommended by proponents of this manner of magnesium supplementation), found that my colon gradually became more and more irritated (which could be felt when passing stools and wiping). When I would stop supplementation for a few days, the irritation would go down; when I started again, it would come back. Therefore, after a couple of times checking this, it became clear that it was indeed oral supplementation with magnesium chloride that was the cause of the irritation in the colon.

But why even bother taking magnesium chloride orally when it is far better absorbed through the skin? Magnesium oil (20-30% nigari-water solution) that you must leave on for 30 minutes, works great, but the most pleasant is definitely a 30 minute bath spiked with a cup of nigari flakes. This is without a doubt the most effective and most agreeable way to supplement, while ensuring maximum absorption by the body of the magnesium ions so importantly needed by cells in tissues throughout the body.

Having said that, I recognise that having baths every day is time consuming, only really tempting when the weather is cool, and also wasteful in terms of water usage. Therefore, we don’t have baths when it is hot, and should restrict it to a max of three times per week in the cold season, using the least amount of water, and having really short showers on the days in between in order to keep water consumption as reasonable as we can. In the end, magnesium oil is far more environmentally friendly, because it works all year around and does not result in accrued water consumption.

As an aside relating to hot water usage and energy efficiency, because heat loss is always directly proportional to the difference in temperature between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ , we should set the temperature on our hot water heater to the minimum useable temperature. This minimise heat loss, and consequently, energy consumption for water heating.  I have determined that temperature to be 41-42 C. These temperatures are also perfect to wash the dishes, wash your hands or face, shower, and also to run a bath that is hot (but not too hot) when you get in, and after 25-30 minutes is still hot enough for you to feel comfortable in the water without any hint of feeling cold, but not too hot such that you can’t stand it any longer, or be sweating for half an hour after you’ve gotten out. (Actually, 40 C is perfect for a shower, dishes, hands and face, etc, we need 1 or 2 degrees more for a bath due to heat losses into the tub and air.)

Naturally, the exact ideal hot water temperature is a personal thing that depends on many factors, surely most importantly on body composition and especially basal body temperature, which in turn depends on metabolism. In my case, basal body temperature is as low as can be, since my metabolism runs almost exclusively on fat, and you’ll remember that fat burns cool while carbs and protein burn hot. Anyway, you need to experiment a little, but I’m pretty sure that you will find your ideal hot water temperature between 40 and 43 C.

Because magnesium is water soluble and used up as it is needed every day throughout the day, it is necessary to supply the body with it on a daily basis. Naturally, eating foods rich in magnesium is essential (almonds and greens are the best), this is typically not enough, and oral supplementation is quick and easy. Fortunately, the perfect magnesium supplement is now available. This is ReMag, designed and marketed by Dr. Carolyn Dean (the doctor who wrote The Magnesium Miracle), and who guarantees that it’s 100% absorbed by the cells because it is in a form that is small enough to pass through the 400-500 pico metre sized ion channels that regulate mineral absorption and excretion through cell walls, and therefore, that none of it is eliminated through the digestive system as are most forms of magnesium supplements. (You can read her e-book about it here, and watch this recent video on Mercola’s site.)

So, these are my updates recommendations for magnesium supplementation:

  1. Magnesium oil on the skin for a couple of months to quickly replenish cellular magnesium levels,
  2. Bath with 1-2 cup of nigari flakes, once or twice a week, and
  3. L-Threonate (liposomal) or ReMag (pico sized) taken orally.

This is really important for everyone, but crucial for any person suffering from any kind of illness or disease condition whatsoever.

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25 thoughts on “Updated recommendations for magnesium supplementation

    • Hi Stacy:
      Some rave about it, some don’t like it, it is still absorbed through the digestive tract and therefore leads to the same problems of loose stools as other ingested forms of magnesium, thus in the end, as I wrote, it is far better to take your magnesium through the skin or in pico-ionic form, both of which ensure 100% absorption and no digestive issues whatsoever.

