Magnesium – The Most Important Of All Minerals
Do you complain about muscle, stomach and menstrual cramps, spastic colon, difficulty sleeping (even though you feel exhausted), low mood, irritability, feeling anxious without reason, tiredness, poor memory, sugar & salt cravings, or constipation? Well, if you do maybe it’s time to start being very serious about considering Magnesium deficiency.
According to Dr. Norman Shealy, “Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.”
Magnesium is present in all cells in our body as they constantly require this mineral for a normal function. Magnesium is so important for preserving our health because it is involved in over 600 reactions, including DNA repair, converting food into energy (metabolism & body weight), contracting and relaxing muscles, regulating neurotransmitters and hormones, and hundreds of other health-sustaining functions. Also serotonin (the strongest antidepressant and feel-good hormone) and glutathione (body’s most powerful antioxidant) require Magnesium for their synthesis.
DIETARY SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM
Kelp delivers almost 800 mg of magnesium per serving! (no other food source comes close to that), but kelp is also the highest natural source of iodine and therefore shouldn’t be overdosed, other seaweeds, sprouts, wheat germ (another great source – providing 440 mg per serving!), green leafy vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard, and kale are regarded as highest sources and raw are much higher than cooked) (raw green vegetable juices are even higher and probably the best nutritional source of magnesium!), beans (especially black beans and chick peas, also known as garbanzo),nuts (especially almonds, cashew nuts, and Brazil nuts), seeds (sesame and pumpkin), avocados, whole grains (especially millet and buckwheat), blackstrap molasses.
Please notice that the concentration of magnesium in the listed above sources greatly depends on the quality of soil (concentration of magnesium in the soil). Unfortunately, organic farming doesn’t solve this problem. The best and only way to increase magnesium content in plants is biodynamic farming.
Also cooking (heating) significantly reduces the amount of magnesium in listed above foods. For this reason, raw green leafy vegetable juices and raw green salads, raw wheat germ, soaked overnight in distilled water nuts and seeds, raw sprouts (not all of them can be consumed raw), or raw seaweeds are much higher in magnesium than beans and whole grains as they must be consumed well cooked (to prevent indigestion).
Usually, hard water (much higher in magnesium and calcium than soft water) is recommended as a good source of magnesium, but it is a very bad idea as inorganic calcium carbonate in hard water contributes to arteriosclerosis, kidney stones, constipation, or pineal gland calcification.
Millions suffer from magnesium deficiency without even knowing it. In addition, magnesium deficiency is often misdiagnosed because it does not show up in blood tests as only 1% of the body’s Magnesium is stored in the blood.
The following factors are associated with lower magnesium levels:
- Deprived of magnesium refined diet (white flour products, white rice, etc.).
- Most foods (both plant and animal) today are deficient in magnesium and other minerals due to huge soil depletion. According to Dr. Dean, “A hundred years ago, we would get 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we’re lucky to get 200 milligrams!” It is, therefore, very difficult today to get enough magnesium from our diet even if we consume plenty of unrefined plant foods which are supposed to contain magnesium. It means that, although we still should get as much magnesium as we can from a healthy unrefined diet, yet at the same time it seems very reasonable to safeguard our body and health by taking a good quality magnesium supplements.
- Excessive amounts of calcium lead to magnesium deficiency and increased risk of heart attack (heart is a muscle which requires magnesium), muscle cramps and spasms, neurological abnormalities, as well as other numerous problems (calcium causes muscle to contract while magnesium relaxes them). Due to high dairy consumption and popular calcium supplementation Americans and Europeans tend to have a much higher calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet of about 3 to 1 or even worse. In addition, people usually take calcium supplements high in cheap inorganic calcium carbonate (also present in hard water) which without magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D, zinc and boron accumulates in arteries and together with cholesterol hardens blood vessels leading to heart attacks and strokes.
- Sugar causes our body to excrete magnesium in urine through kidneys.
- Emotional stress depletes magnesium from the body because increased adrenaline levels causes increased loss of magnesium from cells. The more stress we experience the greater the loss of magnesium. The more we are deficient in magnesium, the more reactive to stress we become.
- Fluoride (tap water, certain medications and antibiotics, toothpastes, etc.) is very effective in draining magnesium from the body.
- Alcohol caused magnesium deficiency and in addition, it interferes with absorption of vitamin D, which in turn is required for magnesium absorption. On the other hand, if you supplement vitamin D you must take magnesium at the same time as vitamin D requires magnesium for its conversion thus slowly leading to deficiency of this mineral.
- Supplementing with high doses of vitamin D slowly leads to magnesium deficiency as it uses magnesium in the body for its own conversion.
- Cooking and processing deplete magnesium.
- Certain medications, such as diuretics, antibiotics (including gentamicin and tobramycin), corticosteroids (prednisone, deltasone, etc.), antacids, insulin, etc. can interfere with magnesium absorption.
- Digestive system problems such as inflammation may impair body’s ability to absorb magnesium.
- Age (ability to absorb magnesium decreases with age).
BENEFITS OF MAGNESIUM
Excellent sleep & relaxation aid
Magnesium enables us to control stress and is vital in our body for proper functioning of the nervous system and brain, promoting good mood and improves our sleep patterns. It’s been suggested that this is because Magnesium is involved in the synthesis and function of GABA and serotonin, neurotransmitters known to be most effective in calming the brain and promoting relaxation. That is why Dr. Berzin calls Magnesium “the nature’s anti-anxiety drug”.
