Magnesium is the “Mighty Mineral” and honestly one of my favorite supplements (if you have to pick just one!). It can be found in some of our favorite foods such as almonds, spinach and avocados. However, the National Institute of Health cites that majority of people are deficient in magnesium. If you are sick or have intestinal problems, this will worsen your ability to replenish and absorb magnesium.
Magnesium works with a vital energy storage molecule known as ATP to provide your body with crucial energy it needs. In fact, ATP can not function properly without magnesium. Thus magnesium is incredibly critical for everything from nerve function, bone growth to proper digestive function.
Magnesium can be found in several different forms. Magnesium Chloride or Magnesium Citrate is extracted from ocean water and one of the most effective dietary forms in terms of absorption. Magnesium Sulfate is the form found in Epson salt you add to your bath to help sore muscles. It is also often the form used in laxatives. Magnesium Glycerate is the second most common digestive form. This form also has excellent absorbability but does not have much laxative property to aid in digestion as magnesium chloride.
Papers have indicated that magnesium levels are low in a person’s brain during a migraine or headache (1). Taking magnesium has been clinically proven to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches (2). In fact, magnesium given in an IV form is a main treatment for severe migraines in several emergency departments (3). In my clinical experience, magnesium works best preventatively. Taking a supplement everyday drastically decreases your rate of occurrence of migraines.
Magnesium is critical and necessary for the proper utilization of both vitamin D and calcium. In fact, one can argue that magnesium supplementation is more critical than calcium (4). Since Magnesium is critical for ATP, which is needed for muscle movement and growth, magnesium is also critical for muscle health. This is why I highly recommend the use of magnesium for growing pains. Since it helps with muscles, there have also been studies indicated its benefits on helping with sleep.
There are many options for treatment of constipation. The most common is Myralax, in which Polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG 3350) is the active ingredient. Which is also the main ingredient in anti-freeze. In fact, use of miralax in anyone under the age of 17 is considered “off label”. Although, effective for constipation, I recommend avoiding all unnatural chemicals, especially in kids. One of the best things about magnesium is that there are not dangerous side effects to overdosing unlike other vitamins or minerals (for example, calcium). You body absorbs and uses the magnesium it needs and then the rest is eliminated in stool. This is why, magnesium also works as an excellent treatment for constipation. It higher doses, can help treat acute constipation and in lower doses, can help keep stools regular.
Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium in children is 80mg/day ages 1-3; 130mg/day ages 4-5 and 240mg/day by the age of 9.
In general I recommend always using magnesium chloride for kids unless you are only treating for headaches. In that case, you can use the magnesium glycerinate formulation.
If you are treating constipation, stick to magnesium chloride formulation and you will need to make sure you are higher than the dosing mentioned above (start with 1g). If your child is having too loose of stools, you can always just decrease the dose you are using.
In general, I recommend using magnesium around dinner time so it starts to have its effects at night, particularly if you are targeting growing pains and muscle aches.
To see different recommended magnesium supplements, visit our dispensary. There are pre-made catelogues of different brands for different treatments you can find there.
References for further reading …
1. Mauskop A, Altura BM. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraines. Clin Neurosci 1998;5(1)24-27.
2. Schiapparalli P., et al. Non-pharmacological approach to migraine prophylaxis: part II. Neurolog Sci. June 2010.
3. Jessani J, Sierson D. Pharmacologic Management of Acute Migraines in the Emergency Department. Adv Emerg Nurs J. 2019.
4. Erem S, Atfi A. Rzzaque MS. Anabolic effects of vit D and magnesium in aging bone. J Steroid Biochem Mom Biol. Jun 2019.
5. Ramkumar D, Rao SS. Efficacy and safety of traditional medical therapies for chronic constipation: systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005;100(4):936–971.