Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It is mainly used inside of our cells, and works closely with calcium and phosphorous. It is considered the "anti-stress mineral" that is involved in nearly every body process and plays a role in over 300 cellular reactions. It helps maintain blood sugar balance; plays a role in producing and transporting energy; is necessary for protein synthesis; helps transmit nerve signals; enhances circulation (important for heart health); promotes restful sleep; helps with vitamin D absorption (important for bone health) and helps relax muscles (among many other things).
People may be deficient in magnesium and not even realize it. Some contributing factors include:
- Our soils are depleted of magnesium, so the foods growing in the soil are depleted too.
- Processed foods lack magnesium.
- Fluoride in toothpaste and in some drinking water can bind to magnesium, so you can't use it.
- You need healthy stomach acid to absorb magnesium, and a lot of people don't have enough (stomach acid production can decrease with age).
- High calcium intake, alcohol consumption, oral contraceptive use, diuretic use, kidney disease, liver disease can reduce absorption and/or increase secretion of magnesium.
- Stress can deplete magnesium.
It is hard to know how many factors correlate with magnesium deficiency, but some of the associated signs and symptoms can include:
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Heart disturbances
- High blood pressure
- Mental confusion and/or Irritability
- Migraine headaches
- Muscle cramps
- Predisposition to stress
- Problems with nerve conduction
Magnesium Blood Tests ~
Most doctors check serum magnesium levels when testing, but magnesium is mostly found within the cells, where it is needed to perform its many important functions, and can be deficient in the cells even if it is within the normal range in the serum. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, the author of "The Magnesium Miracle", the best way to test for magnesium levels is to do a Magnesium RBC (red blood cell) blood test.
Food Sources of Magnesium ~
- Halibut and Salmon
- Leafy greens like chard, kale, spinach, collards, lettuces, etc.
- Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts and most nuts
- Flaxseeds and Pumpkin seeds
- Summer squash
- Broccoli, green beans and other dark green veggies
Fun Fact ~
The molecule hemoglobin in animals (including humans) and chlorophyll in plants have similar structures with the main difference being the center mineral: hemoglobin is built around iron and chlorophyll around magnesium (hence leafy greens being a nice source for magnesium).
Supplemental Magnesium ~
- Supplementing with magnesium can be supportive for some people.
- Taking an Epsom bath is one way to get magnesium (and sulfur) through the skin.
- Magnesium oxide is one supplemental form that I do not recommend, as it is not readily absorbed by our bodies and can have a strong laxative effect.
- Some of the more bio-available oral magnesium supplements include:
- Magnesium glycinate: may have a calming effect between the combination of magnesium and the amino acid glycine.
- Magnesium malate: may promote energy production and has been studied for those with fibromyalgia.
- Magnesium taurate: may promote cardiac function between the combination of magnesium with the amino acid taurine.
- Magnesium citrate: promotes bowel movements and can have a stool loosening effect.
Please Note: According to Dr. Dean, author of "The Magnesium Miracle", those with kidney disease, slow heart rates, bowel obstruction or a condition called, Myasthenia gravis, should not take supplemental Magnesium. And, it is always a good idea to check with your health practitioner before starting a supplement.
Bauman, Ed, PhD. (2014). Foundations of Nutrition. Petaluma, CA: Bauman College.
Clinical Kidney Journal Website. Magnesium basics. Retrieved from: http://ckj.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/Suppl_1/i3.full
Dean, Carolyn, MD, ND. (2014). The Magnesium Miracle. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Dr. Axe Food is Medicine Website. Should You Be Taking Magnesium Supplements. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/magnesium-supplements/
Jacob, Aglaee, M.S., R.D. (2013). Digestive Health with REAL Food. Bend, OR: Paleo Media Group
Murray, Michael, ND. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books
Wellness Mama Website. Are you low on Magnesium? Retrieved from: http://wellnessmama.com/3610/magnesium-deficiency/