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Magnesium: An essential mineral for physical and mental health


Magnesium is an essential mineral that assists in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body. It can be derived from a balanced diet, but many people do not consume enough from their diet because magnesium content in foods has dropped in the last 60 years, due to loss food processing and soil depletion.

Functions of magnesium:

  • Muscle relaxation

  • Energy metabolism (boost energy level), storage and mobilisation

  • Glucose metabolism

  • Protein synthesis: DNA replication, RNA transcription, amino acid synthesis

  • Nutrient metabolism for Vitamin D, B-complex and glutathione

  • Neuromuscular function

  • Bone formation

  • It reduces cortisol and stress levels

  • Promotes deeper sleep

  • Cellular communication and membrane function

Testing for magnesium

It is sometimes magnesium is measured in blood, but does don't tell the whole story about magnesium status. This is because only 1-2% of magnesium is present in the extracellular space, so serum (blood) levels are most likely not an indicator of intracellular magnesium content. Magnesium is found mostly in cells and bones. Red blood cell magnesium may be a better option instead.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiencies are usually accompanied with abnormally low levels of blood calcium or potassium.

Almost all major health conditions are associated with a magnesium deficiency because it generates chronic inflammation, which is a common denominator in a wide range of mental and physical health conditions. Deficiencies can show up every system.

Common clinical signs and symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency include:

General: headaches, impaired athletic performance, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, sleep disorders, weakness,

Mental: agitation, anxiety, depression, irritability, hyperactivity, low stress tolerance,

Muscles: muscle spasm, back aches, neck pain, cramps in the soles of the feet, leg cramps, calves and facial muscles,

Nerves/ CNS: migraines, poor memory, seizures, tremors, vertigo, muscle tension and cramping, clenching and bruxism of jaw and teeth, prickling sensation in upper extremities

Gastrointestinal tract: constipation, GI distress, vomiting, nausea

Cardio-metabolic health: Diabetes, Insulin resistance, high blood pressure, coronary spasm, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, Vascular calcifications

Electrolytes: sodium retention, low potassium and calcium blood levels

Metabolism: increased blood triglycerides and cholesterol levels, decreased glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, increased risk of metabolic syndrome, disturbances of bone and vitamin D metabolic, low vitamin D levels

Pregnancy: complications such as miscarriage, premature labour, preeclampsia,

Hormonal: PMS, menstrual cramps, irregular periods,

Others: asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, high blood pressure

Life-style precedents for Mg deficiency

  • Stress

  • Poor diet with an increased intake of refined, processed, and commercially prepared foods

  • Increased consumption of meats and dairy products

  • Gastro-intestinal disorders

  • Increased consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea and carbonated beverages

  • Some common medications including diuretics, asthma medications, birth control pills, proton pump inhibitors, and others

Magnesium in food

Magnesium content in vegetables and fruits has significantly declined since the 1950’s, and about 80% is lost during food processing - resulting in deficiency for most people. E.g: Typical grain refining processes for bread and pasta remove 80-95% of total magnesium.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) recommends ~ 400 mg/day which is the lowest dose to prevent disease. This is not the optimum level.

We lose about 200 - 300 mg daily in stools and urine, and minimal in sweating.

Food sources of magnesium are:

  • 🥜 Seeds: chia seeds, pumpkin,

  • 🥜Nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts

  • 🍫Cacao

  • 🥑Avocado

  • 🍌Banana

  • 🫘Legumes: chickpeas, black beans

  • 🥬Spinach, radish

  • 🌽Whole grains: sorghum, millets, brown rice, oats, corn

  • 🥛Cow and soy milk

  • And molasses

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplementation is safe, inexpensive and accessible and highly effective. But it can be can get kind of tricky because there are many different forms to choose from.

Each form of magnesium comes bound to a chelator that helps transport it where we want it to go in the body. Your specific needs will help you pick what form of magnesium is right for you.

Magnesium glycinate: Prevention of osteoporosis, heart disease, sleep, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure. High bioavailability and well tolerated

Magnesium chlorid: Leg cramps and muscle tightness. Well tolerated by those with gut issues like poor absorption or leaky gut. High bioavailability

Magnesium malate: Bone health, cardiovascular support, nerves and muscle function. High bioavailability and well tolerated

Magnesium threonate: Cognitive and overall brain health including the ability to improve memory and learning, and mood disorders such as depression

Magnesium citrate: Bone health, cardiovascular support, nerves and muscle function. It is also used to treat occasional constipation on a short-term basis.

Magnesium oxide: Also used as an antacid to relieve heartburn or acid indigestion. A laxative for short-term and to rapidly empty the bowel e.g. before surgery. It should not be used repeatedly.

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