What You Should (And Shouldn't) Do To Get Maximum Magnesium Bioavailability - Save Our Bones

It’s no secret that Mainstream Medicine focuses primarily on calcium and blatantly ignores magnesium. Yet this Foundation Supplement is essential for building strong bones that resist fracture.

Magnesium has an effect on osteoblasts and osteoclasts, and it is also involved in the regulation of bone homeostasis by affecting concentrations of both the active form of Vitamin D an parathyroid hormone.

Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems that regulate a variety of important functions, such as protein synthesis, muscle relaxation, nerve function, blood pressure, antioxidant production, and much more.

Fortunately, there are plenty of magnesium-rich Foundation Foods, and today we’re going to take a look how you can optimize magnesium absorption from these foods.

Magnesium Deficiency Is More Common Than You Think

Thanks to the prevalence of refined, processed foods in the typical Western diet, magnesium deficiency is quite common. Blood tests are a poor reflection of your body’s magnesium levels, because magnesium is found in your bones and muscles (especially your heart), not your blood.

Contributing to rampant deficiency, magnesium absorption depends on levels of Vitamin D and calcium, digestive health, fluoride levels, kidney function, and other factors that have a profound impact on how much of this mineral gets taken up. (Fluoride is absorbed along the same biological pathway as magnesium, so it competes with it.)

Because magnesium is involved in so many biological processes, deficiency symptoms can range from anxiety to restless legs. Even conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome1 and Fibromyalgia2 have responded positively to magnesium intake, implicating deficiency as a culprit in the development of these disorders.

Eating lots of magnesium-rich Foundation Foods is an excellent way to obtain a good amount of magnesium; but its absorption rate varies tremendously even if the magnesium you’re ingesting is food-based. That’s what makes today’s topic so important.

The Complexities Of Magnesium Absorption

For this mineral (or any nutrient) to be absorbed by the body, it must first be freed from the food matrix, the chemical bonds and molecular relationships that exist between nutrients. Then the magnesium can then be converted into a form that is able to pass between and into cells in the intestines.

Several processes help “free up” the magnesium: chewing, pureeing and cooking, and enzymatic action during digestion. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Chew Your Food Well

Chewing your food breaks it down mechanically and enzymatically. Your saliva contains enzymes that begin to release and break down the molecular bonds between nutrients. Thorough chewing is the first step toward getting all the magnesium from your food as possible.

Cooking Releases Magnesium

The debate about raw vs. cooked foods will probably never be completely settled. But the fact is that some nutrients, magnesium included, are released from the food matrix through the process of cooking (particularly quick, gentle cooking such as sautéing or steaming). Another benefit of cooking is that it lessens the amount of oxalic acid in foods like spinach. Oxalic acid can hinder magnesium absorption, and research shows that cooked spinach has a higher magnesium absorption rate than raw.3

Puree Foods To Increase Magnesium Bioavailability

Pureeing foods in your blender is another way to free up magnesium. Fibrous plant foods can “lock up” magnesium within their fibers, and pureeing breaks the matrix into such small pieces that the body is better able to extract the nutrients. Basically, pureeing is like chewing in that it mechanically breaks down food.

Digestive “Juices” Are Essential

Stomach acid is the second digestive substance that your food comes in contact with (the first is saliva). This acid is required for the proper uptake of many nutrients, magnesium included. This is why reflux drugs like Protonix, Prilosec, Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors increase fracture risk – no matter how much magnesium you ingest, your body can’t deliver it where it belongs.

In the small intestine, pancreatic juices and enzymes further break the food matrix down, releasing magnesium into the gut where it can be absorbed through the intestinal walls into the blood stream. About 40% of the magnesium you ingest is absorbed in the small intestine.

Some magnesium passes into the large intestine, and a small amount may actually be absorbed from there as well. Only about 5% of the magnesium you ingest is absorbed in the large intestine. The rest – 55% – is excreted from the body.

Foods And Nutrients That Enhance And Prohibit Magnesium Absorption

As mentioned earlier, getting plenty of magnesium is about more than just eating foods that contain it. There are actually some foods and nutrients that aid magnesium uptake, and conversely, some foods and beverages that inhibit its absorption. Let’s take a look at the most relevant ones.

