Magnesium: Why it's important and why it's the top deficiency in the developed world
Updated: Feb 10
So, I can guess that you have been reading and hearing a lot about magnesium in the last couple of years, but why is it so important?
What is truly unique about this mineral is that it is essential for over 300 different chemical reactions in the body, including maintaining your energy level, helping you relax, and sustaining your heart and blood vessels' health. Unfortunately, in most of the developed world, magnesium deficiency is probably the most common nutritional deficiency.
Whoa, why would the developed world be deficient?
1. Do you drink carbonated beverages regularly?
Most dark-coloured sodas contain phosphates. These substances bind with magnesium inside the digestive tract, rendering it unavailable to the body. Even if you are eating a balanced diet, you are flushing magnesium out of your system by drinking soda with your meals.
2. Do you regularly eat pastries, cakes, desserts, candies or other sweet foods?
Refined sugar is not only a zero magnesium product, but it also causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys.
3. Do you experience a lot of stress in your life?
Stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency, and a lack of magnesium tends to magnify the stress reaction, worsening the problem. In studies, adrenaline and cortisol, byproducts of the "fight or flight" reaction associated with stress and anxiety, were associated with decreased magnesium.
Because stressful conditions require more magnesium use by the body, all such conditions may lead to deficiency, including psychological and physical forms of stress such as surgery, burns, and chronic disease.
4. Do you drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks daily?
Magnesium levels are controlled mainly by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess magnesium and other minerals. But caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of body status.
5. Do you take a diuretic, heart medication, asthma medication, birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy?
Certain drugs have been shown to reduce magnesium levels in the body by increasing magnesium loss through excretion by the kidneys.
6. Do you drink more than seven alcoholic beverages per week?
The effect of alcohol on magnesium levels is similar to diuretics' effect: it lowers magnesium available to the cells by increasing the excretion of magnesium by the kidneys.
What is magnesium good for?
One of its most common uses is alleviating constipation; you may recognize it as the active ingredient in well-known over-the-counter laxative medicines.
It is also a natural calcium-channel blocker – many integrative medicine practitioners have used magnesium supplements to help lower blood pressure and maintain healthy blood pressure.
While we often hear about calcium's importance for bones, magnesium is the other essential mineral for healthy bones. And because so many people take calcium pills without magnesium, there may be a greater need for magnesium than for calcium in people who are most vulnerable to osteoporosis.
Magnesium is probably the most critical nutrient for that energy powerhouse, the human heart; it helps the heart muscle function better.
Magnesium also helps protect blood vessels, where most of what we call heart disease happens. Magnesium is also a natural blood thinner, much like aspirin, so many doctors and researchers believe it may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Perhaps the area where magnesium could have the most significant impact is in the prevention of diabetes: Scientists have proven that magnesium levels are low in people with diabetes; people with higher magnesium levels do not develop diabetes, and it appears to help reverse pre-diabetes.
Do you experience any of these symptoms?
Behavioural disturbances, irritability and anxiety, lethargy, impaired memory, cognitive function, anorexia or loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, seizures
Weakness, muscle spasms (tetany), tics, muscle cramps, hyperactive reflexes, impaired muscle coordination (ataxia), tremors, involuntary eye movements and vertigo, difficulty swallowing
Increased intracellular calcium (bumps around wrists or other joints), hyperglycemia, calcium deficiency, potassium deficiency
Irregular or rapid heartbeat, coronary spasms
As with all minerals in foods, the mineral has to be present in the soil where the food is grown; that is why it is hard for us to get enough of this remarkable mineral. Our soils are depleted, and with all the processes we have in place with food shipping and preserving, we lose the ability to get it in our food. That is why organic is the best!
The best food sources of magnesium are:
Beans, especially soy.
Whole grains, including bran.
Nuts like almonds and brazil nuts.
Seeds, including flaxseed, sesame, and sunflower.
Dry cacao powder, and thus dark chocolate, is also an excellent (and incredibly tasty!) source.
The best way to absorb magnesium is by skin application. You can buy magnesium creams or oils at your local natural health store or make your own. You can also enjoy Epson salt baths. Taking a high-grade, good-quality magnesium supplement before going to sleep is also a fantastic way to give your body a boost.
If you have any questions about brands of magnesium, please send me a message.