Magnesium deficiency has been linked to worse arthritis. What’s more concerning is that almost 75% of adult Americans don’t consume enough magnesium. I’m going to talk about how magnesium affects joint health and discuss why you need to increase your magnesium intake to not only treat arthritis, but also to improve your overall metabolic health.
Many people are at risk for developing low magnesium levels because of a poor diet. To make matters worse, as we age, the intestinal absorption of magnesium decreases. Researchers have linked low magnesium to a broad spectrum of inflammatory diseases as well as metabolic diseases. These include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, as well as osteoarthritis.
There is ample data that suggests a relationship between low dietary and low serum magnesium with worse knee arthritis. In addition, other studies have reported that low magnesium intake is associated with worse pain and worse function in those with arthritis. This is supported by multiple observational studies that have linked low dietary magnesium intake to elevated C reactive protein which is a biomarker for inflammation.
And what happens if we try to replace that magnesium? This study suggests that a higher magnesium intake of 100 mg per day through either diet or supplementation corresponded with an improvement in MRI characteristic of cartilage volume, cartilage thickness, and knee morphology.
In fact, magnesium rich foods comprise the core of an anti-inflammatory diet. Studies suggest anti-inflammatory diets result in greater weight loss and improvements to inflammatory biomarkers in those with arthritis. These foods include green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Certain fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are also rich in magnesium.
Animal studies also suggest that replacing magnesium plays a significant role in arthritis. For example, bone marrow injections of magnesium in animal models with arthritis show an anti-inflammatory effect which may promote cartilage health. Other animal studies have shown that magnesium injections into joints might slow down the progression of arthritis.
Now I want to quickly point out that everything I’ve presented so far is derived from observational and laboratory data. There are currently no randomized controlled trials in humans that specifically look at whether magnesium supplementation is superior to placebo for improving symptoms related to arthritis.
But despite this, I think the existing body of evidence is pretty compelling in linking magnesium to systemic inflammation. Increasing magnesium stores in the body also seems to restore balance and decrease inflammatory markers. All of this makes magnesium an enticing therapeutic option worth targeting.
So some of you may be thinking, hey, why don’t I get my levels checked to see if I am truly low in magnesium. The easiest way to do this is a blood test but it turns out that serum magnesium levels are a poor reflection of total body magnesium status. This is because 99% of magnesium is located in the cells of bones, muscles, and soft tissue. Less than 1% of total magnesium is circling in the blood. This is one of the main reasons why magnesium is not included in routine blood work. It’s just not that accurate.
So as mentioned before, one of the best ways to increase magnesium stores is with an anti-inflammatory diet filled with vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and seeds. These foods have a lot of other antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and nutrients that can help combat inflammation.
Supplements are also a popular way to boost your body's magnesium levels. But the problem here is that there are so many different types of magnesium supplements on the market and it can be difficult to choose which one to take. Here is a list of some of the most common types of magnesium supplements but before I get into the differences between each of them, let’s quickly talk about safety and side effects.
Magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium sulfate, magnesium taurate, magnesium malate, magnesium L-threonate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium chloride.
In general, magnesium supplementation is very safe but there are a few things you should know. The first is gastrointestinal issues. Most magnesium formulations can cause loose stools and that’s because some of them when taken at a higher dose are used as laxatives. That’s why the most common side effect of magnesium is diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea. Make sure you adjust your dose if you are experiencing these side effects.
Magnesium supplementation also interferes with the absorption of other nutrients, specifically zinc, iron, and calcium. There may also be some interactions between magnesium and prescription medications so be sure to check with your health care provider if you have questions or concerns.
Now I’ve also put links to NSF certified magnesium supplements in the video descriptions. NSF certification means they are third party tested for quality, identity, and purity. This is not an endorsement of the product but hopefully it gives you a good starting place to do your research.
Ok now let’s compare and contrast the different types of magnesium supplements. The first is magnesium citrate. This is one of the most common forms of magnesium and it is highly bioavailable. This means it is very easily absorbed into the body and therefore is one of the best options to help increase your magnesium levels faster.
One important thing you need to know is that magnesium citrate is also a laxative, meaning it’s used to treat constipation. So that means one of the side effects of magnesium citrate is loose stools or even diarrhea. You’ll want to adjust the dose of magnesium citrate if you are having these side effects.
Those with more sensitive stomachs may want to select the second option which is magnesium glycinate. This form of magnesium is much more gentle on the stomach but is also highly bioavailable. This form is much less likely to cause diarrhea as a side effect. It can also improve mental calmness and relaxation and potentially help with sleep.
The third type of magnesium is magnesium sulfate. This is more commonly known as Epsom salt, which is a popular bath salt. This form of magnesium is actually absorbed through the skin and can help relieve muscle soreness and decrease stress. Epsom salts are actually a good natural option to treat the muscular component of arthritis pain.
Number four is magnesium taurate which pairs magnesium with the amino acid taurine. This can potentially help more with cardiovascular issues such as lowering blood pressure or possibly even arrhythmias. Taurine can also help calm the nervous system to help support sleep and aid in stress reduction.
Number five is magnesium malate which is the combination of magnesium and malic acid. Malic acid is a natural substance found in fruits and vegetables and plays a critical role in energy production. It can potentially help improve symptoms related to fatigue and muscle pain.
One of the newest forms of magnesium is magnesium L-threonate. This is unique in that it is the only form that crosses the blood brain barrier meaning it has advantages over the other forms in that it can also help support brain health. A lot more research needs to be done on this topic but its potential benefits include enhancing cognitive function, memory, and symptoms related to depression and anxiety.
Number seven is magnesium chloride. This is the main form of topical applications of magnesium and is often available in oil and lotion forms. It is also available by mouth but does not have as good bioavailability as magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate.
I also want to give special attention to magnesium oxide. This is the cheapest form of magnesium supplement and is the most economical. It has a fairly low absorption rate compared to the other types so you would need to take much more of it to get the same clinical effect.