Chronic, long term exposure to toxins can cause your body’s 11 organ systems to dysfunction, resulting in disease. And the unfortunate reality is that we are continuously being exposed to all kinds of toxins through our environment, whether it is from pollution due to industrial waste, heavy metals, radiation exposure, cigarette smoke or synthetic chemicals such as those commonly found in food colors, preservatives, additives and pesticides. In fact, our personal grooming products including shampoos, hair color, soaps, sunscreens, skin care creams and even toothpaste are all loaded with one kind of synthetic chemical or another .
When your cells are loaded with toxins and heavy metals, you also suffer from low energy levels, fatigue and muscle pain. It is because your cells are not able to function as efficiently as they should. These toxins are stored in our cells and tissues where they cause low grade chronic inflammation – leading to cellular dysfunction and various disorders including hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, poor immunity, allergies, developmental issues, infertility, and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. Toxic chemicals may (and are likely to) increase your risk of cancer.
Fortunately, your body is naturally designed to remove toxins from the body. This built-in detoxification system comprises of your liver, kidneys, skin, intestines and a long list of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other antioxidant systems. In this list, magnesium plays a very important role in cleansing your body of toxins and other harmful substances that can cause disease.
Magnesium is an antioxidant mineral known to remove heavy metals from the body. It also protects your cells from radioactive damage and supplies the energy needed to carry out smooth detoxification. Most importantly, you need magnesium to make glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant in your body. Glutathione is also critical for detoxification in the liver. There are other ways magnesium helps in healthy detoxification. Let’s find out.
Magnesium in detoxification
Magnesium is an incredible mineral which facilitates hundreds and hundreds of biochemical reactions needed for your body’s survival, repair and maintenance. Magnesium deficiency has been implicated in a number of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, muscle cramps, fibromyalgia, tinnitus, PMS, depression and migraine.
So, how does it help in cleansing your body?
1. Produces energy required for detoxification
Your cells need energy to perform their day to day functions including replication, repair, renewal, cell to cell signalling, maintenance and pumping out cellular waste material and toxins from the cells.
Magnesium is an integral component of the process through which your cells make energy as ATP molecules, which serve as the main energy currency for the cells to carry out these important roles, including eliminating toxins.
In addition, you need high amounts of energy for proper functioning of the enzyme ATPase. This enzyme is responsible for moving potassium ions within the cells while also pumping sodium ions out of the cells. Cells also need this enzyme to transport other nutrients across the membrane, to maintain proper levels of minerals in the cells and in the extracellular fluid, and of course to get rid of toxins and cellular debris.
Magnesium is also responsible for keeping excess calcium out of the cells. Calcium performs critical functions in the body, but you don’t want excess calcium to be in the cells and tissues, where it can cause damage. For example, it can contribute to atherosclerosis, kidney stones and constipation.
Excess calcium not only drains magnesium but also makes cell membranes rigid, which impairs their function. Cell membranes are unique in their structure as they are designed to prevent toxins and unwanted substances, but are flexible enough to allow important substances that are required.
2. Heavy metal detoxification
You need healthy levels of magnesium to get rid of heavy metals – including aluminium, cadmium, mercury and lead. A serious deficiency in this mineral can cause these heavy metals to accumulate within cells. Heavy metal toxicity has been associated with all kinds of health consequences and nervous system disorders in particular:
- Cadmium exposure can cause damage to kidneys, lungs and bones. It can also impact reproductive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
- Lead exposure can cause damage to all the body’s systems, but it is especially detrimental to the nervous system, bones and kidneys. And small children are even more vulnerable to the negative effects of lead poisoning, which can lead to low IQ, learning issues, impaired growth, and poor attention and memory.
- Mercury is a neurotoxin and both acute and prolonged exposure to mercury can adversely impact nervous system, digestive system, lungs, kidneys and skin.
- Aluminium exposure can cause bone diseases and nervous system disorders.
When your body lacks sufficient levels of magnesium, your body is not able to perform the detoxification job efficiently. But one of the ways you can get rid of heavy metals is to improve your intake of magnesium and other minerals.
Enzymes need co-factors to help them do their job and most vitamins and minerals work as cofactors. In the absence of minerals, heavy metals tend to attach themselves to enzymes and cause impaired enzymatic activity and poor cellular function, including the ability to remove toxins and heavy metals. Low levels of magnesium and other minerals allow heavy metals to easily gain access within the cells. Magnesium also reduces the absorption of heavy metals from the intestines
3. Role in glutathione synthesis
Glutathione is a critical player in the detoxification pathways that take place in the liver. It shouldn’t be surprising that your liver, lungs and kidneys contain very high levels of glutathione. These organ systems are majorly involved in how your body gets rid of toxins. Glutathione is also a super powerful antioxidant that helps quench free radicals and relieve oxidative stress in the body. Glutathione does the following:
- Transforms fat-soluble toxins into other forms that are less damaging to the cells.
- Protects the liver from oxidative damage caused by free radicals generated during the above process.
