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