Magnesium For Gut Health


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant body mineral. In humans, magnesium can mainly be found in bones, muscles, and soft tissues. A small percentage of magnesium can also be found in blood cells.1 It is involved in several physiological processes, such as muscle and nerve function regulation, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.2 Even though general knowledge about the role of magnesium has been gathered around cardiovascular and osteoarticular functions, its role in digestive functions should not be left out!
Magnesium plays a significant role in functions such as metabolism by maintaining the gut’s health.3 However, studies have shown that the requirements for some essential minerals, like magnesium, are not met because of poor diet.2 Magnesium intake has been found to be inadequate in most populations. In fact, during this century, magnesium intake has declined by more than half.1
Magnesium deficiency is very common and a cause of everyday mental health and physiological problems.5 Magnesium deficiency has been linked to several gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhoea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).3 It can be attributed to several causes, some of which include: poor gastrointestinal absorption, reduced dietary intake, and increased losses from the gastrointestinal tract (e.g. vomiting, and diarrhoea).1 As we can see there is a clear relationship between magnesium and gut health. Therefore, it is important to explore the beneficial effects, the sources, and the side effects of magnesium to be fully aware of how we can prevent magnesium deficiency and gut health problems that can be caused.

Benefits of magnesium for gut health

Magnesium has a range of benefits for gut health. One of its main functions in the gut is to help the regulation of food movement through the intestines. It plays a critical role in the muscle and nerve function of the gut. It helps in the relaxation of the muscles of the gut wall, which can in turn help to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.3 Moreover, magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid the reduction of gut inflammation, which can help to alleviate symptoms of IBS and other inflammatory conditions.6 

A study by Bothe et al (2017), found that the daily consumption of magnesium sulphate led to an improvement in the frequency of bowel movement and stool consistency in subjects with constipation problems and in healthy individuals as well over a six-week period.7 Additionally, functional dyspepsia symptoms have been shown to be relieved by magnesium oxide which is used for its anti-acid properties.8 

Magnesium has also an important role in maintaining the health of the gut microbiome which is the microorganism community that lives in the gut.7 It has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut while reducing the growth of harmful bacteria. Overall, magnesium helps in the maintenance of a healthy balance of gut bacteria supporting general gut health.9,10,11 

Other health benefits of magnesium

In addition to magnesium’s benefits for gut health, it has been linked to a variety of other health benefits. Magnesium intake has been proposed to contribute to a variety of cardiometabolic mechanisms. It has been extensively studied in cardiology and particularly arrhythmia, cardiac surgery, and myocardial infarction. 

It has antiarrhythmic, anticoagulant, antihypertensive, and anti-inflammatory effects. It improves insulin and glucose metabolism and lipid metabolism. Magnesium intake reduces vascular contractility and increases endothelium-dependent vasodilation.12 Magnesium has been shown to have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. The risk of stroke is inversely associated with dietary magnesium intake.13,14,15

Furthermore, magnesium plays a chief role in forming and maintaining healthy bones. Controlled magnesium intake is associated with a reduced risk of osteoporosis which is a condition characterized by brittle and fragile bones. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects millions of people and is characterised by bone mass loss.16,17 This loss of bone mass results in an increased risk of fractures (mostly spine and hip) causing pain, disability, suffering, and even death17. Dietary interventions are considered a preventative strategy and include the intake of magnesium together with other nutrients.18

Additionally, magnesium is fundamental for the proper functioning of the nervous system. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it is involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the maintenance of the nerve cells’ structural integrity. Studies have demonstrated that adequate magnesium levels can aid in the reduction of anxiety, the improvement of sleep quality, and the alleviation of depression.19 For instance, a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that magnesium supplementation reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in adults with mild to moderate depression.20,21 Similarly, magnesium has been associated with the prevention of neurological disorders such as migraines and seizures by regulating the activity of brain chemicals. In fact, studies have shown that magnesium supplementation decreased migraine frequency in adults with migraine headaches.22

Natural food sources of magnesium

Magnesium can be found in a variety of natural food sources some of which are listed below:23

1.    Green leafy vegetables: Kale, collard greens, spinach, and Swiss chard are counted as good sources of magnesium.

2.    Whole grains: Whole wheat, barley, brown rice, and oats are considered to be great magnesium sources even if their cooking influences real magnesium consumption.

