Could a lack of Magnesium be affecting your health?

Do you suffer from one or more of the following:

  • Poor sleep
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Restless legs
  • Eye twitches
  • PMT
  • Anxiety
  • Muscular cramps?

If so, the chances are you may be low in magnesium. 

What causes low magnesium?

Magnesium is found in foods such as nuts and seeds as well as avocados, whole grains and leafy green veg and this hard-working mineral is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

The bad news is that since 1940, due to intensive farming methods, the magnesium content of a variety of foods has considerably declined. As an example, a 24% loss of magnesium has been reported in vegetables and a 21% loss in milk.  Refined foods such as white flour and polished rice are also depleted in magnesium during processing.

Moreover, if your diet is high in sugars and refined carbohydrates with regular caffeinated drinks, more magnesium will be excreted from the body via the kidneys, which largely control the levels of this and other important minerals.   On top of this, magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and magnesium excretion via the kidneys increases with age.  Magnesium is also rapidly depleted in the body by excessive alcohol intake as well as by certain prescription medications such as diuretics and painkillers. 

Chronic stress, whether physical or emotional, also increases our need for magnesium, as magnesium works alongside vitamin C, B6, zinc and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) to maintain adrenal health and produce adrenal stress hormones.

Research published in Open Heart identified sub-clinical magnesium deficiency as “rampant” and “one of the leading causes of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease and early mortality around the globe, and should be considered a public health crisis”.

Mighty Magnesium

This often overlooked but vital mineral plays a key role in areas such as energy metabolism,  maintaining strong bones and a healthy heart, sleep quality, stress resilience and recovery from exercise. 

Sometimes referred to as “nature’s relaxant”, magnesium is also necessary for the proper functioning of the muscles and nerves, sustaining a normal heart rhythm and helping the body to cope with stress.  By helping to stabilise blood sugar, it can also help to prevent the anxiety and nervousness we can feel when blood sugar drops too low.  Additionally, magnesium plays an important role in the regulation of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, helping to keep our mood stable.

Can my magnesium level be tested?

Over half of the magnesium in the body is deposited in the bone with the remainder found in the muscle and soft tissues. With less than 1% magnesium in the blood, blood tests can be misleading as a normal serum magnesium reading could still mask a magnesium deficiency inside the body’s cells.  This is because when intake of magnesium is low, the body maintains normal serum levels by pulling it from the bones and muscles. Increased intake of certain nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous (from phosphate additives in processed meats and phosphoric acid found in soft drinks) also increases our requirement for magnesium.

Did you know that magnesium is needed for vitamin D activation?

You may have heard a lot about vitamin D of late.  This is because not only is it vital for the health of our teeth and bones but it is also needed for the normal function of the immune system.  But did you realise that magnesium is needed to convert vitamin D into its biologically active form?  Research suggests that people who have a low magnesium intake may not be able to make full use of vitamin D supplements.  Deficiency of magnesium can result in vitamin D remaining inactive and stored in the body, potentially leading to vitamin D deficiency disorders such as cardiovascular and bone diseases.  The researchers also warn that calcification of the arteries could occur without sufficient magnesium to activate vitamin D.

Important functions of magnesium:

Energy:  Magnesium contributes to normal energy production in the body. Without sufficient magnesium, the nutrients that you ingest through food and drink would not be metabolised into energy.

Sleep and relaxation:  If you struggle to relax enough to fall asleep or have disturbed sleep, low magnesium levels may be  a factor. Try having a relaxing warm bath before bed and adding magnesium rich Epsom Salts to the water.  You can also try supplementing magnesium about an hour before bed.  

Stress and Anxiety : Magnesium supports the normal functioning of the nervous system and is needed for stress resilience. As stress and anxiety rapidly deplete the body of magnesium this can lead to a vicious cycle - so if you are prone to anxiety and stress, consider supplementing your diet with magnesium.

Support for teeth and bones:  Magnesium contributes to the maintenance of normal teeth and bones.  No matter how much calcium you consume,  the hard enamel on the teeth can only be formed with adequate magnesium.  Researchers have also found that even a minor chronic deficiency of magnesium can lead to a significant amount of bone loss.

Fluid balance: magnesium functions as an electrolyte, maintaining fluid balance in your body.

Recovery after exercise:  if you experience muscle soreness, cramps and spasms after a workout you may be low in magnesium.  Without magnesium the muscles are not able to relax properly and low magnesium can lead to a build up of lactic acid, causing post-workout tightness and pain.

So how can you top up your magnesium levels?

Chlorophyll, the green plant pigment, is rich in magnesium which enables the plant to convert light into energy  – so eat plenty of green leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard as well as nutrient dense, fibrous whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal or whole grain breads, in addition to beans and legumes. Other good sources of magnesium include avocados, yoghurt or kefir, nuts — especially almonds and cashews — and seeds such as flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower. You can even treat yourself to a little dark chocolate now and then to top up your levels!

Thinking of supplementing magnesium?

Look for a high quality magnesium supplement that is:

  • From a natural source such as marine magnesium and extracted through evaporation
  • Easily absorbed by the body
  • A well tolerated form that is gentle on the stomach
  • Free from wheat, yeast, gluten, dairy and soya
  • Non GMO

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