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  1. Is the magnesium organic? Where is coming from? i´m becoming more and more reluctant to use supplements. If I think about the process of extracting a certain mineral or vitamin or aminoacid from a fresh tomato for example, it just doesn´t make sense. They´d have to dehydrate it, make it into a podwer and then isolated the specific nutrient. Wow! it just doesnt make sense to me.
    I was thinking about iodine supplemmentation and shulpur as well, because I heard of the benefits of these minerals and also of the high probability of being deficient. But I´ll do the lab first to make sure if I´m deficient. And i still wonder if we can defy nature´s wisdom by isolating nutrients that work sinergistically in whole foods.
    Thanks for your article, this one was shorter.

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    • Hi Ernesto: I understand how you feel about supplements, and share your concerns to a great extent. My position is that we keep supplements to a minimum and maximise nutrient absorption from whole foods. Magnesium is different because most soils and therefore whole foods grown in it, are totally deficient. It is therefore very important to supplement with it.

      Magnesium chloride, the form I recommend, is the nigari flakes to put in baths or make magnesium oil with, and also the form used for the pico-ionic magnesium ReMag. It is extracted from sea salt, which makes it as close to natural as such a supplement can be.

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  2. Is it possible to absorb too much magnesium if it is applied to the skin? I understand, of course, that I have been – up to now – deficient.

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    • Hi Maria: As you noted, the fact is that most of us are and have been Mg deficient for years, even for our entire lifetime. Therefore, you understand that everything I’ve encountered in the Mg literature relates to deficiency, not to over-exposure. But there are two things that I can say about this. The first is that Mg is water soluble and is hence very easy to eliminate in the urine, as is that case with any excess minerals, when there is enough water (proper hydration) and normal kidney function. The other is that what we are ultimately seeking is to optimise intra-cellular magnesium levels, and this can take several years while supplementing daily. So, once again, I’ll emphasise this point, which is the same as for B12: we only need to worry about deficiency, and not about over-exposure. Thanks for asking.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your experience with nigari irritating your colon. Since I started magnesium chloride orally I have been experiencing discomfort like IBS which bothers me a great deal. Taking Magnesium should make me feel better. Now I found the perfectly made sense answer and I already feel better. I will use Mgcl only transdermally. I searched and read about Mg extensively. You are the only one that mentioned this. Thank you again.

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    • You are most welcome. There’s no question: transdermal is best and most effective. The only Mg I would recommend (and take) orally is the Angstrom Minerals (The Raw Food World is a distributor), ReMag (Carolyn Dean’s formula from RnA ReSet), and Mercola’s Mg L-Threonate.

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    • Hi Maria: Definitely thumbs up! I tend to regard most of the stuff that Mercola researches and then promotes to be excellent natural health products. This also applies to this new form of highly absorbable Mg supplement.

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  4. I came across the recipe below for making magnesium oil (http://wellnessmama.com/5804/make-your-own-magnesium-oil/) that is very affordable. However, Ancient Minerals (http://www.ancient-minerals.com/blog-post/bath-flakes-vs-oil/) recommends not making your own magnesium oil using their magnesium flakes because of the by-products it would contain, even though at one point they state the by-products are not hazardous.

    Do you have an opinion on making magnesium oil using the instructions below? Thank you.

    Ingredients:
    ½ cup Magnesium Chloride Flakes
    ½ cup distilled water
    A glass bowl or glass measuring cup
    A glass spray bottle (plastic will work too)
    Instructions:
    Boil the distilled water. It is important to use distilled to extend the shelf life of the mixture.
    Put Magnesium Chloride Flakes in the glass bowl or measuring cup and the pour the boiling water over it.
    Stir well until completely dissolved. Let cool completely and store in the spray bottle. Can be stored at room temperature for at least six months.
    To Use:
    – Spray on arms, legs, and stomach daily – use 10-20 sprays per day. It will tingle on the skin the first few times it is used, and this is normal. It should fade after a few applications, but you can dilute with more water if it bothers you too much.
    – You can leave on the skin or wash off after 20-30 minutes. Apply after a shower and then use coconut oil or a lotion bar to moisturize about 5 minutes later.

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    • Hi Dotty: from what I’ve read here and there, and especially based on Carolyn Dean’s book and blog, there is no problem at all in using magnesium chloride flakes dissolved in water to make magnesium oil for really, really cheap. So, I say that we should just buy food grade nigiri and make our own. I use filtered drinking water, and I don’t believe it is critical to use distilled water.

