Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body. It is naturally found in many foods, and it is frequently taken as a dietary supplement. It is used as a co-factor in numerous chemical reactions. Without magnesium, protein cannot be created, nerves cannot function, and muscles cannot grow. Magnesium is required to produce energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is an essential component in developing DNA and the subsequent communications to everyday cellular function called RNA. It is also plays a critical role in the production of the body’s most important antioxidant glutathione.
Intravenous magnesium has uses in both mild and severe medical problems like Migraines, medication side effects, asthma attacks, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia of pregnancy, and fatal heart rhythms.
In emergency departments and hospitals around the world, Magnesium is given intravenously to stop migraines. The exact mechanism is not known, but several ideas have been hypothesized. Magnesium is known to be a calming agent to the nervous system as it relaxes blood vessels and makes people sleepy. Given in excess, it can stop your reflexes. Because Migraines are thought to be an excitation of nerves in the brain, magnesium works to calm these nerves down thus stopping the migraine in its tracks. Another hypothesis is that magnesium deficiency is the cause of the migraine, so when it is given intravenously, the deficiency is immediately resolved. The problem is that routine blood testing for magnesium is unreliable for true magnesium levels since majority of the magnesium in our bodies is inside our cells … not in our blood stream. For migraines specifically, the amount in our brains can be vastly different from the rest of our body since magnesium requires special transporters to gain access to the Cerebrospinal Fluid that surrounds our brain and spine.
Stomach Acid Reducers or PPIs (Nexium, Prilosec, Dexilant, etc):
These stomach medications have become ubiquitous in our society. It seems like everyone is taking these for heartburn, reflux, and indigestion. They have been touted as harmless. Many of my readers are likely taking these medications. However, they are not harmless, and new data is finally emerging to showcase some of their detrimental long-term effects. One of the well known side effects is magnesium deficiency. These medications lower your stomach acid, and it becomes very difficult to absorb magnesium without the appropriate acidity or pH. Just like I mentioned above, low magnesium is difficult to detect by blood test since magnesium is stored inside your cells and not in the bloodstream. Moreover, magnesium is difficult to replace by mouth since it is poorly absorbed. This is why magnesium by mouth (Magnesium Citrate) is used for constipation; it causes diarrhea. Therefore, IV Magnesium therapy is an excellent way to restore magnesium levels inside your cells. The entire dose of intravenous magnesium is absorbed while majority of an oral dose may not.
Severe asthma attacks are frequently treated with IV magnesium in hospitals. Just like I mentioned in Migraines, Magnesium relaxes nerves. In asthma, the nerves of the lungs are over-stimulated causing a narrowing of the airways which causes wheezing and shortness of breath. By giving large doses of magnesium intravenously, it calms the nerves and muscles of the lungs, restoring air flow naturally.
High Blood Pressure or Hypertension:
The way magnesium lowers blood pressure is identical to the patterns of Migraines and Asthma: by calming nerves.
Your body’s blood pressure is regulated by nerves that squeeze your blood vessels. The amount of squeeze determines the blood pressure. Magnesium turns the dial of squeeze down thus lowering the blood pressure naturally. This is viewed as one of the “side effects” of magnesium therapy, but it is also a potential benefit if you have high blood pressure.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy, and it causes 3 main symptoms: High blood pressure, swelling of hands, face, and feet, and protein in the urine. It is potentially dangerous, and it affects 200,000 women per year. It can progress to seizures and potentially death for both mother and child. It is treated with IV Magnesium therapy which lowers the blood pressure and prevents the mother from entering labor.
Rapid Heartbeats (Torsades de Pointes or Twisting of the Points):
This is a rare but imminently life-threatening event that is frequently caused by low magnesium. It usually occurs in patients with more serious medical problems like heart failure, liver disease, hypothermia (cold), and subarachnoid hemorrhage (brain bleed). The treatment of this deadly rhythm is defibrillation or “shock” as is typically seen in movies with paddles and someone yelling, “CLEAR!!!”
Side note: Paddles are actually never used in real medicine anymore. They have been replaced by sticky pads, but these are not sexy enough for the movies.
As you can imagine, there are very little side effects to IV magnesium since any extra magnesium is urinated out. Why aren’t we using it more? Is it because drugs are more effective? Is it because natural therapies are for barbarians? Or, is it because I’m over-stating the benefits of Magnesium? Don’t believe me … Google it!
Magnesium for Migraines – 205 research publications.
One in the Current Treatment Options in Neurology in 2016.
Magnesium for Preeclampsia – 1150 research publications.
Magnesium and PPI – 284 research publications