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Magnesium, why do we need it?

In my post about muscle cramps (read it here) I mentioned magnesium, and a few people have asked me to tell them more about it.


Magnesium, fast facts.

  • It’s a mineral found naturally in many foods and added to other food products.
  • Some medicines such as antacids and laxatives contain Magnesium.
  • About 60% of the magnesium in our body is found in our bones, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues and fluids, including blood.

Magnesium, the inside scoop, why do we need it?

  • Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body, it helps with many body functions including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation
  • It’s also required for energy production and contributes to the structural development of bone
  • Magnesium is essential to proper nerve impulse conduction and also plays a role in muscle contraction (and relaxation) and normal heart rhythm because it helps transport calcium and potassium around the body

Magnesium Deficiency

Symptomatic (severe) magnesium deficiency because of low dietary intake in otherwise-healthy people is uncommon because the kidneys limit urinary excretion of this mineral. However, habitually low intakes or excessive losses of magnesium because of certain health conditions, chronic alcoholism, and/or the use of certain medications can lead to magnesium deficiency, which is increasingly common but not routinely checked.

10 signs of a possible magnesium deficiency

  • Painful muscle cramps or spasms
  • Chronic pain
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Facial tics or eye twitches
  • Times of hyperactivity
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Doctors associate low magnesium levels with personality changes and sometimes depression.

Clinical signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency

Includes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As the deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur. This is rare in otherwise healthy people because the kidneys limit urinary excretion of this mineral.


Who is at risk of clinical magnesium deficiency?

People with gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease or those who have has gastric bypass, or resection surgery are high risk because of malabsorption of all nutrients but are usually regularly checked and well monitored.


The following will deplete your levels

People with gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease or those who have has gastric bypass, or resection surgery are high risk because of malabsorption of all nutrients but are usually regularly checked and well monitored.


The following will deplete levels.

Carbonated drinks: Most contain phosphates which bind with magnesium in the digestive tract, making it unavailable to the body. So even if you are eating a balanced diet, by merely communing a fizzy drink especially dark coloured ones with your meals will flush magnesium out of your body.

Refined sugar: As found in pastries, cakes, puddings and sweets cause the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys.

Illness and stress: Both physical and emotional stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency. Stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency, and a lack of magnesium magnifies the stress reaction, worsening the problem.

Caffeine: Magnesium levels are controlled by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess along with other minerals. Caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of body status. If you drink lots of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and the aforementioned carbonated drinks regularly will increase your risk of magnesium deficiency.

Medication: Certain prescribed medicines have been shown to reduce magnesium levels in the body by increasing magnesium loss through excretion by the kidneys. Diuretics, some heart and asthma medication, birth control pills and HRT are of particular concern. Magnesium is a primary ingredient in some over-the-counter digestive and laxatives remedies, which continual use can cause a deficiency.

*Please do not stop taking any prescribed medication without the advice of your prescribing doctor but it might be a good idea to speak with your doctor if you take these medications and have the sign and symptoms of deficiencies mentioned earlier.

Alcohol: The effect of alcohol on magnesium levels is like the effect of diuretics: it lowers magnesium by increasing the excretion by the kidneys. Increased alcohol intake also contributes to decreased efficiency of the digestive system, and Vitamin D deficiency, both of which can contribute to low magnesium levels


How to boost your Magnesium levels

Food sources of Magnesium: 

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach. 
  • Legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are good sources. 
  • Magnesium is also added to some breakfast cereals and other fortified foods.
  • Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be sources of magnesium, but the amount of magnesium in water varies by source and brand

Supplements

Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms, including magnesium oxide, citrate, chloride, aspartate and lactate. Studies have shown that when magnesium intake is low, calcium supplementation may reduce it further by affecting absorption and retention. Confused? Speak with a pharmacist or nutritionist when buying supplements particularly if you take regular medication or take calcium supplements. Some health food shops have trained nutritionists who will give free advice.

Magnesium is also available as oral drops, and topical applications (transdermal magnesium), including magnesium oil, spray or bath salts, Epsom salt is a good source. Those who use topical applications have reported:

  • Reduced muscle aches, pains, cramping and spasms
  • Better relaxation and stress management
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved mood,  plays a critical role in brain function and mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression
  • Healthy skin and reduced outbreaks of eczema and psoriasis
  • Enhanced exercise and athletic performance

Magnesium taken before going to bed has a calming effect on the central nervous system which can support a deeper more refreshing sleep.


Summary

Magnesium is a mineral that supports hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. Some people get less than they need, but those considering taking supplements should note that some forms, especially in high doses, are reported to cause loose stools, bowel urgency and diarrhoea which can be accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramping. This is caused by stimulation of digestive system which speeds up gastric motility, and changes in the osmotic activity by the unabsorbed magnesium salts in the intestine and colon. It one of the reasons most medicines to treat constipation contain these forms of magnesium. High doses of magnesium supplements can result in diarrhoea which can be accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramping. This is caused by stimulation of digestive system which speeds up gastric motility, and changes in the osmotic activity by the unabsorbed magnesium salts in the intestine and colon. It’s one of the reasons most medicines to treat constipation contain these forms of magnesium.


This is for guidance only, it should not be regarded as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment given in person by an appropriately trained health professional. In my post about muscle cramps I mentioned magnesium, and a few people have asked me to tell them more about it


 

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