While a hundred years ago we were having no problems getting magnesium from our diet (with a daily intake of 500mg), we are now struggling to get just 200mg! Some sources say that up to 80% of us are deficient in this mineral, meaning that we are definitely not taking advantage of the many benefits of magnesium.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t however. Several lifestyle and diet changes can ensure that we can reap the benefits of magnesium!
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Why are we deficient in magnesium?
Our culture’s collective magnesium deficiency is partly due to pesticides that kill healthy bacteria in our soil, which usually helps plants to absorb magnesium.
Not only this, but other factors in our lifestyles such as food processing, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, high sodium diets and certain medications can decrease the amount of magnesium we absorb.
Also contributing to the problem is our high intake of calcium. While it is true that calcium is an important mineral for factors such as bone health, if the ratio of calcium to magnesium is too high then this can be detrimental and lead to calcification in the body, which causes many nasty symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Some sources say that up to 80% of us are deficient in magnesium. So if you suffer from any of the following, a lack of magnesium could be the culprit:
- Restless leg syndrome
- High blood pressue
- Type 2 diabetes
- Muscle weakness and spasms
- Recurrent bacterial and fungal infections
- Behavioural disorders and mood swings
- Nutrient deficiencies
Benefits of Magnesium
If you’re suffering from any of the above symptoms, you’ll be glad to know that increasing the level of magnesium in the body can reverse the effects of magnesium deficiency. These 14 impressive benefits of magnesium might just be enough to encourage you to try increasing the amount of this mineral you consume.
Physical symptoms of anxiety include problems with sleep, producing more sweat (especially on the hands or feet), shortness of breath, heart palpitations, racing heart, restlessness, dry mouth, tingling in the hands and feet, aches and pains and headaches. Sound familiar?
There may be several causes for anxiety, particularly if you suffer from anxiety in relation to a particular stimuli (phobia) or social situation (social anxiety disorder).
However, feelings of general anxiety may be caused by a deficiency in magnesium, which helps with nervous system regulation.
To add to this, anxiety and stress can deplete the body of magnesium even more – it’s a vicious cycle. Luckily this can be reversed by increasing your intake of magnesium!
There are many testimonials online about magnesium helping with the treatment of depression, even when antidepressant medication doesn’t help.
It may sound like a far fetched claim, but magnesium can suppress the stimulation of stress hormones and act at the blood brain barrier to prevent stress hormones from entering the brain, leading to a feeling of general calmness.
This is why some people refer to magnesium as a natural chill pill!
If you’re feeling tiredness and fatigue then an increase in magnesium could be the boost you need.
Magnesium is needed for the coenzyme adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP for short) to function properly – ATP is responsible for transporting energy within our cells and cell reproduction. Put simply, without magnesium our bodies just don’t create energy like they should.
Magnesium deficiency can be an even bigger problem for athletes and fitness fanatics as low magnesium levels in the muscles mean we use more energy during physical activity than we need to and therefore tire more easily. Forget your cup of coffee and think about upping your magnesium instead!
People with magnesium deficiency often have a restless sleep and wake frequently during the night.
Many people who suffer from poor sleep hygiene report that supplementing with magnesium promotes a more restful sleep. This is because magnesium maintains healthy levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which encourages relaxation.
Magnesium can also help with other symptoms of restlessness such as restless leg syndrome. I used to suffer from RLS myself and know how awful it can be. Since supplementing with magnesium this reduced dramatically for me.
Supplementing with magnesium is a popular choice among athletes for good reason.
This mineral can help prevent muscle cramps and spasms and promote muscle recovery between workouts.
If you’re suffering from sore muscles, a warm bath with epsom salts, which are high in magnesium, could provide you with some relief.
There are also reports from sufferers of Multiple Scelerosis who say that magnesium helps to ease their symptoms – pretty impressive!
Magnesium is pivotal for effective digestion because it is a vital mineral in the synthesis of proteins and it releases enzymes that help the body digest and break down food for energy.
Furthermore, it relaxes the muscles in our intestines to reduce spasming, which can occur in digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Be careful though, as some forms of magnesium can cause diarrhea in individuals who are sensitive – more on this later!
Headaches and migraines are a painful symptom of magnesium deficiency that can significantly interfere with your quality of life.
Research suggests that people often have low levels of magnesium in the brain during a migraine attack.
It therefore makes sense that increasing the level of magnesium in the brain can reduce this uncomfortable symptom.
8. Blood sugar regulation
It is now widely accepted that there is a link between magnesium deficiency and insulin resistance.
To add fuel to the fire, people with insulin resistance may also expel more magnesium in the urine further adding to deficiencies.
Supplementing with magnesium can help to improve insulin sensitivity, prevent type 2 diabetes or slow the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. By helping to control insulin production, magnesium can reduce sugar cravings and prevent blood sugar spikes.
