When most people think of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients, some of the ones that come to mind most often are iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin C and vitamin D. However, magnesium plays an enormous role in our health.
In fact, after oxygen, water and basic food, you could argue that magnesium is the most important element in the human body.
Magnesium is a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions that keep the human body functioning properly. Magnesium supports proper nerve and muscle function, the immune system, a regular heartbeat, bone strength and growth, strong cell structure, energy and protein production, and the regulation of blood glucose levels.
An important electrolyte, Magnesuim helps to keep the body’s fluids balanced in order to maintain normal muscle, nerve, and enzyme function. Magnesium also helps the body move other electrolytes in and out of cells.
Magnesium has been prescribed by doctors to treat constipation, heartburn, high blood pressure during pregnancy, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other conditions. Ongoing research suggests that magnesium may also be used to prevent and manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, diabetes and asthma.
About half of our magnesium is found in our bones and about one percent of magnesium is in our blood. We can also get magnesium in our diet from many of the same foods that are good sources of fiber, like leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, etc.), nuts, peas and beans, whole grains and bananas. Athletes often look to magnesium for better muscular contraction and boost endurance.
Supplements may also be taken to treat or prevent magnesium deficiency, which tends to be more common in women and the elderly. High consumption of sugary sweets, caffeinated drinks and alcohol can contribute to magnesium deficiency. Physical and psychological stress, gastrointestinal disorders, and kidney issues have also been associated with decreased magnesium.
This can lead to destabilized immune and nervous systems, which can cause inflammation and hyper-excitability. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, magnesium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, stroke and type II diabetes. Low magnesium has also been associated with Metabolic Syndrome, a group of medical disorders that together can increase the risk of chronic illness.
The problem with magnesium deficiency is that it’s difficult to diagnose. As I said previously, only one percent of the body’s magnesium is found in the blood, so blood testing is largely ineffective. As important as magnesium is to our proper body function, some experts believe that magnesium deficiency could cause more diseases than any other nutrient, simply because it’s so hard to diagnose.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency tend to start subtly. Early symptoms include muscle twitches, confusion, memory loss, fatigue and irritability. Moderate deficiency symptoms typically involve irregularities with the heart, such as a rapid heartbeat. More severe deficiency can result in muscle contraction, numbness and tingling, as well as hallucinations and severe confusion, or delirium.
The best thing we can do to make sure we’re getting enough magnesium is to watch what we eat. Go heavy on the leafy greens and cut back on the sweets. Most multivitamins contain the key nutrients we get in food, including magnesium. I also take a 400-1000 milligram magnesium supplement each day in addition to my multivitamin.
Of course, not all supplements are created equal. You shouldn’t take any supplement without having the actual supplement checked out by someone who is trustworthy and regularly prescribes nutritional supplements. Your doctor should be part of this process, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
If you think you may be dealing with magnesium deficiency, talk to your doctor, or schedule an appointment with me at Natural Healthcare Center.