Substances That Promote Magnesium Absorption

  • Fructose that occurs naturally in foods like apples*, raw honey*, dates*, plums, and raisins*
  • Complex carbohydrates found in whole grains like oats*, barley*, buckwheat, and cornmeal
  • Protein, especially the alkalizing protein found in whey powder*, pumpkin seeds*, plain yogurt*, quinoa, almonds*, and peas*
  • Healthy oils that contain medium-chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil
  • Fruits and vegetables rich in soluble fiber help with large intestine absorption of magnesium.
  • *Foundation Food

    Foods That Hinder Magnesium Absorption

    On the other hand, there are foods and substances that can greatly inhibit how much magnesium your body takes up. Here are some.

    • Phosphoric acid-containing sodas impair magnesium absorption by forming phosphates, which bind to calcium and magnesium to form an insoluble complex of magnesium, calcium, and phosphate.
    • Cow’s milk, which contains high amounts of phosphorous, inhibits magnesium uptake for the same reason as colas.
    • Coffee and tea have diuretic effects which increase magnesium secretion via the urine.
    • Excessive alcohol use also inflames the intestines and causes a diuretic effect.

    In addition to various foods and beverages, there are health conditions that can prevent magnesium bioavailability. These include:

    • Aging, which affects many body systems that influence magnesium absorption, such as digestion and kidney function.
    • Stress also has a profound effect on every body system, including digestion. Stress acidifies your body by the over-production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This in turn means your body must use more alkalizing minerals, such as magnesium, to neutralize the acidic environment.
    • Kidney dysfunction, which can disrupt the balance between excretion and resorption of magnesium that takes place in healthy kidneys. Under normal conditions, the kidneys determine the amount of magnesium available to the body’s cells, allowing appropriate amounts of magnesium to be reabsorbed. If the kidneys are not functioning due to medications, illness, toxic burden, etc., more magnesium is excreted.
    • Digestive malfunction, such as Crohn’s disease, chronic diarrhea or vomiting, Celiac, and so forth can adversely influence magnesium absorption.

    Nutrients Work In Synergy To Build Bones

    If you have the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you know that there is not an over-emphasis on calcium or any one single “magic” nutrient for rejuvenating bones. That’s why the Program places an emphasis on obtaining as many Foundation Supplements from Foundation Foods as possible, because whole foods contain many nutrients that work in synergy for optimal absorption.

    Building entire meals around Foundation Foods is an excellent way to take in a plentiful variety of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your bones crave. And of course, this does not mean bland, boring foods. Savers who have the Save Our Bones recipe book, Bone Appétit, are aware of how nutrient-rich, bone-healthy dishes can also be delicious, colorful, and easy to prepare.

    Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!

    Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!

    Learn More Now →

    Remember how pureeing helps free up magnesium from foods? Bone Appétit includes a bonus cookbook called Blender Magic, so you can whip up dishes full of bioavailable magnesium and other crucial bone smart nutrients in minutes.

    Do you have any magnesium-rich recipes you’d like to share, or ideas for dishes with ingredients that promote magnesium absorption? Please share with the community by leaving a comment below!

    Till next time,


    1 Cox, I.M., Campbell, M.J., PhD, and Dowson, D., MB. “Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome.” The Lancet. March 30, 1991. Vol 337, issue 8744, pages 757-760. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PII0140-6736%2891%2991371-Z/abstract

    2 Russell, I.J., et al. “Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study.” The Journal of Rheumatology. May 1995. 22(5): 953-8. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8587088

    3 Bohn T. Dietary Factors Influencing Magnesium Absorption in Humans. Current Nutrition & Food Science. 2008;4:53-72

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Notna

    I enjoyed the article but you didn’t mention one of the most common inhibitors of magnesium absorption – phytic acid.
    Phytic acid (as well as oxalic acid, tannins, polyphenols, salicylates and others) inhibits absorption of magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium and manganese and is found in beans, nuts, seeds and grains.