9. Hormone regulation
Magnesium plays a huge role in hormone regulation such as the production of thyroid hormone and sex hormones.
In addition, as previously mentioned, magnesium calms the nervous system and prevents the body from producing too much coritsol, which can affect hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and LH.
Supplementing with magnesium is a natural treatment for hormonal imbalances such as PMS, PCOS, thyroid conditions, perimenopause and adrenal fatigue.
It’s benefits for hormone regulation is why I recommend this supplement to help with the transition off of hormonal birth control!
10. Strengthens bones
While society is under the impression that calcium is the only mineral you need for bone strength, this is not the case. Magnesium is essential in order to convert vitamin D into its active form so that it can assist with calcium absorption.
It also stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which helps to draw calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones, lowering the chance of osteoporosis and other forms of arthritis.
So if you consume too much calcium and not enough magnesium then it may actually have a counterproductive effect on your bone health.
In fact, researchers in a study of postmenopausal women with high milk intake speculate that high levels of calcium may actually be a cause of osteoporosis and osteoporotic bone fractures. Need I say more?
11. Heart health
One of the most important benefits of magnesium is its impact on heart health. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, writer of The Magnesium Miracle, your heart has the highest magnesium requirement of any organ.
This is because magnesium helps to relax and dilate blood vessels, which can reduce hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac death.
This can be worsened by a poor magnesium to calcium ratio. The reason being that while magnesium helps to relax muscles, calcium causes muscle contractions!
12. Regulates bladder
Magnesium also plays a part in regulating the bladder. Doctors believe it plays a part in reducing bladder muscle spasms and enabling the bladder to fully empty upon urination, in order to prevent incontinence.
Women in particular may find that taking magnesium supplements causes them not to wake up as often at night to use the bathroom, and gives them better control of their bladder during the daytime.
Magnesium deficiency is associated with inflammatory build up. Magnesium supplements have been shown to decrease swelling, reduce inflammation and prevent the development of metabolic syndrome.
Several medical studies have shown an association between increased dietary magnesium and lower levels of a marker of inflammation called C-reactive protein (CRP).
14. Brain function
Last but not least, magnesium supports cognitive health by helping several functions of the brain.
Studies show that low levels of brain magnesium directly correlate to poor memory. Magnesium can strengthen the synapses in the hippocampus, a primary location for long term memories, as well as the prefrontal cortex, which assists in the retrieval of short-term memories.
Impressively, restoring magnesium levels in the brain has been shown to prevent further cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s!
Best Food Sources of Magnesium
As you can see, there are many benefits of magnesium because this mineral is required for just about every human bodily function.
So, how do we improve the magnesium levels in our bodies? Well, a healthy and varied diet is key, with lots of leafy greens, nuts and legumes.
But as previously discussed, the magnesium content in these foods depends largely on the richness of the soil they are grown in, which is why it’s best to buy organic produce.
Try adding these foods to your diet in organic form to up your magnesium intake naturally:
- Swiss chard
- Black beans
- Mung beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brussel sprouts
Supplementing with magnesium
As many of us fail to get adequate amounts of magnesium from our diets, supplements are often necessary to experience the benefits of magnesium. Magnesium supplements come in several different forms, each of which have their individual benefits and drawbacks. Try buying the appropriate supplement based on your individual needs.
One of the cheapest forms of magnesium to buy as it is cheap to make and readily available. Some people don’t recommend magnesium oxide as it is not as highly absorbed as some other forms of magnesium.
However supplements often contain more than enough of the mineral and you definitely still experience the benefits of magnesium!
Magnesium Oxide is also reportedly particularly helpful in treating migraines!
Magnesium Chelate is the type of magnesium found naturally in food and is highly absorbable because it is bound to multiple amino acids.
Magnesium Citrate combines magnesium in salt form with citric acid, in a 1:1 ratio.
It increases water in the intenstines, which may have a laxative effect in some people. Otherwise it is ideal for regularity if you suffer from constipation.
Magnesium Chloride Oil
Magnesium in oil form, which is great for applying topically. This is particularly beneficial for sore muscles and joint pain.
Magnesium bound to glycine, Magnesium Glycinate is widely accepted as the best absorbed form of magnesium and the gentlest on the stomach.
For this reason it is ideal for people with magnesium deficiency who do not want to endure any laxative effects that other forms of magnesium might cause.
Magnesium Threonate is highly absorbed because it can permeate the mitochrondrial membrane. This makes magnesium threonate particularly good for enhancing brain function.
The magnesium salt of orotic acid. This form is particularly beneficial for heart health.
Hopefully hearing about these benefits of magnesium is enough to make you think more about your dietary and lifestyle choices!
If you feel like you are suffering from any of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, I’d strongly recommend including more organic and magnesium rich foods in your diet, as well as adding a magnesium supplement!
If this post has helped you in any way I’d love to hear from you in the comments!