Magnesium is one of my favourite nutrients.
I fist became acquainted with how important magnesium is back when I was a first year naturopath student.
I used to consume coffee like it was going out of fashion in order to get me through assignments, deadlines and full time work. Until that is, I learned about magnesium.
You see coffee consumption actually works against the body when we are stressed, not only does it increase the excretion of B vitamins required to help combat stress, but it also triggers cortisol release.
Cortisol is one of the hormones released by the adrenals in times of stress, prolonged elevated cortisol associated with stress can have many major effects on human health including:
Stress is also associated with magnesium deficiency, as the increase in cortisol causes the body to excrete extra magnesium through the urine.
Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to several health conditions such as hypertension, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, heart attacks, constipation, anxiety & depression, chronic fatigue, and various conditions associated with hormonal imbalance.
So when I learned of this I decided to swop out the caffeine for a good quality magnesium supplement (we will go into that shortly) and the results were amazing, not only was I able to focus better but my levels of anxiety decreased, my sleep improved and I stopped getting those 3pm slumps were I would often crave something sweet.
You see magnesium is a member of the group of essential vitamins and minerals that cannot be manufactured within the body. Adequate amounts must be achieved through a combination of diet and supplementation.
The average healthy adult requires 320-420mg of magnesium a day, to put this into perspective 1 cup of spinach contains 157mg of magnesium, 1 medium avocado contains 80mg magnesium and 1 medium banana contains just 32mg of magnesium.
In Australia however an astounding 4 out of 5 adults are not meeting the recommended guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption. These guidelines suggest adults consume a minimum of 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. To put that into perspective 1 serve of vegetables equates to 75gm and 1 serves of fruit equates to 150gm of fresh fruit.
Other factors that contribute to magnesium deficiency include alcohol consumption, poor digestive function, a diet high in sugar and some medications such as diuretics and antibiotics.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include
Restless leg syndrome
Insomnia or sleep disturbance
Facial tics and eye twitches
Anxiety & depression
Poor memory and concentration
ASD & ADHD
Age related cognitive decline
Does this resonate? Our bodies have an amazing way of letting us know when we require certain nutrients; one such way is through cravings. Did you know chocolate cravings are actually a sign the body requires magnesium. As (good quality) chocolate is high in this mineral.
So why is magnesium a superhero?
When most people think of magnesium they often jump straight to exercise and muscle recovery, this is because magnesium is required for optimal muscle contraction and nerve impulse. But there is much more to magnesium than just sports recovery.
Magnesium is important for the optimal functioning of over 300 enzymes throughout the body; these enzymes are responsible for cellular metabolism, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, neurotransmitter function, blood pressure regulation and blood glucose control. Magnesium is also important for thyroid function, as it’s required to produce the right levels of thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH.
Magnesium and sleep
Magnesium is well known for its ability to relieve insomnia. This is due to magnesium's ability to decreases cortisol, the stress hormone that I spoke of earlier.
Cortisol has a natural pattern of rising in the morning to wake you up and tapering off in the evening as melatonin rises to help you fall asleep. When stress is high this pattern becomes disorderly and cortisol stays high throughout the night, preventing sleep.
Magnesium also helps sleep by relaxing muscles promoting a calm sleepy feeling.
Magnesium’s relationship with Calcium and vitamin D
Like all minerals in the body, magnesium should exist in balance; In particular there exists a relationship between magnesium, calcium and vitamin D.
Magnesium converts vitamin D into its active form, which helps to preserve bone structure and draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones, preventing osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis and heart disease.
An imbalance in one or more of these and homeostasis is lost.
Forms of Magnesium
While the best way to get magnesium is through the diet. In most cases a good quality magnesium supplement may be required. There are many forms of magnesium on the market. So which one to choose? Well this will depend on your specific needs.
Magnesium citrate offers a well-absorbed citrate chelate form of magnesium. Magnesium citrate has been shown to have significantly greater bioavailability than magnesium oxide, commonly found in many supplements. Studies have proven magnesium citrate produces the greatest mean serum magnesium concentration compared with magnesium amino acid chelate.
Magnesium orotate has an affinity for muscle such as the heart, making it a great addition to cardiovascular support.
Magnesium glycinate is fantastic for improving sleep onset and duration.
Magnesium theronate is the only form of magnesium that can cross the blood brain barrier. For this reason magnesium threonate is a great option for cognitive and neurotransmitter support. However this form of magnesium should be avoided in pregnancy.
If oral magnesium isn’t your think you can try transdermal forms of magnesium that are applied to the skin or used in the bath to gain absorption through the dermal layer of the skin. This may be of benefit to those who experience muscle cramping, restless leg syndrome or experience side effects associated with oral forms of magnesium. The best form of magnesium for this application is magnesium chloride.
Now your skilled up in the ways of magnesium, I bet your considering what green leafy vegetables you can add to your dinner tonight or maybe your thinking of racing out to purchase some.
It’s important to seek the advice of a health professional before beginning supplementation of any kind. If you think you may benefit from magnesium please feel free to get in contact or book an appointment to discuss your personal case.