    Might be worth a whole article, anyway cheers

  2. Melanie Eckstein

    I am a Senior and have severe reflux which requires medication. I am taking Prilosec and that is barely effective. I have read on numerous websites that ppi’s interfere with Magnesium absorption, but what can someone like me do to avoid
    a deficiency?

    • Linda

      Melanie, I was having scary acid and also reflux. I accidentally discovered eating plain butter lettuce or red or green leaf lettuce helped me. I would eat a small bowl amount, slowly, just a small bite at a time and and chew it very well.

      Maybe it could help you?

    • Rose Maunder

      Bathing in Epsom salts daily has shown an increase in free magnesium in the bloodstream, showing that the magnesium in solution is absorbed through the skin and becomes available in the body.

  3. Roxanne Camron

    I have purchased all Save Our Bones materials and I was loving True Osteo, but have found that I can no longer take it, even if I break up the dosage, without having gastro issues. I am using a magnesium gel and trying to eat bone healthy foods and get exercise. But, I’m wondering, can I just take as many of the bone recommended supplements, like calcium, vitamin d, etc. separately, and then add the magnesium topically. I’m hoping Vivian can address this. Thank you.

    • Karen

      You take pill supplements?

    • jim

      Might try Trace Minerals as supplement. I started using it, after getting muscle cramps at night. It works great. Loaded with magnesium and other electrolytes. Just add it to water or juice. Since, using it my cramps went away. When I came off of it for a few days, cramps came back. It is a mineral concentration from the great salt lake. One of the supplements has more sodium in it, while the other is less than a %.

  4. Linda Bishop

    One day I accidentally came across a you tube on “magnesium oil” how to make it and rub it on the soles of the feet for greater absorption. Why not?

    • suresh

      I did make it but was not satisfactory, so stuck on to Magnesium oil availble in the market, I tried three varieties any of them is fine.(Swanson ultra,Ancient Minerals,Life flo)

      • MIWA

        Since I’ve been using magnesium oil ( bought) there’s been such a difference. My feet don’t hurt any more, I had bursitis in the hip and it’s better, I had very painful golfers elbows and couldn’t sleep,with the pain – it’s almost gone. My mind is clearer, I’m less depressed,. Fibromyalgia symptoms are much improved. I feel better generally. I also read that I could use it as a deodorant. I did! No smell and very effective.
        I still have arthritis pains in my fingers and neck but then again, at least it’s just those. Everything else is so much better. So yes, I recommend it.

  5. Vee

    I have started taking Natures Way bone formula calcium. It is an algae calcium. Has a nice balance of all plant based supplements. C, k2, mag, d3, baron, silica, strontium,vanadium. The strontium is only 7mg but I have heard should not be taken with calcium. Again all plant based. What is your opinion on that.

  6. Doc A Bradham

    My wife has boon problems

  7. shula


  8. Linda

    Would love your opinion on transdermal magnesium and also transdermal calcium. I have Crohns and vit pills effect me. I found transdermal online but would not use them without someone’s opinion I trust.

    • Clintb

      Most diets contain excess calcium which deposits in wrong areas if not enough magnesium is present to help it deposit in bones and not arteries.
      For Crohns, eliminate gluten, trans fats, sugar and sugar substitutes except for honey and Stevia and eat saturated fats like meats and butter. There’s many more but you need to study. You might start by referencing a Veterinary at Dogtorj.com.

  9. milly

    can we get your bone appetit cook book in England? the Postal cost puts this out of my reach and I would very much appreciate the help. i am only 44 and went through the menopause 7 years ago. My bone health is poor and I find the meal planning very challenging particularly as I also have to feed an 11 year old at the same time on a low income..

    • Customer Support

      Hi Milly,
      Thanks so much for your interest in Bone Appetit! If the shipping costs are prohibitive, have you considered the digital version? It’s the same material; it’s just delivered digitally to your inbox as a PDF file. If you have any other questions, please drop us a line at Customer Support by clicking on the “Customer Support” link below. Thanks!

  10. Jean

    I’ve been using Milk of Magnesia as a daily underarm deodorant; works well for me. But I can’t seem to get an answer about whether absorption through the skin enhances my daily intake of magnesium. Would like to know.

