Another one of magnesium’s benefits is related to sleep. I frequently recommend 300-400mg at bedtime for those who wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts and can’t get back to sleep. Vitamin D3 (1000-5000u based on blood level) and fish oil also help. While not aware of excellent studies supporting this treatment, it’s one of those that are safe, relatively inexpensive, helpful in many other ways and supported by numerous positive responses by my patients and no negative responses to date.

I previously mentioned that high insulin levels (as found in metabolic syndrome), cause the kidneys to spill magnesium. This can cause a loss of magnesium in the urine of more than 30%. The resulting low levels of magnesium then lead to worsening of metabolic syndrome. So you have a vicious cycle of worsening which is reversed by increasing magnesium with food or supplement as well as lowering glucose and insulin levels with diet.

So how do we check a level of magnesium? It’s not as easy as simply checking a blood level as with potassium or calcium. Magnesium is mostly inside cells, so a “red blood cell magnesium” is one of the tests which gives a more accurate evaluation of functional levels. There is also a cheek swab test which gives intracellular levels. If the blood test is at the low end of normal, it’s a pretty good bet that the body is depleted. I usually just supplement based on symptoms but occasionally a test result is helpful when symptoms are severe or puzzling or a supplement is not helpful.

Food sources of magnesium are mostly nuts and seeds but spinach is also very high on the list. Spinach earns its designation as a “superfood” by appearing high on nearly every nutrient list. Nuts and seeds listed are pumpkin and sunflower seeds along with almonds and cashews and flax seeds. Other interesting choices include certain bottled waters that do not remove minerals (e.g. Mendocino and Appollinaris) coconut milk and the fermented soybean product popular in Japan called Natto.

For supplementation, I usually recommend chelated products like magnesium citrate, malate or current favorite glycinate. All of these are absorbed better than elemental forms. If one is constipated, it may also be helpful to use magnesium oxide (think milk of magnesia) which promotes bowel movement. The problem is that to get an adequate dose for many it may cause diarrhea. I recommend 300-400mg at bedtime for anyone suffering from leg cramps, sleep problems, metabolic syndrome or any of the other problems previously mentioned.

So lower your processed, sugary and starchy foods, eat more nuts, seeds and leafy greens and if needed take a magnesium supplement. It could make a big difference in your health!