3.     Fish: Fish such as halibut and salmon represent good dietary sources of magnesium. 

4.    Nuts and seeds: Cashews, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, and pumpkin seeds are also rich in magnesium.

5. Legumes: Lentils, peas, and beans have many nutritional benefits including being good magnesium sources. 

6.     Avocado: Avocados are good sources of magnesium. 

7.     Bananas: Bananas are known for containing magnesium. 

8.    Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains a good amount of magnesium but should be consumed in moderation due to its high calorie and sugar content. 

It is critical to note that the bioavailability of magnesium from food sources can vary depending on the form of magnesium, the food matrix, and the presence of other nutrients and phytates. It is always good to have a balanced diet, including a variety of magnesium-rich foods, and consult with a healthcare professional for your specific needs.23 

Oral magnesium supplements are another way of magnesium intake without the need for a prescription. Supplements are marketed in salt forms that combine magnesium with gluconate, citrate, orotate, lactate, malate, oxide, hydroxide, sulfate, chloride, carbonate, or a combination. Many of them are marketed in tablet forms, but some are also available as liquids or powders, or crystals that can be dissolved in water.24

Side effects and other concerns

Magnesium is generally considered safe when taken in recommended doses. However, based on epidemiological and experimental studies, both high and low magnesium levels can have harmful effects on the body. 

Excessive intake of magnesium can lead to several side effects. First, it can lead to diarrhoea. Magnesium can act as a laxative and may cause diarrhoea when taken in high doses.25 Magnesium is mostly taken in by the small intestine through a passive process that becomes less effective as the dosage increases, leading to a lower absorption rate of oral magnesium as the dosage increases. Therefore, higher oral magnesium dosage can lead to diarrhoea. This is the reason why some magnesium salts (magnesium sulfate/magnesium hydroxide) are often used as laxatives.26 In addition to diarrhoea, nausea and stomach cramps can also be caused by excessive intake of magnesium supplements.25

Moreover, as mentioned before, magnesium is beneficial for regulating blood pressure. However, the excessive dosage can cause extremely low blood pressure which can in turn lead to dizziness and fainting in some people.27 Due to overconsumption and subsequent underexcretion, excessive magnesium levels can cause serious health issues. Nevertheless, oral magnesium supplements are generally considered to be safe and have no adverse effects.  

Besides oral supplements, magnesium salts are also injectable intravenously for the management of seizures, particularly in pregnancy. Rapid magnesium infusion, though, can cause cardiorespiratory suppression and flaccid skeletal muscle paralysis.28 In conclusion, there is a recommended daily dosage of magnesium that should be followed.29


In conclusion, magnesium is a mineral critical for gut health maintenance. It has several benefits for various bodily functions including gut functions. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to a variety of gastrointestinal disorders and it should be taken into consideration. Eating a balanced diet that includes all types of foods and particularly the natural food sources mentioned above, can help ensure adequate magnesium intake. However, in cases of magnesium deficiency, supplements can be recommended by healthcare professionals. It is important to remember that high doses can cause side effects and interactions with medications. So, it is necessary to consult a healthcare professional before taking any supplements. Overall, magnesium plays a vital role in maintaining gut health and balanced intake is optimal for proper gut function.


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Athina Servi

Research Assistant at Imperial College London, Department of Brain Sciences

My name is Athina Servi, and I am a young professional with a strong academic background
and a passion for neuroscience and mental health. I graduated from the University College
London with a degree in Biomedical Sciences BSc and then I pursued a Translational
Neuroscience MSc at Imperial College London where I currently work as a Research
Assistant. My academic and professional journey so far has provided me with extensive
experience in various healthcare settings. I believe in making medical information accessible
to everyone, not just those with a medical background. Through my writing, I want to help
people better understand their health, make informed decisions about their care, and
ultimately, live healthier, happier lives. I hope you enjoy my article!

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