Magnesium is an essential mineral that is needed for over 300 chemical reactions in our bodies.
It helps to manage normal nerve and muscle function, aids a healthy immune system, keeps the heartbeat steady, and helps bones remain strong. Magnesium also helps to adjust blood sugar levels and assists in the production of energy and protein.
Magnesium is a cofactor nutrient for other minerals, including calcium and chromium, meaning these other minerals don’t work efficiently without magnesium.
As we get older, we need more of this mineral to support our bodies. This is especially important for women in per-menopause and menopause because it helps balance hormones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.
In this article I’ll explain the signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency and suggest some magnesium-rich foods to introduce into your diet and daily supplements.
Whatever our age or stage in life, we all need to make sure we get enough magnesium in our diet.
Here are some signs of magnesium deficiency
If you experience any of the following, you could be magnesium deficient:
- Muscle cramps and muscle spasms.
- Restless legs, especially at night.
- Twitching eyes.
- A craving for chocolate.
- PMT (pre menstrual tension and period cramps and pains).
- Headaches and migraines.
- High blood pressure.
- Low mood or depression.
- Feeling anxious.
- Difficulty in falling asleep.
The major benefits of magnesium
Magnesium is necessary for transmitting nerve impulses, making cellular energy and keeping our immune system healthy.
It’s also known as nature’s tranquilizer, and will improve stress and mood. A lack of magnesium has been linked to low serotonin levels, the feel good hormone that makes us happy.
As it helps to keep the nervous system calm, it can reduce the impact stress has on us.
It works to help in creating certain hormones in the body, including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is especially important when we get older and our reproductive hormones start to naturally decline.
Research shows that magnesium can help reduce migraines and headaches, especially menstrual-related migraines.
It helps relax muscles and counteracts the contracting effect of calcium. You need both magnesium and calcium together as one supports the other. Without magnesium, calcium would become toxic, depositing itself in soft tissue, which can lead to arthritis.
It improves our energy levels, this is because magnesium is at work in every cell of our body. It helps convert food into energy, regulate our nervous system and creates new proteins which gives us more energy.
Magnesium strengthens our bones by activating calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients work together to ensure healthy bones. People with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
It will prevent sugar cravings and balance blood sugar levels. A deficiency will cause intense sugar cravings, especially for chocolate.
It improves sleep as it produces a neurotransmitter called GABA which will relax and calm both body and mind.
How our lifestyles hinder magnesium absorption
Our busy lives, stress and quick-fixes in food and drink choices can really deplete our bodies of magnesium and hinder its absorption. Try to cut down or avoid:
- Alcohol and caffeine.
- Junk food and processed food.
- Smoking and recreational drugs.
- Cooking vegetables at high temperatures as this can cause mineral loss.
Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is a cofactor nutrient and is required for the absorption of magnesium. Ensure you get out in daylight or take a vitamin D supplement.
Foods that contain magnesium
I would recommend taking a good magnesium supplement but there are foods which are rich in magnesium which you can add into your diet.
Try to eat whole foods and organic as much as possible and cook everything from scratch.
The following foods are rich in magnesium.
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, chard.
- Almonds and cashews
- Lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans
- Brown rice, quinoa, millet, bran, buckwheat
- Salmon and mackerel
- Chia seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Steam or eat your vegetables raw to ensure you get the most nutrition from them.
Supplements, dosage and best forms of Magnesium
There are many products on the high street and there has been some debate around whether magnesium is best taken as a spray or cream absorbed through the skin or as a supplement taken orally. However, there are increasing claims of the effectiveness and superiority of transdermal (through the skin) magnesium over oral as the ultimate way to replenish our magnesium levels. This is because it passes directly into the tissues via the skin, where it should quickly be transported to cells throughout the body.
Before supplementing I would advise to have a blood test to check your magnesium levels.
The best form to take is magnesium citrate. This form is highly bioavailable, and it’s easily absorbed into our cells.
You want to avoid Magnesium Oxide as it is poorly absorbed and is found in cheap supplements.
How much you need depends on age, gender and health issues. Usually men can take 400-420mg per day and women 320-360mg per day.
You can find magnesium products in tablets, sprays, oils and creams.
Epsom salts are a great source of magnesium. Take a weekly bath in 2 cups of salts for over 20 minutes for maximum absorption. If you struggle to fall asleep at night, then add a few drops of lavender oil for the ultimate relaxation.
I hope you have found this article post useful and can see the many benefits of getting enough magnesium into our diet.
I would love to hear from you if you have achieved this and noticed the improvements. And, as always, if you have any questions please get in touch.