To Your Health

What kind of magnesium is most tolerable and what foods are richest in magnesium?

Q. I've found that I really do feel better, like a more regular heartbeat, better mood, less constipation, fewer allergy problems, and sounder sleep, when I supplement with about the same amount of magnesium as I do calcium The problem is that some kinds of magnesium pills hurt my stomach. What kind of magnesium is tolerated best and what foods are richest in magnesium?

A. Magnesium is the mineral found in chlorophyll, so in addition to nuts and whole grains, all the leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of magnesium. As important as magnesium is and as safe as supplements are for most people, magnesium supplements should be avoided if you have severe kidney problems, such as renal insufficiency, if you are taking certain antibiotics, and also with myasthenia gravis. Magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) is often underrated for its importance in human nutrition, taking a back seat to calcium. Calcium gets the headlines since it is required for bone health, nerve, impulse transmission, normal blood clotting, and even colon-cancer prevention. But actually every affliction that can be attributed to calcium deficiency, and some extras, also responds to magnesium supplements.

For instance, the medical profession views osteoporosis as a calcium-deficiency problem. This assumption makes it very difficult to explain why osteoporosis is almost nonexistent in African Bantu women, whose daily calcium intake averages 350 milligrams per day, only about one-third that of American women. Several factors, such as lower phosphorous intake, more intense activity, and higher magnesium intake could account for this observation – but not a high calcium intake, since these women do not have a high calcium intake.

Magnesium deficiency is notoriously difficult to correct without the use of injections of magnesium salts. This may be due partly to the widespread use of magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, or magnesium oxide (milk of magnesia) as the most common magnesium supplements. Both of these forms of magnesium are very inexpensive but very poorly absorbed and thus prone to provoke diarrhea. More absorbable forms of magnesium are easily available – citrate, malate, orotate, amino acid chelate, etc. – but these tend to be both bulky and pricey.

Happily, there is another inexpensive form of magnesium, magnesium chloride, which is fairly easily available though for some reason not often used. Magnesium chloride is cheap enough to be used to de-ice roads in place of regular salt (sodium chloride), and tablets of 62 mg each can be purchased on the Internet for less than a penny per tablet. You should be aware that Slow-Mag, the most widely available magnesium chloride, is not just magnesium but has both calcium and magnesium.

Magnesium chloride lozenges have been proposed as an improvement over magnesium sulphate for the treatment of acute asthma attacks. Emergency room physicians occasionally find intravenous magnesium sulphate helpful in addition to the powerful drugs routinely used to control an acute asthma attack. Magnesium chloride lozenges would be substantially less expensive and safer than IV administration of Mg and have the advantage to consumers of being nonprescription. Lozenges are available from

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