When folks on the Trying Low Oxalates group start dumping (or start seeing dumping in their children), they are often alarmed, and come to the group seeking assistance with alleviating the dumping symptoms. The first and most commonly recommended supplement for dealing with dumping is magnesium, and with good reason.
Good Reasons to Start with Magnesium
For starters, almost everyone is deficient in magnesium (to learn some of the many reasons why, check out this abstract), so supplementing with it is a very good plan. For another thing, it is a mineral with very low toxicity; as long as an individual’s kidneys are functioning properly, excess magnesium that the body cannot use is generally excreted in the urine (tests to confirm proper kidney function can be ordered by your doctor). Larger excesses are handled by the digestive tract (resulting in diarrhea).
In terms of its benefits to low oxalate dieters, it provides a ready cation (positively charged ion) to bind with anionic (negatively charged) oxalates. In addition, adequate magnesium intake significantly lowers the risk of kidney stone formation (reference here). There are several ways to get magnesium into the body, but they all fall under two basic categories: oral and transdermal.
Oral Magnesium Options
Visiting your local supplement store will likely confront you with a huge number of options for magnesium supplements, which can be very confusing. What types of magnesium supplements are best for low oxalate dieters?
Let’s start with the DON’Ts – don’t buy magnesium glycinate. Reason being, it’s a fairly easy for the glycinate molecule in mag glycinate to convert to oxalate. You’ll also want to avoid magnesium oxide, which is the least expensive form of magnesium supplement (and what you’re likely find if you hit the supplement section of most general merchandise and drug stores). Mag oxide is a very poorly absorbed form of magnesium. So even though you may pay less per tablet, you’d need to take an absurd number of tablets in order to absorb the needed amount of magnesium.
So what are the DOs? As with so many other things, you will need to experiment a bit to find out what works best for your individual chemistry. The most commonly recommended form of magnesium on the TLO group is magnesium citrate. The reasoning behind this is that not only is the magnesium in mag citrate relatively well-absorbed (reference here), but the citrate molecule “has a direct inhibitory effect on the crystallization and precipitation of calcium salts” (reference here). In simple terms, this means that it will help prevent formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones, which makes it of great benefit to those who are intentionally inducing oxalate dumping.
However, not everyone is able to tolerate the citrate forms of minerals, so we must also consider forms such as magnesium malate and magnesium taurate as important options. I took magnesium citrate myself for quite a while, but ran into issues of bowel tolerance when trying to get my intake up to the levels my body seemed to need. My first reaction to this was to try transdermal supplementation (more on that in a moment). While that helped, it was not enough, and also caused other issues due to my specific health problems. In the end (or at least, up until the present time), I wound up having to change the form of magnesium I take to malate, in order to get it in enough quantity to keep most symptoms at bay.
The reason I chose the malate form, rather than the taurate form, is because of a specific product I discovered – Jigsaw Health Magnesium with SRT (Sustained Release Technology). For me, this has been the perfect form of magnesium, because it completely eliminated both my bowel tolerance issues, and my need for transdermal supplementation. While I won’t call it a miracle product, I will say it has been a godsend for me personally. I take it twice per day (three reasonably-sized caplets each time), with breakfast and dinner. This arrangement not only helps keep any dumping symptoms at bay, but also keeps my blood pressure in a range I had not seen for a couple of years prior!
The Jigsaw brand is a bit pricier than some other magnesium supplements (though it’s cheaper than the Natural Calm I was using previously), but to me it is very much worth it (check pricing here). I also suspect that the SRT may be something of a misnomer; I have noticed that when I take it alone (i.e. without a meal) it causes me to urinate more than usual. Presumably that’s the excess being released by my body because too much was absorbed all at once. Still, if the cure for that is as simple as taking it with a meal (which it seems to be), it’s an easy fix.
Regardless of how “sustained” the SRT may or may not be, it definitely gives me a more sustained release effect than the Natural Calm did, even when I would sip it throughout the day. This may have something to do with the fact that the Jigsaw brand contains both benfotiamine and P5P (coenzymated forms of thiamine and vitamin B6, respectively); I don’t know enough about biochemistry to know whether or not these added ingredients simply help the body absorb the magnesium, or actually have some sort of regulatory effect.
