Magnesium is a mineral we should be paying more attention to! It is part of over 300 biochemical reactions and the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, with 65% of it in our bones and teeth and 35% in our brain, hearth, blood, and cells. But many of us can have low magnesium levels, and this can lead to many common symptoms.
Causes of deficiency
-Intake of coffee, alcohol, smoking
-Long term use of diuretics
-Birth control pills
-Kidney disease – Since the kidneys are regulators of magnesium homeostasis
-Celiac and IBD (due to impaired absorption of minerals)
As you can see, many things affect magnesium absorption. Food processing in itself reduces magnesium, up to 80% in milling of wheat for example. Phytic acid and oxalic acid found in many greens and grains also reduce magnesium. Absorption also depends on stomach acid level, diet, and our bodily requirements.
Effects of Low Magnesium
Many of us can have any of the following symptoms, but don’t always connect this to magnesium deficiency:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Weakness, fatigue
- Nausea, GI disorders, constipation
- Muscle cramps, especially in the legs at night, restless legs
- Excessive body odour
- Hypersensitivity to noise, startle reactions
- Cravings for chocolate
- Poor coordination
- Insomnia, hyperactivity, irritability
- Poor memory
Sources of Magnesium
- Seeds – pumpkin, sesame, sunflower
- Green beans
- Spinach and other leafy greens – Magnesium is at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule which is the green pigment found in green vegetables.
- Lemons, grapefruit
- Nuts – almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts
- Apples, bananas
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains – wheat germ and bran, millet, brown rice
Our society focuses a lot on Calcium for bone health, but magnesium is also very important. Studies have shown that excessive calcium intake, as well as phosphorus, iron, copper, and zinc will lower magnesium absorption. Since 65% of our magnesium is in our bones, it is important for bone and teeth health. It has a structural role for bones, as well as being essential to osteoblasts and osteoclasts (bone cells), and needed for ATP (energy) formation in cells. Magnesium also is required by enzymes that metabolize vitamin D, which is crucial for bone health. Studies show that restricting magnesium intake results in osteoporosis!
Magnesium relaxes smooth muscles found around blood vessels, reducing artery spasms and keeping heart rhythm regular. It also dilates blood vessels to reduce blood pressure. It works with calcium to regulate muscle tone of the heart. It is a cofactor to many enzymes, it is needed for ATP production (cellular energy), regulates ion channels, myocardial contraction, vascular tone, and thrombosis. Magnesium taurate is one form of magnesium specifically for improving cardiac function, contraction, and reducing blood pressure.
Magnesium regulates muscle contractions and is a muscle relaxant. It is a great supplement for restless legs, muscle spasms, cramps, and sore muscles. It is also useful for PMS cramps and athletes who suffer from cramps. One form of magnesium: magnesium bisglycinate is a very well absorbed form. Another form, magnesium sulfate, is found in Epsom Salts, and is beneficial as a bath for muscle relaxation.
Due to its relaxant function on smooth muscles around the digestive tract, it can cause loose stools especially in the Magnesium Citrate form. It is helpful when you have constipation. Magnesium also activates enzymes involved in metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Relaxation and Nervous System
Magnesium is an anti-stress mineral, popular as a supplement before bed to calm, relax, and help you sleep. It is a natural muscle relaxant. Deficiency of magnesium results in neurological symptoms, as magnesium is important for nervous system health. In terms of supplements, it was shown that Magnesium threonate actually enters the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) and brain, and has effects on learning and memory and is neuroprotective.