Magnesium’s role in human health seems to be more complex than health care providers previously understood. The benefits to the body reach further than what was initially recognized. There are numerous biological processes occurring in our body that require the presence of adequate magnesium.
Magnesium is responsible for over three hundred biological and chemical reactions in the body. Some basic functions include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, energy production, detoxification of cells and the formation of strong and healthy bones and teeth. In women magnesium has been shown to provide relief from symptoms of menopause and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). More specifically it can help improve muscle function, prevent osteoporosis, insomnia, constipation, heart attacks, hypertension, migraines, kidney stones and gallstones.
Magnesium relaxes muscles and it can be effective in the treatment of sports injuries, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Important In Osteoporosis – Magnesium taken with calcium improves bone mineral density, but a deficiency in magnesium adversely affects bone’s ability to store calcium.
- Reduces Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease – This includes lowering the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, abnormal heart rhythms and complications from heart attacks.
- Helpful In Regulating Blood Pressure – Magnesium has the natural ability to lower blood pressure.
- Diabetes – People with magnesium deficiencies have an increased risk for type II diabetes. This is because magnesium helps with carbohydrate metabolism and assists with the release of insulin helping to control blood glucose levels. Studies suggested that for every 100 mg of magnesium intake, there is a 15 percent reduction for the risk of type II diabetes as well as a similar reduction in colorectal cancer.
- Migraines, Depression & Insomnia – Magnesium supplements can help to significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of such conditions. It has been shown to help with severe forms of panic attacks, stress and anxiety. It can improve sleep and is a powerful relaxation mineral.
- Digestive – Helps relieve constipation and general gastrointestinal discomfort or disease.
- Reduces Muscle Cramps – Magnesium has been described as a “relaxation mineral” with an ability to help muscle stiffness, tightness or cramping. Leg and foot cramping (charley horses) can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Some estimates suggest that nearly 80% of the American population is deficient in magnesium. Levels can be difficult to determine due to the relatively low amount that can be found in the bloodstream. The average person’s magnesium levels have dropped by nearly half in the last 100 years due to a combination of changes in agriculture and diet. Industrial farming has caused a depletion of magnesium from soil and as a result the typical American diet now contains much less magnesium than two or three generations ago. The modern American diet, high in fat, sugar, salt and protein, actually works to speed up the depletion of magnesium from our bodies.
A chronic deficiency of magnesium can lead to a variety of symptoms including muscle contractions and cramping, numbness and tingling, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, coronary spasms and personality changes. Higher levels of inflammation in the body have been linked to deficiency in magnesium.
Magnesium levels are decreased by excess alcohol, salt, coffee, pop/soda, heavy sweating/intense physical activity, stress and menstruation as well as antibiotics. Other medications that can increase the depletion of magnesium or increase the demand for magnesium in the body include birth control pills, diuretics/cardiac drugs, cortisone and insulin.
Sources of Magnesium
Good sources for optimizing magnesium levels include consumption of green leafy vegetables (spinach), nuts/seeds and beans. Many people eat diets of highly processed and refined foods based on white flour, meat and dairy. None of these contain much if any magnesium. Another emerging problem is nutrient deficient soils producing nutrient deficient foods as previously discussed. The RDA for magnesium is slightly above 300 mg/day for women and 400 mg/day for men over 18 years of age.
There are several varieties of magnesium supplements available. Magnesium must be bound to another substance which will affect the absorption and overall bioavailability for its proper use in the body.
- Magnesium Glycinate – Tends to provide high levels of absorption/bioavailability for those with a deficiency. It is also least likely to contribute to loose stools. Other fairly well absorbed forms include magnesium citrate and aspartate.
- Magnesium Carbonate, Sulfate, Gluconate and Oxide – These are the cheapest, most common forms. However, they are poorly absorbed by the stomach/digestive tract and not as effective.
- Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts) – Studies have indicated that these are fairly well absorbed through the skin such as the case for Epsom salt baths.
Signs of a magnesium overdose can include nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue. Magnesium supplements can cause softening of the stool. People with severe diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or intestinal disease should consult their doctor before taking magnesium supplements. There may be some interactions between magnesium supplements and diuretics, heart medications or antibiotics.
Talk to your primary care doctor before taking a magnesium supplement to determine if it is right for you.