Magnesium, a trace mineral, is necessary for many processes in the human body. There are several different forms of magnesium, each with their own set of pros and cons. Each form is absorbed differently in the body. For example, magnesium citrate can be used to help with digestive issues as well as anxiety. Magnesium oil helps muscles recover after a grueling workout or back to back athletic events. Epsom salts also help muscles recover, but when used in a weekly bath, it can support detoxification of potential pollutants encountered over the week. Most individuals are deficient in this mineral, requiring supplementation or improved dietary choices to reach adequate levels and optimal health.
Magnesium is an essential element involved in literally hundreds of enzymatic reactions affecting virtually all aspects of life. It aids in many processes in the body including converting food to energy, helping create proteins, regulating neurotransmission, muscle function and creating and repairing DNA and RNA. Additionally, magnesium has been found to play a role in sport performance, decreasing risk of depression, lowering blood pressure and relieving migraines as well as supporting bone, kidney and digestive health.
Magnesium is important to help other vitamins and minerals work in the body and vice versa. Working with calcium, it helps muscles to contract and relax. Vitamin D needs magnesium to convert the Vitamin D to its active form in the body. Maintaining appropriate ratios of magnesium to other vitamins and minerals in the body is important to keep the body healthy and functioning at it’s best.
Fortunately, magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. Unfortunately, many foods that have magnesium in them also contain phytic, oxalates or tannins which inhibit the absorption of magnesium. Therefore, not only are our food sources lower in magnesium than in generations past, but in the foods which do contain magnesium, many of them have other agents negatively affecting the amount of magnesium which can be absorbed by the body.
Excess amounts of magnesium, also known as hypermagnesemia, is rare unless other conditions exist such as kidney failure, heart disease or gastrointestinal disorders. Hypermagnesemia does not usually occur from overconsumption of magnesium rich foods, rather, it is usually caused by excess supplementation or supplementation with pre-existing conditions where magnesium is not well-tolerated. Symptoms of magnesium overdose include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, lethargy, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, respiratory distress and cardiac arrest.
Most Americans, consuming the standard American diet (SAD), are deficient in magnesium. The shift toward processed foods in combination with foods containing less magnesium in them than in previous generations has made obtaining adequate levels of magnesium very difficult. Additionally, the SAD, which is already low in magnesium, is high in sugar. Sugar makes it difficult for magnesium to be absorbed correctly into the body when it takes 28 magnesium molecules to metabolize one glucose molecule! In addition to sugar in the SAD, consumption of soda beverages is high.
The phosphorus found in sodas binds to magnesium making it unusable to the body, furthering potential deficiency risk. Phosphorus reduces the body's ability to store minerals. A simple way to make magnesium more bioavailable in your body is to ditch the soda, which will, in turn, improve your overall health.
Symptoms of insufficient magnesium levels in the body may include insomnia, anxiety, depression, muscle soreness, PMS symptoms, headaches, fatigue, foggy brain, body odor, insulin resistance, cravings for carbohydrates, thyroid problems and gut disorders. Since magnesium is used in many different processes throughout the body, it makes sense that a deficiency in it would affect all parts of the body as well. Additionally, research has shown that intestine, kidney and bone health are all affected by low magnesium levels.
Overfarming, including not rotating crops and overuse of synthetic fertilizers strips soil of its nutrients. Healthier produce begins with healthy soil. While the concept of “cleaning” our soil seems like an oxymoron, it is, essentially, purging the soil of toxins and giving soil the nutrients it needs. Organic farming limits the usage of synthetic fertilizers which can rob the soil of the nutrients it needs and, therefore, the crops grown in it.
Modern food has significantly less nutrients than the same foods did in generations past. There has been a 21% decline in the amount of magnesium in milk products from 1940-2002. Parmesan cheese contains 70% less magnesium since 1940 and corned beef contains 48% less. Not only are our vegetables losing nutrients, but our meat and dairy products are as well. When the soil is deplete, the grass that cows eat, for example, contain less nutrients, leading to a malnourished animal.
Magnesium plays a vital role in human health. While the SAD does not provide sufficient magnesium, changes can be made to an individual’s diet to support health. By consuming foods such as leafy greens, sea vegetables, dark chocolate, seeds, nuts, legumes, avocado, figs and banana magnesium levels can be restored to optimal levels. Consuming food in it’s least processed form is best as magnesium is often lost in processing practices. For example, wheat is a good source of magnesium, although much much of the magnesium is lost when bran and the germ are removed during the milling process.
Magnesium can be supplemented in various forms, each with their own set of pros and cons. Oral supplements such as magnesium citrate and magnesium malate are well absorbed but can have an undesired laxative effect. Ionic magnesium can be added to liquids throughout the day (also known as “micro-dosing”), which can help prevent loose stools. Magnesium sulfate is likely the most familiar. Epsom salt is a tried and true remedy for healing injuries and aiding in muscle recovery. Additionally, a bath with magnesium sulfate helps to detoxify the body. Unfortunately, much of the magnesium absorbed in this method is lost through the urine. Magnesium oil can be applied topically through a spray. The benefit of absorbing the magnesium transdermally is the avoidance of the gastrointestinal system as magnesium can cause a laxative effect when used in larger quantities.
Magnesium supplementation may be necessary for many individuals who either dislike magnesium rich foods or cannot tolerate them for one reason or another. Because of magnesium’s important role in human health, ensuring adequate levels of this mineral in appropriate ratios within the diet is essential.