- Binds to toxins and makes them water soluble. This step allows the body to easily remove the toxins through kidneys, intestines and skin. Glutathione can bind to free radicals, heavy metals, cigarette smoke toxins, cancer causing substances, drugs and other pollutants.
- Neutralizes free radicals on its own and also recharges other antioxidants that have lost their steam after their work is done.
- Protects against radiation exposure and helps in DNA repair
Glutathione deficiency can impair your body’s ability to remove accumulated toxins and heavy metals such as mercury lead and arsenic. Low levels of glutathione can also cause poor immune functions and increased levels of oxidative damage and inflammation. All of this makes your body more prone to catching infections and diseases.
So, this was glutathione’s story and how it works to keep you healthy and free of toxins. But what’s magnesium got to do with this? Well, magnesium works as an essential co-factor in glutathione synthesis. More specifically, magnesium activates glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), an enzyme that facilitates the production of glutathione. 
There are many factors that can lead to glutathione deficiency in the body, including ageing, chronic stress, too much drinking and excessive use of medications. Low magnesium levels can also contribute to low glutathione status.
4. Anti-oxidant properties
Heavy metals and environmental toxins harm cells and tissues through the excessive production of free radicals. These volatile molecules damage cellular structures including proteins, enzymes, mitochondria, membrane lipids and DNA.
When your body is exposed to toxins – in the form of heavy metals, cigarette smoke, ionizing radiation, alcohol, pesticides and drugs – their smooth elimination relies on the antioxidant status of your body. Magnesium is not only good at neutralizing free radicals that create oxidative havoc in the body but also helps in the production of glutathione, which is the most important and most powerful antioxidant weapon in your body’s arsenal.
Free radicals cause damage to DNA that can lead to mutations, cancer and chromosomal abnormalities. There are many processes through which your body can self-repair some of the damage caused by both internal (faults in DNA replication process) and external factors (damage caused by toxins and radiation). Magnesium helps in DNA repair through its role as a co-factor for enzymes involved in DNA repair. It activates DNA polymerase, an enzyme required for DNA production, replication and amending errors that happen during DNA replication.
5. Alkalizing properties
Your body needs to maintain a healthy acid-alkali balance. Natural minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium have alkalizing properties and help the body maintain this balance. They neutralize and remove acids from the body, but their deficiencies trigger the body to leech out minerals like calcium and magnesium from the bones, muscles and other tissues – leading to all sorts of health issues including weak bones and excessive growth of microorganisms including fungi, virus and bacteria.
Most importantly, the depletion of minerals and high acidic levels interfere with your body’s ability to eliminate waste products, which are then distributed and deposited across the cells and tissues in the form of toxins.
6. Helps in coping with withdrawal symptoms of drug or alcohol detox
When a person is in the process of withdrawing from drugs and alcohol, they usually experience distressing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, high levels of stress, poor energy levels, headaches and insomnia. People also experience fatigue and muscle cramps during alcohol and drug detox.
Studies show that magnesium can be a tremendous help in calming down your nervous system and relieve most of these symptoms. For example, magnesium:
- Controls the levels of stress hormones
- Helps in the synthesis of neurotransmitters that are involved in regulating mood, sleep and stress response, thus promoting good mood and sleep
- Helps in energy production
- Relaxes muscles and reduces painful muscle cramps
When your body is chronically exposed to toxins, it needs a solid antioxidant and mineral support to neutralize and get rid of these harsh chemicals, acids, heavy metals and radiation and also to counteract the damaging consequences. Your body makes use of more magnesium (and other vitamins and minerals) to achieve this – leading to magnesium deficiency while also creating additional requirement for the mineral.
In a nutshell, healthy levels of magnesium:
- Helps in making sufficient energy needed for the cells to maintain the integrity and flexibility of cell membranes. This helps in removing toxins and maintaining optimum levels of minerals both in intracellular and extracellular space.
- Functions as an antioxidant and fights free radicals generated due to exposure to toxins and heavy metals. This reduces oxidative damage and inflammation.
- Helps in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that is a critical pillar of your body’s natural detoxification system. Glutathione binds to and removes all kinds of toxins.
- Neutralizes excess acids
- Removes heavy metals from the body
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Improves bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in the elderly
- Helps improve symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
- Improves energy levels
- Improves PMS symptoms
Most of us are deficient in magnesium. Blame it on the excessive use of fertilizers that has made the soil and the food that grows in it, devoid of minerals including magnesium. Chronic stress, gastrointestinal conditions, type 2 diabetes, ageing and excessive use of drugs, antibiotics, alcohol and coffee also deplete magnesium from the body. What can you do?
The good news is that you can easily reverse magnesium deficiency by taking the right kind of magnesium supplement. Regular oral supplements are not as effectively absorbed by the cells and also cause digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome especially when consumed in large doses.
However, liposomal magnesium supplements make the mineral more available to the cells, giving you a better magnesium reboot.
Go for a high-quality liposomal magnesium supplement to support healthy detoxification.
- Lee et al. Pathogenic Mechanisms of Heavy Metal Induced-Alzheimer’s Disease. Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences. 2018.
- Benefits of magnesium and its role as a glutathione cofactor. Immune Health Science.