Helps relief constipation
Some forms of magnesium such as magnesium citrate is an osmotic laxative, which means it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. The water helps soften and bulk up your stool, which makes it easier to pass. Magnesium citrate is relatively gentle. It means it shouldn’t cause urgency or emergency bathroom trips, unless you take too much of it. Since magnesium helps maintain healthy nervous system function it also prevents constipation as nervous system regulates colonic motility. Magnesium is also required for the production of serotonin, which apart from being a happy hormone also regulates peristalsis of the colon, thus preventing constipation. In addition, magnesium is vital for maintaining healthy muscle contraction & relaxation (colon is a muscle). According to Dr. Craig Maxwell, „Magnesium helps to relax the smooth muscles of the colon allowing normal bowel movements. While a diet high in fibre is important, magnesium is even more important… In a study published in 1996 researchers explain that magnesium sulphate pulls water from other tissue into the small intestines. This water stimulates the muscular movement of the intestines, helping with bowel elimination. The American Cancer Society, state that magnesium citrate has the same laxative effect and usually results in a bowel movement within ½ to 3 hours from taking a supplement.”
Necessary for strong bones & teeth
Not too many people realize that Magnesium is more important for strong bones than calcium. Too much calcium without magnesium causes bones to become brittle, because without magnesium calcium can’t be used to strengthen bones. Instead, it tends to be deposited in kidneys and arteries leading to kidney stones and arteriosclerosis.
Helps maintain normal blood glucose levels
Since Magnesium helps convert sugar to the energy it helps our body to maintain normal blood sugar levels. In addition, studies demonstrated that oral Magnesium supplementation improves insulin sensitivity in people with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.
Helps relax blood vessels, promotes heart health & normal blood pressure
Magnesium supports normal blood pressure and heart muscle function. According to Dr. Yiqing Song, “Evidence indicates that maintenance of optimal magnesium status in the human body may help prevent or treat hypertension.”
Helps relax all muscles
Since lack of magnesium leads to spasms and dysfunction of various muscles, including uterus, heart, stomach, and colon, magnesium supplementation is often the best and sometimes even the only way to relax these muscles. Therefore, supplementing with a good quality magnesium is the most important remedy for muscle cramps, stomach cramps, or menstrual (uterine) cramps. It relaxes nervous system and muscles including uterus! Take a daily dose of at least 800 mg of good quality magnesium such as magnesium citrate (400 mg an hour before breakfast and 400 mg 1-2 hours before bed). Start from small doses such as 100 mg 2 times a day and gradually increase the dose.
Helps alleviate migraine headaches
Since magnesium is involved in neurotransmitter function and regulating the constriction and relaxation of blood vessel found in the brain its deficiency is believed to contribute to migraines. Studies show that when sufferers of migraines supplement with magnesium, their symptoms improve.
TYPES OF MAGNESIUM
- Magnesium citrate (magnesium combined with citric acid) is one of the best forms of magnesium as far as bioavailability is concerned and in addition it is also mildly laxative, which can be very beneficial for those who need to improve peristalsis of the colon or are constipated. Magnesium citrate it most often recommended for those who want to address magnesium deficiency.
- Magnesium taurate is also easily absorbed (magnesium and taurine stabilize cell membranes together), but it has no laxative effect.
- Also, magnesium glycinate (magnesium bound with glycine, an amino acid) is a well absorbed form of magnesium, but does not have a laxative effect.
- Magnesium orotate is a complex consisting of magnesium bound to orotic acid. It is regarded by some as the most easily absorbable form of magnesium and more beneficial to the heart than other types. According to Dr. Edward Group, “If you need magnesium supplementation magnesium orotate is the best you can get”. Some experts suggest that orotic acid has the ability to carry magnesium across cell membranes, producing higher concentration of magnesium in cells. Because magnesium orotate is not very soluble in water, it does not dissociate in the GI tract. This means that, unlike some other forms of magnesium, it does not cause diarrhoea. Instead, it delivers magnesium directly to the cells, thus smaller quantities of elemental magnesium are required to be effective. Magnesium orotate doesn’t have a laxative effect.
- Magnesium carbonate has antacid properties which may be beneficial for those with heartburn but I do not recommend this magnesium with or after meals as it may lower stomach acidity which is required for proper digestion and contributes to heartburn >.
- Magnesium oxide is less bioavailable than other forms. It may cause laxative effect, which might be beneficial for those with sluggish bowel movement or constipation.
- Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) is usually used as a laxative.
- Magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate contain only 12 % magnesium, but has better absorption than magnesium oxide, which contains about 60 % magnesium but very low levels of absorption.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE OF MAGNESIUM
- Infants–6 months: 30-40 milligrams
- 7–12 months: 70 milligrams
- 1–3 years: 100 milligrams
- 4–7 years: 150 milligrams
- 8–13 years: 250-300 milligrams
- 14–Adults: 400-450 milligrams for men; 350 milligrams for women
- Pregnant women: 350–400 milligrams
- Women who are breastfeeding: 300 milligrams
To use a good quality magnesium of high bioavailability such as magnesium citrate: 2 x a day 150mg (of elemental magnesium) with breakfast and 150mg with last meal or about 30-60 minutes hour before bed to improve sleep quality. If you take high doses of vitamin D3 such as over 20,000 IU per day you probably need to double the dosage of magnesium.
When you’re on magnesium supplements, you should consider taking vitamin K2, as they work synergistically with one another.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
SOURCES & REFERENCES
Dr. Craig Maxwell, Health and Wellness
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