The health of your digestive system can have a big impact on your overall health and your general well-being.
If you suffer from digestive problems, then, or you simply want to avoid them, you’re probably wondering; is magnesium good for digestion?
The short answer is yes! Not only is magnesium good for digestion, but it’s also an essential mineral involved in more than 300 processes in the body.
Read on to find out why…
How magnesium helps digestion
Magnesium is an essential mineral that your body needs to maintain optimal health. Altogether, it’s involved in hundreds of processes in the body, such as:
- Muscle and nerve function
- Bone synthesis (creation)
- Blood sugar control
- Blood pressure regulation
- Heart rhythm
- Immune regulation
- Energy production
- DNA and RNA synthesis
- Protein synthesis
Healthy digestion relies on lots of different processes happening throughout your gastrointestinal tract. Magnesium is involved in making sure almost all of those processes run smoothly. Here are some of the main ways magnesium supports healthy digestion.
Before it can be absorbed and used by your body, the food you eat has to be broken down into small molecules. The chemical reactions that break down carbs, fats, and proteins are powered by substances called enzymes. Magnesium is a cofactor for these enzymes, which essentially means that they need magnesium to do their job. Without magnesium, then, your food can’t be properly digested.
Enzymes also play an important role in vitamin and mineral absorption. Take vitamin D, for example. When you produce vitamin D in your skin, it needs to be converted to an active form before your body can use it. The enzymes that are responsible for this conversion all need magnesium to work, so if you don’t get enough magnesium, you could end up with a vitamin D deficiency.
2. Stomach acid
The acid in your stomach plays a major role in breaking down and digesting your food. If the levels of acid in your stomach are too high or low, you may not be able to digest food properly and could end up with nutrient deficiencies as a result. You might also experience uncomfortable gastric problems like bloating, nausea, or diarrhea.
Stomach acid also acts as a defense against infection and helps to regulate the microbiota or the natural micro-organisms that live in your gut. When stomach acid is too high or low, it can throw off the delicate balance of this system, killing off good bacteria and allowing harmful bacteria to thrive. Again, this can also lead to gastric discomfort.
So how does your stomach know how much acid to produce and when? That’s controlled by certain hormones, but just like enzymes, they need magnesium to do their job.
3. Acid reflux
Even though the acid in your stomach is strong, your stomach lining has lots of built-in defenses to protect it from damage. Outside of the stomach, though, that acid can do some serious damage. To stop the acid from escaping, you have a tight band of muscle in between the esophagus (food pipe) and the opening of your stomach, called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES).
If you’ve ever experienced heartburn, you’ll know that the LES can sometimes fail. When it does, it allows stomach acid to come back up into your esophagus, which can cause a sore throat, a burning sensation in your chest (AKA heartburn), and a foul taste in your mouth. Most people will experience this acid reflux from time to time, but when it happens regularly, it’s known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Magnesium can help to prevent or relieve reflux in various ways.
- Bloating or excessive gas in the stomach can put pressure on the LES, allowing stomach acid to flow backward. Because magnesium helps to regulate stomach acid levels, it can help to prevent this particular cause of bloating and therefore reduce the pressure on the LES.
- Your stomach is supposed to empty out through another sphincter called the pyloric sphincter. If this muscle band doesn’t relax, it can stop the stomach from emptying and push the contents back the way they came. This also puts pressure on the LES, but magnesium can prevent this by relaxing the pyloric sphincter and allowing your stomach to empty.
- Magnesium can help to neutralize and weaken stomach acid, reducing the irritation and inflammation caused by reflux. That’s why you’ll often find magnesium in lots of common acid reflux and GERD medications known as antacids, such as Milk of Magnesia.
Constipation is generally defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a one-week period. Most people will experience it on occasion, but for some people, constipation can be a chronic and very uncomfortable condition.
One common cause of constipation is when too much water is absorbed from the stool as it moves through your bowels. This can sometimes happen because you’re dehydrated, or because your bowels aren’t moving quickly enough. Magnesium can help with both.
First, magnesium (especially magnesium citrate) is a very effective laxative that’s often used in over-the-counter constipation remedies. It works by pulling more water into the intestines, making the stool softer and easier to pass. Second, your bowels move waste along using coordinated muscle contractions called peristalsis. Because magnesium is absolutely essential for healthy muscle contraction, a deficiency can slow down peristalsis, but taking magnesium can help get things moving again.
When it comes to turning your food into the energy you can use, magnesium has yet another starring role.
Glucose is your body’s preferred energy source. In order to extract the energy from glucose, though, it has to go through a complicated process called the Krebs cycle. The energy released from glucose is captured by a little molecule called ATP, which shuttles the energy all over your body and into your cells. There’s a catch though — your cells can’t actually use the ATP unless it’s bound to magnesium.
Which magnesium supplement is best for digestion?
As you can see, a lack of magnesium can have a major impact at every stage of the digestive process, from start to finish. If you’re suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, or you’re generally feeling sluggish and tired, then it’s possible that magnesium could help.
As for which type of magnesium supplement you should take, that depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. If you’re struggling with constipation, then the laxative effects of magnesium citrate will obviously be ideal. If you’re suffering from acid reflux though? Not so much!
For anything other than constipation, or if you have a sensitive stomach in general, you might prefer a form of magnesium that’s gentler on the stomach. Magnesium glycinate, magnesium taurate, and magnesium malate are all known to be very well-tolerated, and they’re also highly bioavailable, so you absorb more of the mineral.
How much magnesium should I take for digestion?
The recommended magnesium dosage and intake vary depending on your age and sex. The table below shows the adequate intake (AI) and recommended dietary allowance (RDA) from the National Institute of Health:
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
*Adequate Intake (AI)
At around the 400mg mark, the risk of digestive side effects increases. This might include bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. If your stomach is feeling fragile, you might want to aim for a lower dose to be on the safe side.
Is magnesium safe for people with digestive problems?
Magnesium supplements are generally safe for most healthy people. However, because the most common side effects are gastrointestinal, you might want to consult your doctor first if you have a condition or disease that affects your digestive system.
Not only is there a risk that magnesium could irritate your condition, but there’s also a possibility that your condition might affect how you absorb or metabolize magnesium. And if you’re taking medications for a gastrointestinal condition, or any other reason, it’s important to keep in mind that magnesium can interact with these medications and affect how well they work. For best results, it’s best to discuss magnesium supplements with your doctor first.