For people whose bodies are naturally low in certain nutrients, taking calcium pills and magnesium can help maintain strong bones and muscle function. While these two minerals are similar in many ways, you may not always want to take magnesium and calcium together.
When taken together, calcium and magnesium can sometimes interfere with one another's absorption in the body. Talk to your doctor before combining these two supplements.
Calcium and Your Body
Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones, nerve transmission and muscle development. Though it is found in many places throughout the body (primarily the bones and teeth), humans cannot produce calcium on their own — it needs to be eaten in food or taken as a supplement.
The intake guidelines for calcium pills, as laid out by the National Institutes of Health, vary based on age and biological sex. Babies need only 200 milligrams of calcium per day, while adults over 71 years old require as much as 1,200 milligrams daily. Postmenopausal women, amenorrheic women, vegetarians and those with a lactose allergy are at higher risk of calcium deficiency than others.
Calcium is found in foods such as milk, yogurt, soy and even leafy greens. In general, it's best to consume calcium with meals rather than taking it as a calcium pill, but some people may want to supplement this mineral at the request of their doctor.
Magnesium and Your Body
Similarly, magnesium is an essential nutrient that helps your body with functions such as blood sugar levels, blood pressure and muscle movement. The necessary amount to take also varies based on age and sex — 30 milligrams daily for babies, up to 420 milligrams per day for adult men. People who are breastfeeding need elevated levels of this mineral for optimal health.
Those at risk for magnesium deficiency include men over 70 and teenage girls, and the effects of low magnesium include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and migraines. However, it's also important not to take too much. The National Institutes of Health warns that overly high levels of magnesium are associated with diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping.
Magnesium and Calcium Together
If you want to start supplementing magnesium and calcium pills, look first to ensure you're buying from a reputable brand. The Office of Dietary Supplements does not test or endorse specific brands of dietary supplements, so you'll have to do your research about ingredients and dosage in each supplement brand.
While it might make sense to take magnesium and calcium together, they can actually interfere with one another's absorption in the body. A healthy ratio of these two minerals is crucial to keeping your body functioning at its best, so be careful not to supplement both without explicit permission from your healthcare provider.
Harvard Health Publishing suggests caution when taking calcium with other supplements. Taking calcium and magnesium together can lead to constipation and other stomach problems, and it might make both supplements less effective. In certain cases, it may be appropriate to take both — but this should be reserved for people with severe deficiencies.
Zinc is another mineral that can interfere with calcium and magnesium absorption. Most calcium, magnesium and zinc tablets contain all three in low enough amounts that they will not significantly impede one another's integration into the body — but you shouldn't take them just because.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that taking multivitamin pills can sometimes increase your chances of getting too much of certain vitamins and minerals. It's best to take supplements only when you know you are lacking the specific nutrients they provide.
Read more: Potential Benefits of Multivitamins
When to Take Calcium
The best time to take calcium, magnesium and zinc is when you're eating a meal. Because they can be tough to absorb in large quantities, it's best if you take them in small doses — around 500 milligrams at one time.
As long as you're moderating the amount you're taking daily, it doesn't make a significant difference what time of day you choose. Consistency is key to helping your body adjust to supplements and ensuring you develop a routine. If you find yourself having digestive symptoms on a mineral supplement, you can start with a very low dose and slowly work your way up.
Magnesium for Sleep
Magnesium can also be taken as a sleep aid. It helps regulate melatonin levels in your body to keep your biological clock on a consistent pattern, and it also lowers mental and physical stress. Many supplements for sleep contain low levels of magnesium and are intended to be taken at night, just a few hours before bed.
Again, keep in mind that if the supplement causes you stomach pain, you may want to try taking it closer to a meal or snack time. This will help your body absorb it more quickly and effectively.
Vitamin D and Magnesium
Vitamin D and magnesium are often combined together in supplement form, in part because magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D in the body. Like many other supplements, they are best taken with food to assist the body in breaking them down.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it remains in the body for longer than water-soluble vitamins and can be toxic if consumed in excess quantities. Magnesium is a mineral, and thus does not fall under the fat- or water-soluble categories — instead, it is most easily compared to other minerals like zinc and calcium.
Ultimately, the supplements you choose to take should depend on your specific needs and deficiencies in your body. Your health care provider can do a blood test to better understand what nutrients you are lacking. Calcium and magnesium together can sometimes be useful, but they should be taken with caution.
Ask your doctor about whether combining these two minerals will help your body function at its best.
- National Institutes of Health: "Calcium"
- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Frequently Asked Questions"
- The National Academies Press: "Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D"
- BMJ Open: "Modifying Effect of Calcium/Magnesium Intake Ratio and Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What You Need to Know About Calcium"
- The Journal of the American College of Nutrition: "Inhibitory Effects of Zinc on Magnesium Balance and Magnesium Absorption in Man"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Vitamins and Minerals"
- North Dakota State University: "Do You Need a Dietary Supplement?"
- Magnesium Research: "Biorhythms and Possible Central Regulation of Magnesium Status, Phototherapy, Darkness Therapy and Chronopathological Forms of Magnesium Depletion"
- MMW Fortschritte der Medizin: "Long-Term HRV Analysis Shows Stress Reduction by Magnesium Intake"
- The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: "Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function"
- Colorado State University: "Fat-Soluble Vitamins"