      For the concentration, however, I measure (weigh) to know exactly what I’m doing. Dean recommends using magnesium oil that is 25-35% magnesium chloride. I found that 35% is too concentrated and makes my skin itchy. I use 25%, and this is made by dissolving 25 g of nigiri in 75 ml of water (total is 100 ml of which 25% by weight is nigari). You can make a 100 or 200 ml bottle (using either 25 or 50 g of nigari), in either a spray of a small spout bottle to pour into your palm for application onto your skin. I have never seen any “go bad” (there is nothing to go bad in there, just magnesium, chloride and water), but then again, I haven’t kept it around for a year just because I use it regularly and therefore it is used up faster than that.

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      • Hi Guillaume,

        I believe you still may live in Spain, and I also live in Spain, and I’m wondering if you can suggest where to buy the following products? (Including which transdermal magnesium?)

        Angstrom Minerals (The Raw Food World is a distributor)
        ReMag (Carolyn Dean’s formula from RnA ReSet)
        Mercola’s Mg L-Threonate

        I’m also wondering if you know anything about Thalessemia Minor (I saw you mentioned B12, and I supplement with that, but can’t take iron, and try to eat sardines, dark greens, and liver). Thanks very much in advance for your consideration.

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      • Hi: you can buy 1kg bags of nigari at EcoCentro in Madrid on Calle Esquilache, you can order L-threonate either by Mercola or Source Naturals (Magtein) from iHerb and get it at a good price and shipped quickly for cheap, and about Thalessemia, I’ve heard about it. Do you have that for sure? Have you done a genetic test to verify? Do you have high bilirubin and problems with your haemoglobin and red blood cell shapes? And B12, well, I think basically everyone should be supplementing with it, but what are your B12 levels now? And why can’t you supplement with iron?

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  5. Hi Guillaume, and thank you very much for your reply. Thanks for the recommendations — I found EcoCentro’s online site, so I’ll order from them. That’s fantastic.

    My father, his mother, etc., had Thalessemia, and I tested positive, as did my 10-year-old daughter, who was tested as a baby. My other daughter and son tested negative. My last blood tests (2012) showed bilirubin at 0.5. Hemoglobin is usually around 106 g/L, Ferritin (Dxl) at 18 mikrog/L, B-Trombocyter 382×10, S-Kobalamin (Dxl) >1100 pr, Folat (Dxl) 32 nmol/7.

    I’m not sure how to interpret all of those… but perhaps you might know. ;)

    I’m supplementing now with occasional B-12, 1000mcg or 5000mcg (Jarrow or TwinLab), along with occasional Schusler Salts #2 and #3 (Calcium phosphoricum D6 and Ferrum phosphoricum D6).

    As far as supplementing with iron tablets, I’ve read that it’s difficult to absorb iron, and that excess can lead to damage to organs, so I’ve always avoided it. I try to eat organic, grass-fed liver, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables…

    (http://www.news-medical.net/news/2007/02/14/21912.aspx)

    Thank you again for your brilliantly interesting articles and research, and again for your helpful advice. Much appreciated and passed on.

    Best wishes,
    Kristin

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  6. Quick question, Guillaume, if you don’t mind. Are these the ones you reccomend? I don’t see anything that indicates that the Source Naturals are pico sized, but I’m not sure what to look for… And would taking Nigari baths and taking magnesium carbonate orally suffice? Or pills as well… Just trying not to break the bank. Thanks again in advance.

    http://www.iherb.com/Source-Naturals-Magtein-Magnesium-L-Threonate-667-mg-180-Capsules/47434
    or

    http://shop.mercola.com/product/magnesium-l-threonate-120-per-bottle-90-day-supply,1192,1,0.htm

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  7. Thank you, Guillaume. I really appreciate it. I’ve ordered the capsules and nigari. Thank you for the blood tests printout… however, I still don’t have my papers here in Spain, and until I get them, I can’t get any blood work done, as far as I know. Are you looking for something in particular in the blood tests?

