If You Take Vitamin D, You Might Need Magnesium

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
May 13, 2021

Vitamin D is widely prescribed, but fewer people know they might need to take magnesium with it. Shortages of both are linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis.

Many doctors are prescribing vitamin D supplements, especially to older people. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at producing and using the sunshine vitamin.

However, you need magnesium to metabolize vitamin D, and surveys suggest that most Americans get too little in their diet. If you are short of magnesium, the extra vitamin D remains stored and inactive and may even be unsafe.

There are good reasons to make sure you have enough of both vitamin D and magnesium. Shortages are linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis.


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Are you short of vitamin D?

You normally get a form of vitamin D through exposure to sun on your skin. Contrary to commercial advertising, you can’t count on food: it would take 30 glasses of milk to match the vitamin D you’d get from 10 minutes in the summer sun. (You still need to make sure you protect yourself from the sun's UV radiation.) Especially during the winter, and in northern climates, many of us don’t get enough sunshine. A simple blood test will allow your doctor to decide if you need a vitamin D supplement.

Your body must convert and activate the sunshine form of vitamin D. Once that happens, it helps cells communicate throughout your body. Vitamin D increases calcium levels, so you can build strong bones, and it helps your body fight infections and regulate blood pressure and inflammation, among other jobs.

Are you short of magnesium?

We get magnesium from food, but the most recent government survey numbers showed that most Americans get less than they need, with men older than 71 and teenage girls most at risk.

Classic signs of a magnesium deficiency include lethargy, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness, muscle spasms and cramps, all-over muscle pain, tics, and eye twitches. Magnesium levels also seem to be low in people with treatment-resistant depression.

You can be short of magnesium because of a poor diet, diabetes, alcoholism, kidney disease, or a gastrointestinal problem like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease. Alcohol, carbonated beverages, and some medications also lower magnesium levels. If you are restricting foods to avoid kidney stones, you’ll find that forbidden foods like spinach and avocado are rich in magnesium, so that might be a reason to take a supplement.

Otherwise, try to eat magnesium-rich foods, which include almonds and cashews, bananas, beans, broccoli, quinoa, brown rice, egg yolk, fish oil, flaxseed, green vegetables, milk, oatmeal and other whole grains, tofu, and a variety of seeds.

There are many kinds of magnesium available as supplements. Small studies have found that magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms is absorbed more completely and is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.

Magnesium spray or oil or tablets?

If you take too much magnesium in a tablet, you can end up with diarrhea, or even nausea and vomiting. You’ll read that magnesium spray or oil absorbed through the skin will bypass the digestive system and avoid those effects. However, there is much research demonstrating the advantages of an oral magnesium supplement and little evidence of the same benefits for skin products.

To boost your vitamin D your doctor might prescribe a supplement or give you an injection for an immediate boost. Another approach: sit under a sunlamp that emits short-wavelength UVB light, which triggers vitamin D production, such as this Vitamin D Lamp approved by the Food and Drug Administration.


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May 13, 2021

Reviewed By:  

Janet O'Dell, RN