Vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc generally get all the love when it comes to bolstering the immune system, but magnesium is just as important. Often lacking in the modern diet, you need magnesium for a strong immune system. Magnesium protects you from invading germs by regulating inflammation and the function of immune cells (1).
Not only is magnesium a co-factor for immunoglobulins that help fight illness, it improves the ability of lymphocyte immune cells to bind with pathogens. Magnesium deficiency also negatively impacts function of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the immune cell response.
The importance of magnesium is evident in recent research showing poor outcomes from severe illness (2): Several studies show that patients admitted to the ICU have high rates of clinical magnesium deficiency. In a survey of critically ill children, 60 percent were deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium Helps Treat COVID-19
Scientists have identified two roles for magnesium in treating COVID-19 (2):
First, magnesium helps blunt the body’s release of inflammatory markers like IL-6 that can lead to a cytokine storm. A cytokine storm is an unnecessary immune response that damages the lungs even when you have low levels of virus in the body. Scientists are experimenting with drugs that block cytokines in an effort to prevent killing cells that aren’t infected.
Second, magnesium deficiency contributes to the loss of potassium via the kidneys, which worsens symptoms. Inadequate potassium and magnesium lead to harmful alterations in the renin-angiotensin system that regulates blood pressure.
Experts recommend that magnesium be carefully monitored in ill and at-risk individuals. Supplementation may improve immune resilience as well as overall mortality and morbidity. Getting enough magnesium is also important for sustaining immunity during the aging process. However, elderly individuals are at high risk of deficiencies in both magnesium and vitamin D, which work together to support the immune system.
Am I At Risk of A Deficiency?
More than 57 percent of the population doesn’t meet the U.S. RDA for magnesium in the diet (3). Factors that increase risk of magnesium deficiency include diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, and hypertension. Lifestyle habits like heavy caffeine and alcohol use or high-intensity exercise can further deplete magnesium. GI problems, eating disorders, and use medications and laxatives further your risk of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium can also be rapidly depleted during times of physical and psychological stress.
How To Take Magnesium
The U.S. RDA for magnesium is 420 mg a day for men and 320 mg a day for women. Studies show benefits appear in magnesium dosages as low as 250 mg elemental magnesium in magnesium-deficient individuals. However, magnesium intake may need to increase to between 10 to 12 mg/kg of body weight for therapeutic benefits (5). Continuous supplementation of magnesium for a strong immune system is important because levels can be depleted quickly (4).
There are many cheap magnesium products like magnesium oxide that are poorly absorbed. Instead, look for magnesium that is bound with a high-quality chelate, such as glycinate or taurate. Best immune results will come from taking different forms of magnesium in divided doses. For example, you could take Magnesium Glycinate after a workout and a blended magnesium, such as Magnesium Essentials, before bedtime.