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    • Yes, juice fasts are excellent to cleanse the blood, body and digestive organs. There’s hardly anything better. However, I don’t recommend it to everyone because it depends on the state of the person’s metabolism and toxicity. Also, I only recommend green juice fasts with no sugars at all and with the addition of oil to the juice to maximise absorption and give at least minimal amounts of cellular fuel to minimise muscle loss. Long fasts I would only recommend to people who are really sick or really obese. Otherwise, 3 days is good, but it really depends on a lot of factors. I would never recommend a green juice fast to a vegan, for example, because vegans will generally be already very thin and usually emaciated depending on how long they’ve been eating this way. Also, before doing 3 days, I recommend starting with 24 hours, then 48 hours, then 72 hours, and see how things go. Detox can be very nasty and make us sick if it is too fast.

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  8. Thanks, Guillaume. Helpful, as always, and very much appreciated. My husband and I are doing the fast — we’re on Day 2, and feel fine so far. We’re juicing about 80/20 veg to fruit, and mostly from our own organic garden (lots of kale, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, salads, spinnach, celery, chards, pumpkins, etc.) and fruit as apples or oranges. Neither of us are vegan, and neither of us are overweight, and neither of us are super thin. Just wanted to do a cleanse and detox. We thought a 10-day (or possibly longer) juice fast would really be beneficial, although we are taking it day by day. We both do yoga and crossfit, when we can, and we thought by including some exercise while fasting, we could perhaps offset muscle loss. Any thoughts on this? Perhaps if the exercise doesn’t suffice, we’ll also add olive or coconut oil to our juices, as you suggest. I guess we’re concerned that by adding oils, the digestive system will work harder, which contradicts the point of doing the fast. No?

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    • Hi Kristin: it sounds like you have things under control and that you are not new at this. The reason why I mentioned no sugar is because having sugar without fibre will immediately raise blood sugar concentrations and stimulate insulin secretion. This will increase insulin resistance and accelerate muscle loss. Exercise during fasting is a double-edged sword because exercising always breaks down muscle, and the muscle rebuilds during rest using protein from the food we eat, but at the same time exercising tells the brain that the muscles used are needed and therefore should not be broken down for amino acids in brain function (that’s the priority). Hence, the recommendation to add melted (and blended) coconut oil to the juices to offset protein breakdown for fuel. Of course, the idea is that most of the cellular fuel is fat that is burnt from our reserves. But no matter what, the amino acids needed to maintain central nervous system function will need to be taken from muscles. The quantities we’re talking about is a few tablespoons per day, and it is really mostly to maximise absorption of all the micronutrients in the juice. So, I would recommend minimising sugar, doing only mild exercising just to give the brain the signals that the muscles are being used but minimising stress and muscle fibre breakdown, and add oil to the juice to make it more nutritious and better absorbed. Keep me posted on your progress.

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  9. Thanks very much, Guillaume. I understand what you’re saing and agree — Just refereshing my memory with listening to new podcast of Chris Kresser interview Peter Attia, and then referring back to Chris’s blog where he writes that the absorption of carotenoids and various other vitamins in green vegetables increases dramatically when you add fat. Thank you for weighing in. Yoga and meditation seem to fit perfectly in this juice fast… My family and I will be in Madrid in a couple weeks — looking forward to a weeekend of city life, as we live on a farm in the mountains in Aragon. ;)

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  10. Hi Guillaume. Just a follow up — I just completed an 11-day juice fast, approx. 80/20 veggies to fruit (fruit being mostly green apples, in an effort to avoid the more sugary fruits). First 4 days were intense: blurry, foggy, sometimes dizzy. Then the last bit was brilliant. I felt great — energetic, clear-headed, slept well, woke up rested. Really amazing to feel so good. I think I’ll try to incorporate the juicing into my weekly routine — along with intermittent fasting and cutting back on sugars (I’m a hopeless dark chocolate freak — I think it’s the magnesium…). I haven’t eaten gluten in years, and we eat quite healthy, with lots of kale and dark greens now, for instance, from my garden. We also eat meat — mostly grass fed, local. Oh — The fasting also brought about another unforeseen, but much welcomed change — my arms stopped aching during the night. Perhaps due to my thalessemia (circulation problems? When I’m cold, my fingers lose color and go numb) — I’m not sure why, but I often experience intense tingling of my arms when I sleep, and it’s only relieved when I sleep on my back with my hands folded (like I’m a corpse). But after a couple of days of juice fasting, the tingling disappeared. Aaaahhh… I’m off to make your coconut milk ice cream now with some frozen blackberries from last summer’s harvest. Thanks again for all your helpful articles and advice — so appreciated.

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