We often hear from people who use Natural Calm magnesium citrate to ease digestion and tummy troubles of all kinds, including bloating, stomach pain, IBS, and constipation.
Natural Calm magnesium is bubbly and warm, which feels soothing to the stomach. ‘But what does it do?’ you may well ask.
In this post, we’ll cover magnesium for digestion: how it works, how to take magnesium for best results, and what to do if magnesium upsets your digestion in any way.
Magnesium for Digestion 101
Magnesium is a cofactor (a substance whose presence is essential for the activity of an enzyme) for countless enzymatic reactions in the body. Many of these reactions are those that take place in the gut.
When it comes to digestion, magnesium operates on at least two levels:
First, magnesium activates enzymes that break down and absorb fats, proteins, and carbs. Without it, we couldn’t convert food into energy, muscle, and tissue.
Magnesium also moderates acid in the stomach. It’s an alkaline mineral, which means it counters acid, and at the same time, magnesium relaxes spasms in the digestive tract that otherwise can lead to acid reflux.
Somewhat paradoxically, Natural Calm’s magnesium citrate is helpful for those who produce too little stomach acid.
As we age, we generate less stomach acid, but some people are predisposed to low stomach acid. Among other side-effects, insufficient stomach acid can inhibit the absorption of nutrients.
Some forms of magnesium are difficult to digest without sufficient hydrochloric acid in the stomach. As we explain in our post on magnesium and bioavailability, Natural Calm has the advantage over other forms of magnesium because as magnesium citrate, it is already in a highly-absorbable state.
Magnesium and Gastrointestinal Health
Gut health is a popular topic, and it’s natural to wonder how magnesium can help build a healthy gut.
When we talk about gut health, we are referring to the state and physical function of the multiple components that make up the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. These are the organs that help you eat and digest food.
Keeping a healthy gut means having good bacteria (collectively referred to as your “gut microbiome”) and plenty of immune cells that can protect your body from nasty bacteria and viruses that reach the digestive tract. The gut is home to 70% of your body’s immune cells, making it the “control centre” of the immune system.
Maintaining a happy and healthy gut allows for our bodies to get the most from the foods we consume, which is only possible if the gut can break down what you eat into nutrients that can be absorbed by the bloodstream and delivered to cells across the body.
Magnesium is deeply involved in the process by which nutrients become available. Dr. Carolyn Dean, ND, MD, explains:
“Magnesium and the C-complex vitamins are energy nutrients: they activate enzymes that control digestion, absorption, and the utilization of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Lack of these necessary nutrients causes improper utilization of food, leading to such far-ranging symptoms as hypoglycemia, anxiety, and obesity.” (The Magnesium Miracle, p. 118)
In fact, magnesium even plays a role in the production of saliva enzymes, intestinal enzymes, and stomach acid, as we’ll discuss below.
Given the role of magnesium in our digestion, it’s easy to see how magnesium deficiency could contribute to digestive issues.
Magnesium and Heartburn, Acid Reflux or GERD
The production of stomach acid, which we need to digest food, is triggered by a hormone that requires magnesium.
A common misconception is that heartburn (acid reflux), and in more chronic cases Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), is caused by too much stomach acid. In fact, the opposite is true.
The feeling of heartburn is a result of low stomach acid, leading to reduced digestive capability. When you can’t adequately digest food, quickly enough, that food begins to ferment, causing bloating.
After a while, the gases and stomach acid will push back up into the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is what causes acid reflux.
In effect, heartburn is not caused by too much stomach acid, but by too little acid to properly digest food.
Natural Calm magnesium citrate powder further aids in digestion and absorption of magnesium because it includes the acid some people with low stomach acid are missing.
Low Stomach Acid & Magnesium
The relationship between stomach acid and magnesium is two-way. We need magnesium to produce stomach acid, but we also need acid to break down magnesium.
