Magnesium is a super mineral. This amazing mineral is important to over 300 biochemical reactions and crucial to bone, muscle and heart health. It helps the release of energy from our food. It lowers the risk of developing serious medical conditions. Such as: migraines, insomnia, heart attacks and kidney problems. It is also needed for crucial body functions. Like protein synthesis, blood sugar regulation, transmission of neurotransmitters and nerve function. 1
Natural sources of magnesium
Our bodies can derive magnesium naturally from many different food sources. Including bananas, dark chocolate, black beans, yogurt, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cocoa, green leafy vegetables and unrefined whole grains. But, like with most minerals, the supply from food does not meet our recommended dietary allowance. Rather, it supplies only about 30 – 40% of it. This low supply could lead to magnesium deficiency (also called hypomagnesaemia). Large numbers of people across the world suffer from this condition, especially for those on a poor diet. In fact, reportedly around 80% of Americans might be magnesium deficient. 2 Magnesium deficiency could cause various health problems. Such as organ damage, osteoporosis, impotence, cramps, heart attacks and constipation. To guard against this condition, increasing numbers of people are adopting magnesium supplementation. 3
Mild Magnesium side effects
There are several brands of magnesium supplements on the market today. These supplements are mostly magnesium compounds like magnesium chloride, -glycinate and -oxide. These supplements cure magnesium deficiency and help maintain optimum magnesium levels. They are also used as laxatives or antacids.
Even so, a significant number of people who use magnesium supplement have reported various side effects. These side effects range from mild diarrhoea to even coma or death (in the extreme cases). In this article, you will learn the various common side effects and the steps to take when you notice them.
Magnesium side effect: Diarrhoea
Let us start with the most commonly reported side effect; diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is a medical condition where stool becomes excessively frequent and abnormally soft. If left untreated, this condition could result in dehydration. Magnesium, of course, is a laxative and this is the cause of diarrhoea during supplementation. When taken, the unabsorbed magnesium makes its way into the colon where it draws water into the bowels via osmosis. This leads to watery stool and liquid bowel movements, the hallmark of diarrhoea. In order to avoid this, you should try to reduce your dose or break it into two or three smaller doses. Taking your supplement with high fibre meals or taking it on an empty stomach could also help prevent diarrhoea. If your diarrhoea does not get better, then you should change the supplement you are taking or see a doctor. 4
Magnesium side effect: Itchy skin
Another side effect is a very itchy rash on the skin. The affected area becomes inflamed after a short time causing you some discomfort. This rash could lead to full-blown eczema or hives if left untreated. If you experience this side effect during supplementation, you should change the supplement you are taking. You could also manage the rash with medication like antihistamines or corticosteroids, if unsure, see a doctor.
Magnesium side effect: Rhinitis
Rhinitis is yet another common mild side effect of magnesium supplementation. Rhinitis is the inflammation and the irritation of the nasal mucous membrane. Some of its symptoms include sneezing, throat irritation, runny nose, nasal congestion. If you notice rhinitis symptoms during magnesium supplementation. Then you should take antihistamines or intranasal corticosteroids. If its symptoms persist, then you should see a doctor as soon as possible or stop taking supplements. 5
Magnesium side effect: Asthma
In a small number of people magnesium supplementation could lead to asthma symptoms. Like chest pain, wheezing and shortness of breath. It can also cause general body weakness where everyday tasks become difficult to do. In these cases, it is necessary to seek medical advice.
Magnesium side effect: Nausea
Nausea and vomiting is another occasional experience of magnesium supplement users. Stomach upset, diarrhoea, weakness and vomiting could all occur at the same time after taking a magnesium supplement. If you experience these symptoms, then immediately change the magnesium supplement. If this doesn’t help, stop all forms of supplementation and see a doctor for further instructions.6
The above are some of the mild side effects of magnesium supplementation. Common medication (antihistamines, corticosteroids etc.) or stopping the dose should ease these side effects. These methods might not be effective in casas where supplementation results in more severe conditions. These conditions almost always require hospitalization and medical attention. They are majorly caused by excessive supplementation especially when taken without medical supervision. This excess magnesium isn’t disposable by the body leading to these problems.
Severe Magnesium side effects
Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or mouth after supplementation is one of these severe symptoms. If you experience this, then you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Magnesium side effect: Stomach pain
Another serious symptom is severe stomach pain or confusion and dizziness. People who experience this should also seek medical attention immediately.
Magnesium side effect: Pale appearance
A pale appearance, black stool and dark urine are also effective pointers of a severely high body magnesium level. Medical attention should also be sought immediately in this case. 7
Magnesium side effect: Low blood pressure
A sharp drop in blood pressure, low heart rate and abnormal heart rhythms are all common symptoms of excessive body magnesium. Magnesium helps regulate the movement of calcium (an electrolyte) through the heart. When it is in excess, the electrical conduction in the heart becomes abnormal leading to the above symptoms. If these symptoms are noticed, the patient should see a doctor immediately. 8
Magnesium side effect: Fainting
In the extreme cases, fainting could result from supplementation. Seeking medical advice immediately when these severe symptoms are noticed is a must. Such conditions could lead to more serious complications or could even be fatal if not immediately treated. 9
When not to use magnesium
Certain people should COMPLETELY stay away from magnesium supplements. First, people with kidney problems. The kidneys are very important to the body’s magnesium cycle as it removes excess of the mineral from the body. Taking supplements without these natural regulators in full force could be fatal. Hence, persons with damaged kidneys should not use any form of magnesium supplement unless directed by a doctor. Persons with slow heart rates or Atrial Fibrillation should also stay away unless directed by a doctor.
It is important to note, though, that these severe cases are very rare. The most common side effect of magnesium supplementation is diarrhoea, which is easily cured. Hence, there is really no cause for alarm; however, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.