Your body needs just the right balance of vitamins and minerals to function properly. When you’re low on a key nutrient, your body is off balance, and you feel the effects — it’s like trying to paddle a boat with one oar.
Low magnesium levels can cause muscle cramping and spasms, common symptoms that MyParkinsonsTeam members know all too well. Many have asked others if supplements are helpful in combating their symptoms. “Is anyone here taking magnesium supplements? If so, do you find it helpful with tremors, and what dose are you using?” asked one member.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role magnesium plays in your body and in Parkinson’s disease, as well as recommendations for supplements. We’ll also cover recommended dosing and what happens when you take too much magnesium. For the most accurate information, ask your doctor if magnesium is right for you.
Our bodies need magnesium for more than 300 different biochemical reactions. Your muscles, nerves, bones, heart, and kidneys all need this mineral to stay healthy. Magnesium also helps regulate levels of other vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.
If you’re like many Americans, you may have low magnesium levels. You likely won’t notice any symptoms — however, if you have very low levels for an extended period of time, you’re at a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and osteoporosis (bone thinning).
If you have low magnesium levels, your first thought may be to take a supplement. But magnesium can be found in many foods and beverages as well. Examples include:
You can add more of these foods into a healthy Parkinson’s disease diet to help ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need.
Several forms of magnesium are available as supplements or as active ingredients in laxatives and antacids. Examples include:
According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the daily recommended dietary allowance of magnesium for adults is 400 to 420 milligrams for males and 310 to 320 milligrams for females. If you’re interested in learning what your magnesium levels are and whether you should take a daily supplement to raise them, talk to your doctor.
Some early studies have found that low magnesium levels could play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease. While the results are generally mixed, there may be some promise in learning more about how magnesium is connected to this disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that occurs when some types of neurons (brain cells) begin dying off. Specifically, these neurons make dopamine, an important chemical messenger in the brain. Without enough dopamine, your brain has a harder time controlling your nerves and muscles, leading to the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Doctors and researchers have speculated magnesium could be related to neuron death. One small study found people with Parkinson’s disease had low levels of magnesium in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The authors also noted that lower magnesium levels were associated with more severe Parkinson’s disease.
In Parkinson’s disease, neurons die from a combination of factors, including inflammation in the brain and oxidative stress (cell damage caused by free radicals). Low magnesium levels are tied to brain cell death as well, especially the cells that make dopamine.
Some early research suggests magnesium may have neuroprotective effects and may help prevent brain cell death. However, most of these studies looked at cells in dishes or in rat and mouse models. More research is needed involving people with Parkinson’s disease to confirm these findings.
You may have also heard that magnesium is useful for treating muscle pain and cramps. While researchers report mixed results, many MyParkinsonsTeam members report success with magnesium supplements treating their symptoms.
“While carbidopa/levodopa helps with tremors, I’ve found no relief for muscle pain. Does a magnesium supplement help?” asked one member.
“You should have your magnesium levels checked. A neurologist found my husband’s magnesium and vitamin D levels were low. They help muscles relax,” replied another member.
“I found magnesium oxide helps with my hand cramping but not pain,” wrote another.
If you’ve been feeling backed up lately, you’re not alone. Constipation commonly affects people with Parkinson’s disease as part of their disease or as a side effect of treatment. MyParkinsonsTeam members are always looking for ways to alleviate this uncomfortable symptom.
Magnesium supplements and laxatives can help. Look for products made with magnesium citrate or magnesium sulfate.
“Does anyone use a magnesium supplement to help with constipation?” asked a member. Another replied, “Yes, magnesium citrate works great. I take it at bedtime because it helps me relax and sleep better, along with helping my constipation.”
Magnesium supplements and laxatives can have side effects like diarrhea, cramping, and nausea. In severe cases, there could be blood in the stool or an inability to move your bowels without the laxative — in which case you should contact your doctor. Magnesium-based laxatives are short-term medications and should not be taken longer than a week without your doctor’s supervision.
While researching magnesium supplements for Parkinson’s disease, you may come across information on magnesium L-threonate. “What are the benefits of magnesium L-threonate with Parkinson’s disease, and what’s the recommended dosage?” asked one curious MyParkinsonsTeam member.
Magnesium L-threonate is a type of magnesium salt being studied for treating Parkinson’s disease and other health conditions. This is because it may pass through the blood-brain barrier more easily than other forms of magnesium. Currently, there are only animal studies showing that treatment with magnesium L-threonate could raise magnesium levels in the brain and possibly help treat motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
While these results are promising, doctors and researchers need to investigate the effects of magnesium L-threonate in people with Parkinson’s disease to learn more. If you’re interested in taking it as a supplement, your doctor can help.
When it comes to taking magnesium supplements, it’s true that there can be too much of a good thing. If you take too high of a dose for an extended period of time, you’re at risk of very high magnesium levels or an overdose.
Notably, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements as rigorously as it does medications. Supplement packaging may make claims that aren’t backed by science and may not accurately reflect a product’s ingredients. It could contain more or less of a particular nutrient or have unexpected additives or contaminants.
Always talk to your doctor first before starting a new supplement, including magnesium supplements. You may have to adjust the dose or avoid taking them if you have certain health conditions or take certain medications.
Magnesium is processed by your kidneys and excreted in your urine. If your kidneys don’t work as well as they should, magnesium can build up in your bloodstream and become toxic. Signs that your magnesium levels are too high include:
If you begin experiencing any of the above, stop taking the magnesium supplement and talk to your doctor.
Magnesium supplements can also interact with other medications, affecting how well they’re absorbed in your body or how well they work. Examples of medicines that magnesium interacts with include:
Always let your doctor know before you begin regularly taking magnesium, so they can make sure it won’t interfere with your other medications.
On MyParkinsonsTeam — the social network for people living with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones — more than 99,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share stories with others who understand life with Parkinson’s disease.
Do you take a magnesium supplement? How has it helped you manage your Parkinson’s disease symptoms? Share in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.