Excerpts provided courtesy of Natural Vitality’s CALMFUL LIVING magazine.
Have you been advised to look into magnesium for kids? Maybe someone has recommended it to you as a supplement for your children. Or, possibly you’ve come across information on how important magnesium is for adults, and wondered whether your kids need more of this mineral, too.
The fact is that most kids do need more magnesium, for a number of reasons.
To help counteract the stress of daily life, we need healthy magnesium levels to balance out the calcium in our bodies. While calcium makes muscles contract, magnesium lets them relax.
This interplay is what allows us to combat not only stress but also muscle cramping, fatigue, constipation, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Unfortunately, about 80 percent of people don’t get enough magnesium through diet alone. That’s why many adults use magnesium supplementation to restore balance.
But what about kids? Between academic, social, and other pressures, kids are no strangers to stress—and many of them struggle with stress-induced sleep as well as digestive and emotional disorders. Make sure to keep an eye out for signs of deficiency in your kids.
“Magnesium promotes muscle relaxation; so it can help kids relax so that they calm down and fall asleep more easily,” says Tamara Evans, ND, a naturopathic physician in Maui, Hawaii. “It can also help with constipation and muscle cramps.”
Why Kids Aren’t Getting Enough Magnesium
The first question to ask is, are they getting any through diet? Do they eat a lot of legumes, seeds, and leafy greens? Mackerel, perhaps?
Not likely, and that’s why most children aren’t getting enough magnesium.
Foods that are high in magnesium are often the foods that kids avoid.
‘Kid foods’ like pizza, pasta, toast and cereal are woefully inadequate when it comes to what may be the most important nutrient for total health.
Plus, many kids consume a great deal of dairy, which is high in calcium. High-calcium foods deplete magnesium, as do sugary foods (which of course, most kids love!).
Why is magnesium so important for kids?
Kids Need Magnesium for Stress
First, magnesium is absolutely essential for coping with stress. Our very cells need magnesium to downgrade the instinctive stress response, and to reinstate calm.
And have no doubt, stress is an intrinsic part of childhood.
The very act of growing is a stressor. It places huge demands on the body, which requires more energy and rest to repair. At the same time, growth triggers shifts in hormones, all of which can be experienced as a continuous state of flux.
In fact, the physical stress of growing up may well be overshadowed by the emotional and mental stressors.
A day in the life of childhood is fraught with drama. They’re immersed in a highly interactive, highly dynamic environment with other little people who are just learning to be sensitive and kind. Just think: when was the last time you had to hang out with friends who bit, shoved, or called you names? Right. But our kids face it every day.
Add to that, a child’s world is full of the unknown, triggering outsized fears.
Remember nightmares? There’s a reason kids have more nightmares than adults: their developing minds are constantly processing a world of unknowns, which to the brain appear as threats.
So, routine physical stress and emotional stress place serious demands on childrens’ magnesium stores.
Magnesium for Kids: How it Supports Growth & Development
Equally important, magnesium plays a vital role in healthy growth and development.
That’s because magnesium is a co-factor for an estimated 700-800 enzyme systems throughout the body. It may well be the hardest-working nutrient of all!
What does this mean in practical terms?
Kids need magnesium for:
- Building healthy bones and teeth
- Regulating blood sugar and preventing insulin resistance
- Energy production
- Digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Prevention of muscle cramps
- Healthy nervous system
- Managing the symptoms of asthma
- Regular bowel movements
- Mood regulation
- Preventing tension headaches and migraines
- Hormone health
- Muscle health
- Exercise and fitness
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms in Children
Children exhibit many of the magnesium deficiency symptoms that we see in adults, but not all. The most common include:
- Poor sleep
- Twitches and tics
- Headaches and migraines
It’s important to note too that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and childhood depression are associated with magnesium deficiency (The Magnesium Miracle, Kindle version page 1854).
According to Dr. Dean, it’s possible these conditions are caused by magnesium deficiency (p. 1855). We can’t be sure, but we do know that magnesium is essential for children’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Magnesium Dosage for Kids
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) establishes dosage recommendations for supplements. Here are its upper intake levels—the maximum recommended dosage—for supplemental magnesium in kids:
- 1–3 years: 65 mg
- 4–8 years: 110 mg
- 9–18 years: 350 mg
The FNB has no established dosage recommendations for magnesium supplements in children under 12 months; so you’ll want to work extra closely with a doctor before giving magnesium to an infant. And remember: if you decide to give your child supplemental magnesium, it needs to be balanced with calcium.
“Magnesium can be safely supplemented in kids at a 1:2 ratio with calcium—for example, 125 mg of magnesium and 250 mg of calcium,” says Evans.
Diet is another important factor to consider when deciding how much magnesium to give your kids.
“When thinking about magnesium dosage, you’ll want to consider your child’s diet first,” Evans points out. “If they have a lot of dairy in their diet, they’re probably getting quite a bit of calcium; so the 1:2 ratio should be adjusted accordingly.
“As is true of any supplement, we certainly don’t want to give kids too much magnesium,” says Evans. “If you’re unsure about the proper dosage, talk with your child’s doctor. They can consider the child’s weight and dietary needs before making a recommendation.”
Some children may need more magnesium.
“Dr. Leo Galland, author of Superimmunity for Kids, speculates that hyperactive children need extra magnesium due to their constantly high adrenaline levels.” (Dr. Carolyn Dean, The Magnesium Miracle).
If your child is very active, you can gradually increase their intake of magnesium by adding an additional dose of Natural Calm. You’re better off giving a child two or three smaller doses of magnesium a day than one large dose, which can have a laxative effect. Our bodies are not designed to get all of our magnesium at one time.
Best Form of Magnesium for Kids
Oxide. Citrate. Malate. Glycinate. Chelate. The list goes on.
Magnesium supplements for kids come in a variety of forms. They also come in different formats—pills, drinkable powders, and creams.
“Many forms of magnesium are appropriate for kids, but I typically recommend magnesium citrate,” Evans says. “It is cost-effective and more easily absorbed than many other forms.”
Natural Calm Kids is made with magnesium citrate.
“Any type of delivery system is fine, whether it’s capsules or powders or creams,” says Evans, “as long as parents are aware of the dosage.”
The formula and concentration of Natural Calm Kids are the same as our Natural Calm magnesium citrate for adults. The only difference is that the dosing by age is on the Natural Calm Kids label. You can choose to use the larger Natural Calm bottle if you follow dosing guidelines for kids.
If your child is old enough to take a gummy supplement, you can also try Natural Calm Gummies made with the same great magnesium citrate formula.
For more on kids’ health, see our series of posts on magnesium for teens, kids aged 1 to 13, and babies.
Magnesium for Kids FAQs
How much magnesium should kids take?
Please follow the recommended intake of magnesium for your child’s age. The typical dose to supplement magnesium in children is around 65-350mg/day (of elemental magnesium).
You can also take less than that if you increase your dietary intake of magnesium through food.
How much magnesium should a child take?
These are age-specific recommendations for dosage amounts.
1–3 years: 65 mg;
4–8 years: 110 mg;
9–18 years 350mg.
What is magnesium used to treat?
It is used to treat magnesium deficiency. Magnesium supplements may also be used to help with symptoms of:
– Anxiety and stress
– Muscle cramping or spasms
What type of magnesium should I take for ADHD?
If your child has been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or any other condition, talk to your doctor about magnesium and other supplements. Generally, magnesium citrate is well tolerated by kids, but other forms may be taken as well depending on your situation.