Here’s how it works, excerpted from The Magnesium Miracle:
“Inefficient stomach digestion and faulty intestinal absorption can lead to magnesium deficiency. What’s worse, when magnesium is deficient, gastric acid production is diminished, hindering magnesium absorption even more.
When you are under serious physical or even emotional stress, your body might not produce sufficient stomach acid, which is required for digestion and for chemically changing minerals into an absorbable form.
Minerals are usually bound to another substance to make a mineral complex: for example, magnesium bound to citric acid creates magnesium citrate and bound to the amino acid taurine it makes magnesium taurate.
When a magnesium complex hits the stomach, it needs an acidic environment to help break the two substances apart, leaving magnesium in the ionic form and ready for action in the body.
The elderly, as well as people with arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoporosis, or gum disease, are often deficient in hydrochloric acid. All these conditions are also associated with magnesium deficiency.” (Dean, p. 30)
Again, Natural Calm has the advantage over other forms of magnesium because as magnesium citrate, it is already paired with an acid (citric acid). Thus, Natural Calm delivers a dose of magnesium that even those with low hydrochloric acid can absorb.
Why Antacids are NOT the Solution to Low Stomach Acid
We already know the importance of stomach acids in digestion. Without enough stomach acid we can’t extract nutrients from our diet. Plus, low stomach acid leaves undigested food to ferment, causing the very issue they are meant to resolve: acid reflux.
Dean explains that antacids neutralize normal stomach acids, making it impossible to absorb minerals or digest our food properly.
“Heartburn and indigestion, the result of bad eating habits, plague the nation. But the “cure” in this case is no better than the disease. The roiling and burning in the gut from sugary junk food and greasy fast food is being inappropriately blamed on too much stomach acid. In many cases, heartburn is due to sugar fermentation in the stomach and a backflow of pancreatic enzymes from the small intestine.” (p. 30)
Using calcium carbonate antacids can make the situation worse. Calcium depletes the magnesium stores that are needed to produce digestive enzymes.
Before you turn to an antacid, try increasing your magnesium intake through diet and a quality supplement.
Magnesium and Constipation
One of the widely known benefits of magnesium supplementation is that it keeps us regular, naturally.
Magnesium citrate is often recommended as a gentle laxative for anyone experiencing occasional constipation. It’s an osmotic laxative, which means it works by drawing water into the intestines and relaxing your bowels, easing elimination.
As Dr. Dean explains in The Magnesium Miracle, oral doses of magnesium sulfate, magnesium hydroxide, and magnesium oxide work like magnesium citrate to draw water into the bowels.
“In IBS for Dummies (Dean and Wheeler, 2005), we talk about magnesium as an excellent treatment for IBS constipation as a daily supplement to prevent the problem from occurring.
Laxatives, in general, are not recommended because you can become dependent on them and they can flush out beneficial intestinal bacteria and electrolytes. It is far better to supplement the diet with magnesium-rich foods and, if necessary, magnesium supplements to relax the bowel and allow normal action.” (p. 251)
There are circumstances under which patients should not use magnesium to treat constipation, depending on other medication and medical conditions. “Magnesium is contraindicated in patients with nausea, vomiting, appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, undiagnosed abdominal pain, or kidney disease.” (Dean, p. 251)
More Ways Magnesium Helps to Improve Your Digestive Health
Magnesium is a multi-tasking mineral that supports digestive health in several ways.
Magnesium Helps Downgrade Stress
Continued high levels of stress take a toll on your gut. In responding to stress, the body uses up available magnesium. By lowering cortisol levels (the hormone that controls the fight-or-flight response), and balancing the nervous system, magnesium helps downgrade stress. That’s why it’s an optimal supplement choice for those struggling with stress and associated digestive issues.
Magnesium Improves Sleep
Disturbed or insufficient amounts of sleep can have a significant effect on your gut health, which in turn could lead to more trouble sleeping. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
If falling asleep is a problem, magnesium can help. Adequate magnesium intake promotes the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter essential to proper sleep, as well as lowering cortisol, and helping you sleep in similar ways to the way in which it can help reduce stress. Natural Calm’s Calmful Sleep includes both magnesium and GABA, along with other sleep activators like melatonin.