  11. Connie

    What is your take on magnesium oil Vivian? I feel the food we eat today is mineral deficient and won’t supply what we need and not all of us have access to organic pesticide free food.

  12. Lesley

    I now have the added problem of diverticulosis. Can I take Magnesium citrate powder?

  13. Reva

    I have received an email about a magnesium spray that is supposed to be superior in getting magnesium to your cells. There were claims of better sleep, lessened joint pain, and migraine prevention. Any thoughts about this?

  14. Diane

    My husband and I were taking magnesium taurate, has taurine which I read is good for bones too and has less laxative effects but recently due to Dr. Mercola’s website we’re trying magnesium L-threonate which also has no laxative effects.. According to what I’ve read besides being absorbed better it passes into the brain better helping with lots of neurological issues and because it’s absorbed better you don’t need as much so he recommends only 144 mg a day. So my question is is that enough for bone health too since I was getting 400 to 500 mg between food and magnesium taurate.


  15. Dianne

    I am using magnesium chloride powder mixed with water for Transdermal application.
    Is this a better absorption method than taking an oral supplement or food?

    Thanks – your response would be appreciated.
    I am 59 years young and a vegan.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Dianne,
      Transdermal magnesium is another effective way to get magnesium, and it might be a good option for those with digestive difficulties.

  16. Betty

    I was happy to see this topic about magnesium because I stopped taking calcium/ magnesium citrate recently when I became more concerned about calcium causing plaque in the body including the brain. I have magnesium citrate powder which I add to juice sometimes at night to help me relax and sleep. Thank you for describing how it is better absorbed from food..
    I also take acid reflux med due to malfunction of the sphincter muscle. This adds to my absorption problem and surgery is unreliable. My GI Dr says affects are minimal.
    One cup of coffee in the morning is necessary to help energy levels. I am having a sleep study in July.
    My bone density is quite poor and not much sign of improving. I am 74 with back pain. Trying to be positive and thankful and keep moving every day.
    This program offers such great support and information.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      We’re glad you’re here, Betty! No health journey is without bumps and turns, and it takes time to address all the layers involved in bone health. Keep taking care of yourself, and stay the course!

      • Arun

        Multiple small points … (purely my personal point of view)…
        Yes Magnesium Chloride Transdermal is the best especially if the Hydrochloric acid in your GA is eroded : ‘switched off’ due to PPIs that you would have taken for improving sphincter.. but u know what, it is also known that sphincter damage is due to Mg def itself and Mag supps improve it – it Has improved my Gerd!.
        My Qs to Vivian : I have multiple symptoms incl RestlessLegs, FibroMyalgia, severe cramps, chronic Fatigue, … but Not Confusion or Memory issues – is that possible ?
        best wishes for better health to all readers

  17. marigold king

    Should I take magnesium bisglycinate
    What is the daily dose
    With vitamin D?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Marigold,
      The RDA for magnesium is 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men, which is an acceptable starting point. Magnesium bisglycinate is a good chelated compound (magnesium bound to glycine). And it’s a good idea to take it along with Vitamin D3, since magnesium is required to convert the “sunshine vitamin” into its active form.

  18. Kathy

    I have been using magnesium oil on my skin. Don’t know if it will help my bones but it miraculously helped my sciatica.

  19. Maureen

    If you have Coeliac disease under control and your diet is totally gluten free can you still have a problem absorbing magnesium

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      The key is a healthy gut for magnesium absorption, Maureen. So if you have the inflammation under control and are no longer experiencing symptoms of Celiac, your gut is likely able to absorb nutrients.

  20. Jules

    Magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salts)
    Use a handful in a bath or half
    a handful in a footbath say –
    once a week. Refreshing!

  21. Tom Stevens

    re epsom salts Magnesium Sulphates and effects

  22. Thomas

    I take a springkling Epsom Salts Magnesium Sulphate most days on my bran and oats and cornflakes….this is to
    combat the effects of medications as prescribed and cause constipation….My nails grow very fast and am wondering if I am on the right track. Tom Stevens

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Tom,
      Magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) is an inorganic form of magnesium that is not readily absorbed, which accounts in part for its laxative effect. Research supports the limited bioavailability of magnesium sulfate; you can read one such study here:


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