Magnesium taurate is a form sometimes recommended on the TLO group, especially for folks who have problems forming bile acids such as taurochlorate. The most commonly mentioned way of knowing if your bile acids are lacking is to look for yellow stools (although this is by no means the only thing which can cause yellow stools). Still, if you suspect problems with bile, it may be worth a shot to see if adding the taurate form of magnesium to your supplement schedule helps.
What about other forms – aspartate, chloride, and lactate? Well, I can claim no personal experience with any of these. That said, They have been shown to have much higher bioavailability to the oxide form (reference here). Thus, if the above-mentioned forms are not well tolerated, these are certainly things to try before giving up on magnesium supplementation altogether.
Bowel Tolerance and Transdermal Forms of Magnesium
As mentioned previously, I and others have run into an issue known as “bowel tolerance” when supplementing magnesium. Simply put, this means that magnesium tends to have a laxative effect. The bad news is that this can happen at fairly low levels of magnesium supplementation in some individuals. The good news is that magnesium can be absorbed transdermally, and this route all but prevents the bowel tolerance of oral routes, because it completely bypasses the intestinal tract.
While I realize this may at first sound far-fetched, I would encourage you to look into the work of Dr. Rosemary Waring, who showed clinical evidence that bathing in epsom salts baths raised the serum magnesium levels of volunteers (report here). While that study did not find (or even attempt to find) the process by which the magnesium was making its way to the bloodstream, there is a fairly high probability that the body has some mechanism for absorbing minerals and nutrients it needs through the skin. And the anecdotal evidence for this (both on and off the TLO group) is overwhelming.
Thus, epsom salts baths are a very commonly-recommended method for soothing dumping symptoms with magnesium. As an added bonus, epsom salts are incredibly cheap, and who doesn’t like a nice warm bath? Of course, we don’t always have time for a long soak when we need it most, but fortunately there are more alternatives. One is to do an epsom salts foot soak instead – I found that 15 minutes using nice hot water was enough to relieve my symptoms for at least couple of hours. Others have reported that mixing up an epsom salts broth and “painting” it onto the skin also works.
There is another way to get magnesium across the skin as well – via magnesium oil. Though the texture feels quite oily, in reality magnesium oil isn’t an oil at all – it’s actually a super-saturated solution of magnesium chloride in water. There are dozens of brands out there (see their relative pricing here), though the only one I have personally tried is Derma-Mag. It seemed to work pretty well as far as getting magnesium into me, but eventually became impractical because once my cats discovered it, they liked to lick it off my skin (which invariably resulted in the curious kitty having the runs). It is also a bit on the expensive side, but I list it here because I and several others have reported success with it when many other magnesium supplementation methods failed.
How Much Magnesium to Supplement
Determining dosage is another individual consideration. What I’ve found best is to always start low and slow, and increase as the body seems to “ask” for it, while at the same time keeping a keen eye out for negative reactions. Don’t be afraid to try several different types, and remember you always have the option to start with tiny doses (breaking tablets into small pieces, or trying 1/8 tsp of powdered supplements).
Bear in mind, though, that when you are experiencing dumping, the oxalates circulating in the bloodstream will actively be binding minerals like magnesium, and thus preventing your body from making use of them. So be aware that a tiny amount of a supplement like magnesium might not produce any noticeable positive effects; the purpose of starting low and slow is to determine your personal tolerance for a supplement. Once you have determined your ability to tolerate a given form, the process of determining dosage will then need to be undertaken separately, though I definitely recommend a relatively slow approach to that as well – both to prevent negative repercussions as well as to save money!
As of this moment, I’m taking the six caplets mentioned earlier, which contain a total of 750mg of elemental magnesium. I don’t say this to brag, but rather to give an example of what is possible with time and patience. I didn’t just magically know this amount, and it certainly took me a long while to work up to it! I should also note that I couldn’t take that large of an amount of the citrate form, so if one form isn’t working for you, definitely try another (or try adding another to it – such as adding a transdermal supplement to an oral one).