How to Take Magnesium for Digestion
How can you increase your magnesium intake to support digestion?
Magnesium supplements in tablet form are not always well digested. The body has to work harder to extract the magnesium from the compressed tablet. Natural Calm, on the other hand, rapidly dissolves in liquid to become ionic magnesium citrate – a form that is proven more absorbable.
For best results, dissolve Natural Calm in the hottest water available and give it a gentle stir.
Wait for the bubbling and fizzing to settle before drinking. Either add cold water, to bring the temperature down or allow Natural Calm to cool naturally.
For the magnesium to become ‘ionic’ – that is, for the magnesium molecule to be released into the form most absorbable by your body – it must be fully dissolved, and very hot water is best. That said, you can prepare Natural Calm in cold water. You’ll just want to wait longer – about 15 minutes – for the full dissolution to occur.
People with sensitive stomachs may feel discomfort if they consume the fizz and bubbles before the Natural Calm settles and becomes crystal clear. However, note that fizzing is a natural reaction during the process by which magnesium citrate is formed. You can always wait until the Natural Calm is flat before drinking your magnesium.
If you have indigestion, try taking Natural Calm magnesium between meals.
During digestion, stomach acid is required to break down food. Natural Calm’s antacid properties may divert needed acid from the work of breaking down a meal.
Worried about allergies or food sensitivities with Natural Calm?
Natural Calm is a simple product, with very few ingredients.
- The magnesium carbonate is sourced from the ocean; it is a sea salt
- The citric acid is derived from non-GMO beets, from Belgium
- Together, the magnesium + citric acid form magnesium citrate when combined in water
- There is 0.015 g of organic stevia, an herbal sweetener, per teaspoon of flavoured Natural Calm
- The fruit flavours, including orange, sweet lemon, raspberry-lemon and cherry, are certified organic
- If you choose the unflavoured Natural Calm, there are no added sweeteners or flavours
If you know that you can’t absorb enough magnesium through the gut (or if you have a condition that makes it unsafe for you to take magnesium orally), consider using a topical form of magnesium instead – like our magnesium chloride spray.
Absorbing magnesium through the skin bypasses the digestive tract completely. You may miss the wonderful taste of Natural Calm, but you’ll still get the magnesium your body needs.
Magnesium for Digestion FAQs
What types of magnesium are easily digested?
Magnesium comes in numerous different forms, and some of these forms are more easily digestible by the body than others. Easily digestible forms of magnesium such as magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are easily digestible, meaning they won’t have such noticeable effects (so long as you take them at a safe dosage). Less digestible forms of magnesium can cause an upset stomach, stomach cramps, or diarrhea.
Is magnesium easy to digest?
High-quality magnesium supplements are easily digestible and are absorbed rapidly in the stomach. Two of the most easily digestible forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. We use both in our line of Natural Calm supplements.
Magnesium taken as a liquid (like Natural Calm) does not need to be broken down before entering the bloodstream. That’s why liquid magnesium supplements are more digestible or bioavailable than tablets.
Lower quality magnesium supplements and some tablets may cause cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain in sensitive individuals.
Will magnesium supplements cause diahhrea?
If you have been experiencing diarrhea due to taking magnesium supplements, there are a few potential causes. For one thing, you should consider the type of magnesium supplement you are taking; less easily digestible forms of magnesium will be more likely to cause diarrhea, so you should always choose bioavailable forms such as magnesium citrate as these won’t be so likely to cause an upset stomach. What’s more, make sure you don’t overdose on your magnesium supplements.
Can you take magnesium on an empty stomach?
You may take Natural Calm magnesium with or without food depending on your stomach. It is well absorbed with food. Most people like to take Natural Calm on an empty stomach, and the vast majority of consumers prefer to take Natural Calm in the evening, about 30 minutes before bedtime.