Magnesium benefits the body by playing a critical role in over 300 important processes in the body every day. This little mineral surely packs a punch in the body; being involved in many factors which influence our health and wellbeing such as:
- Managing your energy levels
- Stress management
- Hormone production
- Balancing blood sugar levels
- Promoting healthy sleep
- Relaxing muscles
- Maintaining good bone health
- Producing adequate antioxidants to protect you from toxins
Is it any wonder that magnesium is considered a vital nutrient by so many health practitioners.
Are you deficient in magnesium?
There are many health conditions and symptoms that have a direct association with low magnesium levels including anxiety and panic attacks, depression and mood changes, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, leg cramps, high blood pressure, high cholesterol & triglycerides, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, acid reflux, and indigestion.
What causes magnesium deficiencies?
There are several reasons that you may have low magnesium levels including the following:
- Insufficient intake in your diet & excess alcohol
- Key minerals including magnesium have been depleted from the soils due to modern agricultural practices so even if you are eating a diet rich in whole foods, deficiency may still occur
- Reduced absorption from your food: due to low stomach acid, diarrhea, laxative use or several gastrointestinal (GIT) disorders
- Use of certain medications (such as steroids, diuretics, and antibiotics) can cause significant deficiencies in magnesium
- Increased demand for magnesium: repeated stress and anxiety, excessive exercise, pregnancy, high sugar and fat in your diet
- Too much daily caffeine which has a diuretic effect therefore increasing the loss of water, magnesium and other minerals in your urine
Common magnesium-deficient conditions
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Magnesium has a unique relationship with stress. When you are stressed, processes occur in your body which use up more magnesium than it would otherwise whilst simultaneously causing more magnesium to be excreted from the body.
This means that your overall need for magnesium increases. If levels are not increased magnesium becomes significantly depleted. What makes matters worse is that these low magnesium levels worsen stress, anxiety and depression. This vicious cycle means that stress causes low magnesium due to extra use and excretion: then these low magnesium levels cause an increase in stress.
Let’s look at parts of this cycle more closely:
- Serotonin, your “feel good” chemical requires magnesium for its production and to function properly
- Your adrenal glands depend on magnesium for managing stress and they can become overworked under chronic stress, requiring more magnesium; without magnesium they cannot function properly
Whilst stress and anxiety contribute to sleep disturbances, magnesium is required to maintain normal circadian rhythms necessary for quality sleep. Insomnia is common when magnesium levels are low. This is because magnesium is needed to make sleep-inducing neurotransmitters GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and melatonin.
Blood sugar regulation
Magnesium is required for the effective function of blood glucose levels with deficiencies linked to disturbances in insulin sensitivity and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Dietary sources of magnesium
Whilst reducing the amount of stress and anxiety in daily life is recommended, dietary sources can assist with magnesium levels to reduce deficiencies in the body. Foods high in magnesium to include in your diet include the following examples:
- Green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, bok choy, chard, silverbeet
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews. Raw is best.
- Wholegrains: buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, rye, whole wheat, oatmeal
- Legumes: black beans, edamame, kidney beans
- Dark Chocolate: 70-85% cacao
- Bananas, Figs
Dark, green leafy vegetables, nuts & seeds and wholegrains have a higher magnesium content (60 – 2700 mg/kg) when compared to sources of meat and dairy (less than 280 mg/kg).
Unfortunately, not all forms of magnesium are equal. There are different forms of magnesium available with unique benefits, absorption and tolerability dependent on the specific health situation of each individual. Magnesium oxide and citrate which are the salt forms can cause diarrhea and discomfort by drawing water into the bowel so are not ideal for replenishing magnesium. Alternatively, magnesium bisglycinate as an example is gentle on the gastrointestinal tract, is very well absorbed with few side effects.
Want to learn more about magnesium benefits?
To discuss further the role of magnesium in leading a healthy and happy life, or to investigate your deficiencies further, book an appointment directly on our website.
Australian Government. (2014). Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients
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