Magnesium: how to get the most out of it

Need a ton of magnesium just to feel it?

That’s because optimizing magnesium absorption and retention is key for getting the full benefit.

I’m going to discuss how to enhance its absorption and how to retain it better.

Magnesium is the 2nd most prevalent intracellular cation in the body after potassium. Most of the total body magnesium (60%) is in bones and soft tissues, predominantly skeletal muscle and liver; only about 1% is in serum, and therefore the serum magnesium concentration may not represent the true tissue magnesium concentrations. There are 3 forms of serum magnesium: the protein-bound, non-ultrafilterable form (accounting for about 25% to 30%) and the ionized and chelated forms (together accounting for the remaining 70% to 75%), both ultrafilterable (R). 

The ionized magnesium is considered the biologically active fraction of circulating total Mg.

Let’s dive into the strategies

High vitamin D improves magnesium status

Magnesium activates vitamin D. From cholecalciferol to calcidiol to calcitriol and also for binding of vitamin D to its binding protein in the blood.

Some people actually get a drop in vitamin D when they supplement vitamin D, and this might be because of low magnesium.

High vitamin D, in turn, enhances magnesium absorption and retention (R), which positively impacts insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, bone mineral density, liver health, etc.

Related articles on vitamin D

Lower hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis

Stress rapidly depletes magnesium. Acute stress isn’t as bad (but still increases magnesium requirements), but prolonged stress is much worse.

Stress decreases intracellular magnesium and increases extracellular magnesium. Once in the blood, magnesium is quickly excreted in the urine. This shift from intra- to extracellular is good since the magnesium buffers stress and lowers the HPA axis. However, prolonged stress depletes magnesium.

Any stress that you can think of can lower magnesium levels. Stress such as:

  • Winter
  • Noise stress
  • Traffic
  • Arguments
  • Bad weather
  • Finances
  • Anticipation anxiety
  • Fear and dread
  • Sauna
  • Cold water exposure
  • Intense exercise
  • etc.

Using adaptogens to blunt the rise in cortisol can spare magnesium.

Good adaptogens include:

  • Ginseng
  • Rhodiola
  • Shisandra
  • Eleuthero
  • Cordyceps
  • Tribulus terrestris
  • Maral root
  • Magnolia
  • DHEA
  • etc

Instead of taking a bunch of the ones I mentioned above, you can also use a good adaptogenic blend that I like, such as this one – (Amazon)(iHerb)

Here is a good one for my SA readers – Adaptogen complex (use this code to get 15% off)

Related article

Lower inflammation

Magnesium is great against inflammation, but inflammation can dramatically lower magnesium levels.

An inflammatory cytokine, IL-6, has been shown to stimulate the release of cortisol, which expels magnesium.

A few causes of chronic inflammation include:

  • Activation of the immune system due to toxins in the gut (produced by certain pathological bacteria) or toxins in the diet (gluten, A1 milk, lectins, histamine, high FODMAP foods, etc.)
  • Heavy metal overload. Heavy metals, such as mercury (e.g. amalgam in teeth, fish, etc.), lead (e.g. canned food), cadmium (e.g. cocoa, vaping pens, paint, etc.), iron, copper (e.g. too much liver, copper pipes, etc.), etc.
  • Excess PUFA intake – from seed oils and junk food
  • Plastic contamination – from using plastic products and eating junk food
  • Xenoestrogen contamination – using chemical products, such as drugs, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, washing powder, washing soap, shaving cream, etc.
  • Gut dysbiosis – i.e. chronic stress, viral infection, fungal infection, mold toxicity, eating allergic foods, etc.

Many things can lower inflammation, but it’s important to get rid of the inflammatory stimulator as well.

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Use these to retain magnesium better

Thyroid, aspirin and vitamin D can help to improve magnesium retention.


People with hypothyroidism tend to have higher levels of extracellular magnesium, which can give a false indication that magnesium stores are in check (R). However, the magnesium might not be properly utilized intracellularly. Hypothyroid individuals have an increased risk of osteoporosis and proper magnesium handling is essential for bone health.

People with hypothyroid tend to need more magnesium since they get more spasms. This is because T3 is involved in calcium handling inside the cell. It promotes calcium release and uptake, thus improving contraction and relaxation. Without enough T3, calcium stays in the cell longer, exciting it, which can cause spasms. In this case, more magnesium is needed to offset that effect of calcium. Restoring proper T3 levels can reduce magnesium requirements.

Also, T3 promotes ATP production, which requires magnesium for stabilization. So theoretically, higher T3 should keep magnesium inside the cell to bind to the newly formed ATP.

Aspirin/sodium salicylate

Sodium salicylate reduces magnesium excretion (R). If someone has typical magnesium deficiency symptoms and is easily stressed out, I always suggest using 300-500mg aspirin with about 100-200mg elemental magnesium. This can be used a few times per day even.

Vitamin D

Lastly, as mentioned above, vitamin D reduces magnesium excretion.

Use bioavailable forms

A few of the best bioavailable forms include Mg taurate, glycinate, threonate and lysinate.

Here are a few good supps with a good combination of different magnesium chelates: (Amazon)(iHerb)

Here is a good one for my SA readers – Magnesium complex (use this code to get 15% off)

Good dietary sources

  • Coffee. 1 cup of coffee provides about 6.4% and 6.6% of magnesium and potassium respectively (R). “If coffee is drunk in the quantity of three to four cups, it can be an important source of magnesium.”
  • Cocoa
  • Oat
  • Milk (if you drink enough)
  • Mineral water
  • Blackstrap molasses

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2 thoughts on “Magnesium: how to get the most out of it”

  1. Somewhat unrelated, but… if glutamate is excitotoxic “in high doses” – what do you think of taking Ketamine/PCP/any other NMDA antagonist + GLYCINE ?? Because NDMA receptors are used by Glycine and Glutamate I think. Would the combo amplify the beneficial effects of glycine, or would they just counteract each other ? Would it (at least) lower cortisol ? sorry for my english.

    • Ketamine has been shown to cause a few side effects which can be prevented by blueberry extract or betaine. Not sure if glycine would do the trick. You can always try.


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