Magical Magnesium: Why you need it!
Why do you need Magnesium for your hormones, your gut and so much more?
Magnesium is an essential mineral so often overlooked in relation to iron and calcium. Yet is involved in at least 500 body processes in the human body. So why don’t we know more about it?
Understanding how to detect possible signs of a deficiency and how to boost your intake is at the heart of this article.
In all my years in practice, I think I explain to at least 90% of my clients why we need magnesium and why they may be lacking it. Yet when I start this conversation, few are aware of just why it is so crucial to their health and to their presenting symptoms. Magnesium is known as a co-factor supporting human processes. Without it these processes are impaired.
Magnesium’s roles and possible deficiency signs
Commonly known as Nature’s Tranquilizer it helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to keep you calm and feel in control. Increased states of anxiety may suggest you’re not getting enough.
Magnesium is involved in muscle function, working in synergy with calcium. Whereas, calcium supports muscle contraction, magnesium enables muscles to relax. Those that may be lacking sufficient intake may experience excess muscle contraction. This includes: constipation, headaches, restless legs, cramping, even contributing to asthma (constriction of airways).
Are you lacking energy and feeling fatigued? Magnesium plays an essential role in energy production turning glucose from your food into energy within the mitochondria (like battery packs in your cells).
Symptoms of energy dips, shakiness, inability to cope with stress and poor sleep may all be associated with poor blood sugar regulation. When blood glucose dips too low, it can lead to all these symptoms and more.
Magnesium is not only required for the utilisation of glucose, but for proper insulin regulation- the hormone controlling blood glucose. These early warning signs of a blood sugar imbalance could, if left alone, develop into more serious conditions like insulin resistance or diabetes.
Do you suffer PMS? Magnesium can be a lifesaver helping you sail through your monthly cycle. It’s important in the production of female hormones progesterone and oestrogen. From alleviating menstrual cramps, irritability, mood swings and menstrual headaches.
Struggling to Sleep?
Are you struggling to sleep? Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters (which send messages through the nervous system) especially those that help calm the body. And it has an important role in the use of the hormone melatonin that rises in the evening, preparing the body for sleep. Many people find an evening supplement of magnesium supports a better and more restful sleep.
If you find your blood pressure is creeping up, then consider if your magnesium intake is sufficient. It’s involved in the production of nitric oxide that relaxes the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely.
Last, but by no means least, magnesium has a crucial role in keeping bones strong and healthy. 60% of magnesium is found in bones but whilst calcium is the significant component of bone, it relies on magnesium for absorption into bone and to ensure it stays there.
How can we ensure we’re getting enough?
Since the adrenal glands use vast quantities of magnesium, if you’re experiencing high-stress levels, do all you can to calm the stress response. Stress will quickly deplete levels, no matter how much you’re consuming in your diet.
I often talk about stress-relieving techniques, and it’s always helpful to have a reminder. My favourite methods to switch the body from “fight and flight” to “rest and digest” are deep abdominal breathing, mindfulness, yoga, walking (especially in nature) and meditation.
Absorption of magnesium from the gut into the bloodstream requires good levels of stomach acid. If you experience digestive symptoms, you may not have enough. Mindful eating – taking time to chew food well and eat without distractions – is the first step to encourage good secretions.
Alcohol, caffeine (in coffee and fizzy drinks) and tannins (in tea) hinder magnesium absorption, so keep these to a minimum and avoid drinking these close to mealtimes.
Modern diets containing too much refined and processed foods deliver very low levels of magnesium. Levels of magnesium in vegetables may be 40% lower than the 1950s, since soil levels are so depleted due to intensive farming practices. You’ll need to consume more now than you did in the past.
The best sources are dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, Bok choy, Swiss chard, collard greens, rocket). You really should be eating two portions every day. I cup size contains c.150 mg – one third of your daily amount.
Nuts and seeds deliver good levels too, especially almonds, cashews and Brazils. A 25g serving contains c. 75 mg. Pumpkin seeds deliver 100 mg in just 2 tablespoons. Flax and chia are good sources too.
Other good sources are brown rice (never white), fish, pulses and avocado.
Supplementing magnesium in the form of magnesium citrate may be helpful if you experience one or more of the symptoms above. Always start with dietary sources, but for the reasons mentioned, you may require more for optimum levels. Whilst magnesium is a very safe mineral, it is always best to consult a professional nutritionist for guidance.
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