Magnesium: Benefits, Side Effects & Dosage

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is one of the more important minerals present in the human body. It is crucial to the body’s ability to function including maintaining blood pressure, strong bones and a steady heartbeat.

Magnesium’s importance should come as no surprise as it is found in over 300 enzymes in the body. This makes magnesium a major mineral, and one’s body needs more of it than other minerals such as zinc or iron. With magnesium being so important, one would imagine people take it on a daily basis. However, Americans don’t always consume enough of the foods most rich in magnesium. These foods include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt (x).

What is Magnesium Used For?

Magnesium has equally as many uses as it does functions for the human body. People who may have lower levels of it in their diets, such as those with celiac disease or type 2 diabetes, are prescribed extra magnesium. This mineral is also prescribed for constipation, indigestion and pre-eclampsia. However, other less common uses include increasing energy and improving sleep. This mineral is practically magical, but you can have too much of it. That is why it is important to first talk with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements and carefully learn all the facts (x, x).

Where Does Magnesium Come From?

Magnesium comes from food. Well, technically the earth. More accurately, it comes from the periodic table of elements. It is a silver-white metal of the alkaline series, which may sound strange considering how much of it is in your body.

In fact, magnesium is in more foods than people think — even dark chocolate for example. That’s right, you can actually claim that dark chocolate is healthy when it also contains other gut-healthy minerals like iron, copper and manganese. Magnesium can also be found in avocados, nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds, whole grains, some fatty fish, bananas and leafy greens. It is a critical part of the body’s ability to function (x).

Magnesium Benefits

Relieves Constipation

Constipation might be ‘hard’ to talk about, but magnesium is the easy solution. Magnesium, like sulfate and phosphate ions, is difficult for the gut to absorb and therefore creates an increase in liquids, content, etc. This makes magnesium a safe and highly effective treatment for constipation. Magnesium usually creates a bowel movement in 6 hours. However, since the stool often consists of a large volume of liquid, it is not recommended for patients with hypermagnesemia (a high amount of magnesium in the blood) or renal failure (x).


Similar to its effects on constipation, magnesium can also relieve indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn. When taken orally as an antacid, magnesium can completely prevent the effects of heartburn. And if that doesn’t happen, magnesium hydroxide works the fastest at clearing up the effects of indigestion. It’s no wonder magnesium is so important for the body to stay healthy when it has a cure for everything (x).


One of the most incredible uses of magnesium in the body is for the prevention of pre-eclamptic seizures in pregnant women. Without treatment, some women suffering from pre-eclampsia can develop very high blood pressure and risk organ failure. Although the specific mechanisms are unclear, what is clear is that magnesium (sulfate) works in several different ways including as a vasodilator and as a protectant of the blood-brain barrier. Research supports that magnesium is one of the leading treatments of pre-eclampsia (x).

Other Benefits and Uses

To list all the potential benefits of magnesium would be nearly impossible. Although research does not support all of its uses, all of the potential benefits cannot be ignored. Some of these other benefits include treating irregular heartbeat, asthma, pain caused by nerve damage from cancer, cerebral palsy, chronic fatigue system, chest pain, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, high cholesterol and pre-menstrual syndrome (long list, right?) (x).

Another benefit that is highly researched is the effect of magnesium on sleep. For symptoms of insomnia in the elderly, including difficulty falling asleep, early awakening and feeling tired upon awakening, supplementing with magnesium improves insomnia levels. This is especially true when measuring levels of important chemicals that induce and maintain sleep such as melatonin and serum cortisol (x).

Magnesium Benefits

Magnesium Side Effects

Magnesium is mostly safe for all adults, especially when doses are less than 350 mg daily. It is typically safe to take by mouth and intravenously when used correctly. Too much can cause a build-up in the body and other side effects (x). Stomach pain, nausea and vomiting are the top three most common side effects of it.

Other Side Effects and Warnings

As mentioned previously, magnesium is not to be taken lightly, but its dosage is. That is, there is a limit to this important mineral. For example, individuals with kidney failure or kidney issues should not take it, because kidneys that don’t work well don’t clear out magnesium well, which could lead to a build-up. Magnesium also appears to be slow to clot in the blood. This means it may increase the chances of bleeding and bruising. Although many consider all supplements to be safe by default, it definitely requires a meeting with a doctor beforehand.

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements come in various forms. These forms include:

Of those supplements listed above, the most popular are as follows.

Magnesium Glycinate Powder

When supplementing with magnesium glycinate powder, it is best to take 1,600 mg (scant 1/2 tsp) once or twice daily with a meal. This supplement is safe so long as one does not exceed its optimal dosage. Excess amounts can result in diarrhea, indigestion, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and nausea. Magnesium glycinate can help calm anxiety, and induce sleep and relaxation.

Magnesium Citrate Powder

For magnesium citrate powder, take 1,662 mg (about 1/2 tsp) to 3,325 mg (1 tsp) once per day. Be sure to mix it with a liquid beforehand. Side effects of this supplement are similar to the ones mentioned regarding overconsumption of magnesium glycinate powder. It helps relieve stomach upset, heartburn and acid indigestion.

Magnesium Gluconate Powder

It is best to take 1,300 mg (1/2 tsp) of magnesium gluconate powder once per day, or as directed by a physician. In particular, this supplement may be able to benefit heart, bone and dental health while also improving one’s mood. Magnesium gluconate contributes to nerve, muscle and bone function.

Again, before adding any of these supplements to your regimen, it is essential to speak to a doctor in order to determine a more suitable dosage for your own personal health goals.

Magnesium Interactions


Do not take any antibiotic with magnesium. All interactions are considerably moderate, but too much to risk. Always consult with your doctor first. For example, taking it with antibiotics for muscles can cause muscle problems. It can also limit how much of the antibiotic gets absorbed (x).

High Blood Pressure Medication

People taking high blood pressure medication should not take it. Most blood pressure medications function by blocking calcium from entering cells. At the same time, it may also block calcium. As a result, blood pressure could get too low (x).

Other Interactions With Medicines or Conditions

Other medications that should not be taken in combination with it are blood clotting pills, muscle relaxants and water pills. Similar to blood pressure medication, it also slows blood clotting, which could become a problem when already taking slow blood clotting medication. It relaxes muscles just as a muscle relaxant would. Do not take this combination. Lastly, water pills increase magnesium in the body. Adding more magnesium may create levels that are far too high (x).

The Bottom Line

Magnesium is highly effective for treating constipation, indigestion, pre-eclampsia, sleep and several other conditions. However, when taken excessively, it can cause some serious side effects/damage. If you’re looking to boost your health, talk to your doctor about taking this supplement.

Author: James D