After being absorbed from foods and supplements, magnesium passes through the gastrointestinal tract (GI) via the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestines. When the magnesium compound reaches the stomach, the acidic environment starts to dissociate magnesium ions which bind with water molecules. Magnesium is absorbed primarily in the lower part of the small intestines and passes from the villi, tiny finger-like surfaces inside the small intestine, and into capillaries, blood vessels surrounding the small intestine.
Magnesium Absorption Categories:
Magnesium that is not absorbed in the small intestine travels to the large intestine, where a small amount is also absorbed. Typical magnesium absorption is broken down into three categories:
40% of magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine
5% is absorbed in the large intestine
55% leaves the body as waste
Note: These figures may vary. For instance, certain forms of magnesium supplements, such as magnesium oxide, (have a low absorbable magnesium potency).
The latest studies have also shown that there are two different transport systems for magnesium:
Active transcellular transport at low concentrations.
Active transcellular uptake occurs by a recently identified magnesium channel called TRPM6 (transient receptor potential channel 6), which is expressed along the brush border membrane of the small intestine. This is where magnesium-amino acid complexes can be absorbed intact.
Passive paracellular pathway at high intestinal concentrations.
The passive paracellular pathway is responsible for 80-90% of magnesium uptake in the intestinal tract. Passive pathways work more effectively in an acidic (lower pH) environment, which is why magnesium absorption is optimal on an empty stomach and away from other minerals, drugs, fibers, and alkalizing agents.
The following factors contribute to higher magnesium levels:
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