So…I’ve been hearing a lot about magnesium lately. You know how it is – the information may have been out there for some time, but all of a sudden it gets brought to your attention and you start hearing it mentioned again and again. So I looked it up and pulled together what I think are some really great things about magnesium – what to know and do about it!
If you haven’t heard much about magnesium and its importance to good health, now is the time to learn. And if it’s something you’ve always meant to look into, now is the time to take action!
What does Magnesium do for the body?
Most people have heard about regulating sodium and calcium levels. Many have heard about the importance of iron and even potassium for healthy body functions. But magnesium seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle even though it is the 4th most abundant electrolyte in the body!
Mildred Seelig, an expert on magnesium calls it “the silent guardian of our hearts and arteries” and “necessary for life.” And Dr. Carolyn Dean calls it “the missing link to total health”.
Magnesium contributes to proper bone growth and maintenance. It is vital to keeping nerves and muscles functioning well. It affects the health of your digestive tract and immune system. It helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. And is part of turning nutrients into energy at the cellular level. Magnesium helps the body in at least 300 different biochemical reactions. Wow!
Signs of Low Magnesium.
If you’re not getting enough magnesium in, or your intestines aren’t absorbing it well, or your kidneys or bowels are putting too much of it out, your body may be becoming depleted of this vital mineral. And with so many things to affect, you can bet that magnesium deficiency symptoms can show up in a great many different combinations – and in different ways in different people! Here are some of the symptoms you might see if your body is short on magnesium stores.
- Weak bones – Osteopenia and osteoporosis are usually associated in our minds with a need for more calcium. But I found out that studies are showing that calcium must be balanced with magnesium and Vitamin D to have any effect on bone density and flexibility.
- Nervous Problems – Anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability, confusion, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep – these are all often associated with lower levels of magnesium in the body.
- Stomach trouble – Acid stomach and constipation can be associated with insufficient magnesium.
- Muscle pains – So are painful tics, leg cramps, fibromyalgia, and even seizures.
- Systemic conditions – High blood pressure, high blood sugars, chronic fatigue, PMS…the list of symptoms that magnesium depletion can contribute to is long!
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to reduce or eliminate some or all of that discomfort with a simple nutritional remedy?!
Finding a good source of magnesium.
A. Food (of course)
When you talk about nutrients, you automatically think about what you eat. And I bet you can guess what kinds of foods supply the magnesium nutrient well. Seeds and nuts, dark green leafies, fish, all kinds of beans (legumes), and whole grains (‘the usual suspects’ ) are the best. Then you can add a little more with avocados, bananas, berries and dried fruits. And – the good news – 1 oz. of dark chocolate will give you almost a quarter of the recommended daily value for magnesium!
So – if you eat well all the time, you might be getting enough magnesium for your body…if you don’t include some of these magnesium-depleting things in your diet too!
- Soda – Its phosphates bind with magnesium, making it impossible to be used – so it is just flushed out.
- Baked goodies – Refined sugar and flour not only have no magnesium to add, they actually cause your kidneys to excrete (throw out) the magnesium already in your body.
- Caffeine – Your kidneys are supposed to get rid of excess magnesium, but caffeine tells them to get rid of magnesium whether there is too much around or not enough.
- Alcohol – it not only acts the same way on the kidneys – it also keeps your intestinal tract from working as well to absorb the magnesium you do feed it.
- Calcium supplements – WHAT? Aren’t they good for you? (see below about supplements).
OK – so food is good. But since you are a health-conscious person, you’re surely aware of the bad news about today’s foods and the reports and studies out there showing available nutrients in the food supply to be much lower today than those available as recently as 50-75 years ago. If you don’t trust yourself to get a good supply of magnesium from the food you can get today, you should probably consider using a magnesium supplement.
B. Magnesium Supplements by mouth
It’s easy to find magnesium supplements to take by mouth. You might be even getting some without realizing it. Over-the-counter antacids and laxatives like Gaviscon, Tums, or Epsom salts, or Milk of magnesia will give you some form of magnesium.
There are quite a variety of pills available for magnesium supplementation, too. If you like this way of getting your supplements, the Ancient Minerals website has a great article about the different kinds available and what you might want to think about in choosing one.
Remember how Calcium supplements were in the list of ‘no-no’s” to keep your magnesium levels up? Well, here’s what I found out: Some studies show that supplements of Calcium alone – without magnesium included – actually reduce magnesium absorption! On the other hand, when you add magnesium, your body actually absorbs more of the calcium you offer it!
So you probably want to look at combination mineral supplements if you want to use pills. Check out the ones available at your local drug store – or order online from THE CPH-HEALTH STORE.
Personally, I’m not much of a pill person, so think I like the third option best, myself.
C. Getting Magnesium through the skin.
Doctors are getting more interested these days in administering medication by using a patch or a pump that gives your body a chance to absorb it through the skin. Oral medication often has side effects of nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Or some of it doesn’t survive the acid environment of the stomach well.
‘Alternative’ health practitioners have been using soaks and lotions for a long time to help heal.
It’s a more gradual way of getting the active ingredient into your body. You wind up getting small amounts over time rather than giving yourself sudden large doses that can cause big swings in blood levels.
Epson salt soaks is an example of ‘transdermal magnesium therapy.’ That just means you put it on your skin and let it absorb into your body.
There are also lotions, gels, and spray preparations. Many can be found in your local drug store or – of course – they are easily available by convenient online ordering from THE CPH-HEALTH STORE.
Magnesium supplement side effects – Can there be a problem?
Even the doctors admit that magnesium supplementation is generally considered safe – even in pregnancy and breast-feeding.
That said, you may already know that Magnesium helps with constipation. So…with that laxative effect, too much can give you diarrhea.
- It also binds to some antibiotics – which will reduce their effectiveness.
- And magnesium can lower blood pressure, slow blood clotting, and relax muscles. That could be seen as a good thing, since those are things medicine is often prescribed for! But it also means that magnesium supplements may increase the effects of the medications you take for those purposes.
- Kidneys that don’t work well have trouble clearing magnesium from the body. And some potassium-sparing ‘water pills’ already tend to increase magnesium levels.
However, unless your kidneys are not functioning well and you are taking magnesium supplements, you are unlikely to have excessively high magnesium levels.
If you do, you might be having low blood pressure, slow or erratic heart rates, slow breathing, and slow reflexes. These things can make you feel dizzy, weak, and sleepy.
Usually if you stop taking your magnesium supplements, that will bring your magnesium levels down to a normal level.
Anyway, Because of possible interactions, it would be a good idea to check with your doctor – especially if you are taking any prescribed medications. Doctors can treat excessively high magnesium with IV calcium infusions.
I hope this review has been useful to you.
From what I have learned about magnesium recently, I want to make sure I have enough of it in my system! It seems to be a pretty essential nutrient if I am going to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keep my immune system healthy and my bones strong – and have a healthy heart.
When my friends tell me about almost any of their health challenges – muscle spasms, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, migraines, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, etc. – I like to suggest they look into the value of adding magnesium to their nutritional mix.