Have you heard about using magnesium for inflammation? Are you curious to know how this mineral works to help counter the effects of inflammation? And are you getting enough magnesium to prevent chronic inflammation?
Most of us should be asking these questions because inflammation is a cause of pain and disease. Systemic inflammation underlies type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and colorectal cancer. (Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on inflammatory markers)
Anything we can do to reduce inflammation is positive, and there is certainly a link between magnesium and inflammation. Many contemporary studies examine the relationship, and the results appear to consistently point to magnesium as essential in countering inflammation.
Read on to learn about the role of magnesium, and how we can supplement with magnesium for inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the activation of the immune system as a result of infection, irritation, or injury. However, inflammation can also occur when the immune system misfires, as with auto-immune diseases.
The five distinctive signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function or restriction of movement.
“These signs indicate that the body is bringing in more blood and immune resources, like white blood cells and macrophages, to remove microorganisms and other foreign matter.
Redness is a sign that vasodilation is allowing more blood and other fluids to reach the affected area; local heat reflects the increased flow of warm blood from deep within the body; swelling (edema) is caused by the local accumulation of fluids; pain and restricted mobility arise from the added pressure due to the swelling.” – Nutrition Review
Some inflammation is “silent” or without symptoms.
Inflammation is often triggered by an injury, including micro-tears like the ones you’ll experience when you work out, or by a pathogen (a virus, bacterial or fungal infection).
Inflammation can also be caused by excessive insulin, emotional stress, free-radical damage, obesity, overconsumption of hydrogenated oils, periodontal disease, smoking, some prescription drugs, environmental toxins, and radiation.
Magnesium and Inflammation
Research shows that low magnesium is associated with higher levels of inflammation, and higher magnesium levels are associated with lower levels of inflammation. This is called an “inverse relationship”.
“Experimentally induced magnesium deficiency in rodent models promoted an inflammatory response [and] several cross-sectional studies have reported inverse relationships between magnesium intake and some inflammatory markers, including high sensitive CRP (hs-CRP) and IL-6.
People with magnesium intake at any level below the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) had a higher likelihood of elevated CRP, implicating that the RDA of magnesium may be an important risk threshold.
These associations were stronger in adults aged over 40 or those who were overweight.” – Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on inflammatory markers
A 2018 article in the Journal of Inflammation Research states:
“When magnesium dietary intake, supplementation, and/or serum concentration suggest/s the presence of magnesium deficiency, it often is associated with low-grade inflammation and/or with pathological conditions for which inflammatory stress is considered a risk factor…
[F]indings to date provide convincing evidence that magnesium deficiency is a significant contributor to chronic low-grade inflammation that is a risk factor for a variety of pathological conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.” – Magnesium deficiency and increased inflammation: current perspectives
While many studies simulated severe magnesium deficiency, “a small number of animal studies indicate that a subclinical or moderate magnesium deficiency can result in inflammatory stress if the deficiency is long-term.” (Journal of Inflammation Research, 2018)
Most North Americans fall short of the RDA for magnesium, so if you’re concerned about inflammation you should consider increasing your magnesium levels.
Magnesium and the Inflammatory Response
How are magnesium and inflammation related?
“Animal and in vitro studies indicate that the primary mechanism through which magnesium deficiency has this effect is through increasing cellular Ca2+, which is the signal that results in the priming of cells to give the inflammatory response.”
Ca2+ is a calcium ion, and we need magnesium to usher calcium out of cells. Magnesium acts as a natural calcium channel blocker. When you have inflammation but not enough magnesium, excess calcium will precipitate around the area of inflammation, potentially causing rigidity and blocking the blood flow needed to heal.
However, it’s common for Canadians to have levels of calcium that are too high and out of balance with magnesium.
How Magnesium Activates Anti-Inflammatory Enzymes
Imagine you’ve sustained a tissue injury, such as a sprained ankle. This acute injury will prompt the immune system to create and send a protein called a Circulating Immune Complex (CIC) to the affected area.
