Magnesium: Nature’s Miracle Mineral

Many years ago while working as an Emergency Room nurse, I remember magnesium as the “miracle” mineral. If a patient had a life-threatening arrythmia (irregular heartbeat), you’d see one of us nurses rushing to the medication cart to grab the IV equipment. In the maternity ward, if a woman had pregnancy induced hypertension or was in danger of pre-term labor, magnesium would slow it down. On the cardiac intensive care unit, if a patient was constipated, a bottle of magnesium citrate was ordered to help reduce any further stress on their heart. What I didn’t know then was how much of a miracle magnesium really was for every day use.

 

The Many Roles of Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the body’s most essential minerals, needed for the correct function of over 350 biochemical reactions in the body including maintenance of normal nerve and muscle function, regulation of blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and support of a healthy immune system. Magnesium helps to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels which is essential for brain function and also plays a critical role in the production of ATP (energy molecules) and protein synthesis.

Contrary to popular belief, magnesium is more important for bone health than calcium. Without a sufficient level of magnesium, your body cannot:

  • properly produce calcitonin, a hormone that transports calcium from the blood stream and tissues into the bone
  • regulate parathyroid hormone which keeps calcium levels in a tightly controlled range
  • convert Vitamin D into its active form which helps absorb calcium

Magnesium’s role in heart and kidney health is well established. Magnesium is especially important for people with heart disease as it helps:

  • Dilate blood vessels to lower blood pressure
  • Prevent spasm in heart muscle and blood vessel walls
  • Counteract the action of calcium which increases spasm
  • Dissolve blood clots
  • Acts as an antioxidant against free radicals

For the kidneys, magnesium increases the solubility or ‘breakdown’ of calcium in the urine, which in turn reduces the likelihood of kidney stones.

Many practitioners tout magnesium as the body’s “relaxation” mineral. From head to toe, magnesium helps dilate smooth vessels and relax muscles, relieving common ailments such as: constipation, muscle spasms and tightness, PMS, migraines, menstrual cramps, headaches, anxiety, irritable mood, depression, insomnia, irritable bowel and gastric reflux.

Magnesium deficiency has been lined to higher levels of C-reactive protein which reflects inflammation in the body. Correcting low magnesium levels may help with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma and osteoporosis.

Signs and Symptoms

Approximately 60% of the body’s magnesium is found in bone, 25 percent in muscle and the remainder in soft tissues and bodily fluids. Only a small fraction of the body’s magnesium is found in the bloodstream which means that blood testing does not truly reflect the body’s total store of magnesium. This also means that it is absolutely possible to have magnesium deficiency without even knowing it!

Magnesium deficiency is, in fact, very common. Many of us eat diets that are very low in magnesium to begin with — processed, refined foods largely filled with white flour, meet and dairy. Nutrient poor soil is also common, even for produce marked as “organic.” In addition, magnesium is depleted by chronic stress, excess alcohol, salt, coffee, certain antibiotics, diuretics (fluid pills), diarrhea and excess sweating. Magnesium deficiency is very common in the geriatric population and in women during the premenstrual cycle. To top it off, magnesium is poorly absorbed by itself. It requires Vitamin B6, Vitamin D and selenium in order to be properly absorbed.

Common symptoms and conditions related to magnesium deficiency can include:

  • Muscle cramps or twitches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritable mood
  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations
  • Constipation
  • Anal spasms
  • Tension headaches
  • Migraines
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • PMS
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastric Reflux

How Much You Need

The established recommended daily allowance (RDA) is believed to be about 300mg per day for adult females and 350mg daily for adult males, however the actual therapeutic dose is unknown. The average intake of magnesium through diet by healthy American adults is between 145-250mg daily which is significantly less than the RDA. Higher doses can be prescribed for disease prevention or treatment of conditions like hypertension, migraine headaches, anxiety, insomnia and others. Too little magnesium can result in muscle weakness, muscle spasms, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, irritable mood, nervousness and confusion. Overdosing on magnesium is rare in healthy individuals since the kidneys are responsible for eliminating any excess however if the kidneys are impaired, excess magnesium can occur causing diarrhea, nausea and confusion.

 

Balance Your Plate

Best known sources of magnesium include kelp and other seaweeds, wheat bran, wheat germ, whole grains, nuts and tofu. Fish, meat, milk, and most commonly eaten fruits are low in magnesium.

 

Facts & Tips On Supplements

Forms for magnesium supplementation are capsule, tablet and powder.

  • For many common conditions, most people benefit from 400 to 800 mg a day.
  • Research shows that magnesium citrate is the form most readily absorbed by the body, followed by magnesium glycinate taurate and magnesium aspartate.
  • Magnesium oxide, sulfate, carbonate and gluconate are the least expensive but also the most poorly absorbed.
  • If you’re taking a magnesium supplement be sure to include adequate calcium supplementation as well since imbalances in these two important minerals can minimize their beneficial effects.

 

Cautions

People with kidney disease should always consult their physician before taking magnesium.
Magnesium can make certain antibiotics less effective, particularly tetracyclines.
Always talk to your own medical provider before beginning a supplement of any kind.

 

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