Magnesium is considered by many to be the most undersupplied mineral in the average North American’s diet. Magnesium is used up in large amounts during strenuous exercise. It is also depleted rapidly when you are under stress, drink immoderate amounts of alcohol or caffeine, are sweating profusely or have a bout of vomiting and/or diarrhea. Many medications, including diuretics and other blood pressure lowering medications, some antibiotics, protein pump inhibitors (for acid reflux), statins and diabetes medications also rob the body of magnesium. Magnesium is made unavailable to the body by fluoride (found in toothpastes, dental treatments and anti-depressant medication such as Prozac).
Magnesium is needed for energy production, bone formation and maintenance and the proper functioning of muscles (including the heart muscle) and nerves. It is required for more than 700 enzyme systems in the body. Along with calcium it regulates the electrical impulses that govern heart rhythms. Anyone who is ingesting lots of calcium, either in the diet or by supplements, can throw this regulation off, resulting in heart arrhythmias. Magnesium is also required for neuron communication in the brain and is important for brain plasticity (the ability for areas of the brain to learn new functions that are not normally performed there….especially needed after any sort of brain injury). It is necessary for the production of vitamin D, to keep potassium in the cells where it belongs and to prevent the calcification of soft tissues such as the kidneys (kidney stones), arteries (plaque), joints (arthritis) and skeletal muscles (bone spurs). Magnesium protects the adrenal glands. When we are under high or continuous amounts of stress our magnesium stores (if there are any) can be used up quickly protecting our adrenals, leaving us vulnerable to magnesium depletion conditions such as anxiety, heart palpitations and thus more stress.
Signs of magnesium deficiency can include irritability, sensitivity to noise, apprehensiveness or belligerence, apathy, depression, anxiety, nervous tics, muscle weakness, numbness or spasms, foot and leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, loose or sensitive teeth, teeth-grinding and jaw clenching, dizziness, nausea, pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, craving for chocolate, abnormal ECG or EKG, heart arrhythmias, elevated blood pressure, toxemia of pregnancy and sudden heart attacks (the highest amount of magnesium in the body is in the heart). Severe deficiencies (such as may occur after a long bout of diarrhea or a marathon run) can produce personality changes such as disorientation, hallucinations and combativeness and even convulsions. Regular blood tests are not always a good way to test for low levels of magnesium, as the amount of this mineral in the bloodstream does not vary much. Instead, an intracellular screen must be used.
Good sources (and some contents in mg. per 100 gms. or otherwise measured edible portion) of magnesium are: seafood (50-95 mg.), nuts (200-250 mg. per ¾ cup), sesame seeds (180 mg.), sunflower seeds, cooked leafy greens (50-100 mg. per ¾ cup), apples, grapes, figs (70 mg. per 5 dried), apricots (62 mg. per 2/3 cup, dried), seaweed (25-70 mg. per ten gms.), yellow corn, brown rice (88 mg.), peas (180 mg. per ½ cup), whole grains, millet (162mg.), soybeans (250 mg. per cup), eggs, liver, bee pollen, curry powder, raw chocolate and garlic.
You’d think with all those delicious sources of magnesium there would be few deficiencies, but magnesium is not well taken up by plants when chemical fertilizers are used. For this reason (and for the important reason of supporting people who are not creating a toxic environment) organic vegetables, fruit, grains and seeds should be your choice whenever possible.
The daily requirement for magnesium is 500 – 1000mg. per day depending on many factors including your size, calcium intake (eating foods high in calcium like milk products or supplementing with high doses – over 500 mg./day- of calcium can itself deplete magnesium), stress level, amount you exercise, pregnancy and breastfeeding, diuretic and alcohol use and whether you are exhibiting signs and symptoms of a deficiency. Too much magnesium in supplement form over a long period of time could cause diarrhea, weakness and lethargy. One of the most absorbable forms of oral magnesium is ionic magnesium citrate, which comes as a powder that is added to hot water. The least absorbable form is magnesium oxide. Another option, to saturate all your cells while avoiding the aforementioned side effects is a topical “magnesium oil” (which is not an oil at all, rather a gel) or a long soak in a bath to which you have added a cup or 2 of Epsom salts. It might take some weeks of daily use of these transdermal (through the skin) applications of magnesium to saturate your cells, but a topical “oil” rubbed into the skin directly over painful muscles can ease pain quite quickly. An Epsom salt soak can help with tired muscles and is good to use after a long bike ride or hike or a stressful day to replenish lost magnesium and/or before bed for a restful sleep.
Magnesium is a wonderful mineral, well worth making sure you incorporate into your diet daily. You will be rewarded by increased stamina, less angst and a happy heart.
* No reprinting without permission * Jo Phillips A.A. Nursg., R.N.C.P. * Registered Nutritional Consultant * 2016 *