The CIC travels down to the injured ankle and causes pain and swelling. This action helps prevent further injury and irritation. CIC also supports fresh blood, antibodies, and vital cells flooding the area, so that repair and healing can begin.
After CIC arrives at the site of the injury, proteolytic enzymes are produced and sent down to the affected area to help counteract the inflammation. These enzymes are mediated by magnesium, meaning they perform better when adequate levels of magnesium are present in the blood cells.
Magnesium is responsible for 700 – 800 enzymatic processes in the body, and the production of proteolytic enzymes is just one.
If magnesium levels are too low, the activities of these crucial magnesium-sensitive enzymes will not work as they should. Properly-functioning enzymes are essential for so many reasons:
- Enzymes break down scar tissue, including fibrosis. Fibrosis is scar tissue that builds up in the body and over time creates so much restriction and strain on the organs that they can no longer function properly.
- Enzymes clean the blood of excess fibrin that causes the blood to thicken, which causes blood clots, leading to heart attack or stroke.
- Enzymes take some of the strain off of the liver by keeping the blood clean.
Enzymes are critical to controlling inflammation and we need magnesium for every enzymatic process.
When Magnesium is Low, Inflammation Rises
Increasing the concentration of magnesium circulating in the blood can decrease the inflammatory response. On the other hand, lower levels of magnesium result in increased inflammation.
“Low magnesium is associated with a low grade chronic inflammation… Magnesium deficiency primes phagocytes, enhances granulocyte oxidative burst, activates endothelial cells and increases the levels of cytokines, thus promoting inflammation.
Consequently, a low magnesium status, which is often underdiagnosed, potentiates the reactivity to various immune challenges and is implicated in the pathophysiology of many common chronic diseases.” (Magnesium and inflammation: Advances and perspectives)
Researchers have found that when magnesium levels are too low, there is a profound increase of inflammatory cytokines, along with increased levels of histamine.
Problems with insulin metabolism results in the inability to properly store magnesium, causing blood vessels to constrict, elevated blood pressure, and coronary arterial spasm, all of which can result in a heart attack.
Inflammation Increases Magnesium Needs
Inflammation uses up or depletes magnesium levels. Even low-grade inflammation is associated with higher magnesium requirements. The body requires magnesium to downgrade inflammation, and more inflammation may increase magnesium needs.
Chronic inflammation often co-exists with poor dietary intake of magnesium, and with lower nutritional status in general.
The unfortunate fact is that most people don’t get enough magnesium from diet. Low magnesium is a widespread issue amongst groups of all ages, across North America.
Supplementing with Magnesium for Inflammation
A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients showed the beneficial effects of magnesium supplementation in significantly reducing different inflammatory markers.
You should consider supplementing with magnesium for inflammation if you think you might be low. However, choose your magnesium supplement wisely.
In one study, researchers administered magnesium oxide tablets to a group of study participants. The magnesium oxide tablets did not increase magnesium serum levels, or magnesium in the blood. This is not surprising because magnesium oxide is considered one of the lowest quality, least absorbable types of magnesium.
If you’re supplementing with magnesium for inflammation, pay attention to supplement quality.
Magnesium Citrate for Inflammation
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that 300 mg of magnesium citrate successfully lowered the biomarkers of inflammation.
In this study, blood serum and intracellular magnesium levels also increased in the group that received magnesium citrate (unlike magnesium oxide noted in the above study). All study participants either had chronic heart failure or had been hospitalized for other causes.
Natural Calm magnesium citrate is one of the top-selling, most awarded magnesium supplements in the US and Canada. It has been trusted by customers for 30+ years and is backed by tens of thousands of five-star reviews from users around the world, simply because it’s so effective.
Natural Calm’s magnesium citrate formula is highly absorbable and it tastes great! Choose from natural fruit flavours (sweetened with organic stevia) or unflavoured Natural Calm, available from our online store or from retailers across Canada.
If you have any questions about magnesium for inflammation, please don’t hesitate to reach out.