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As many of you already know, when it comes to supplementation, I adhere to the philosophy that less is more. However, one mineral that is often overlooked and usually deficient in most people is magnesium…used in over 300 reactions in the body, you can see why it is so important. Here is how it is used by the body, in a nutshell…
Nervous System Health Mental and physical stress, with its related continuous flow of adrenaline, uses up magnesium rapidly, as adrenaline affects heart rate, blood pressure, vascular constriction and muscle contraction— actions that all demand steady supplies of magnesium for smooth function. Magnesium deficiency will accelerate a vicious cycle and amplify the effects of chronic stress, leading to more anxiety, irritability, fatigue and insomnia—many of the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion—as well as to hypertension and heart pains—symptoms of heart disease. Insufficient magnesium can also lead to or exacerbate symptoms of depression, as it is required to convert 5-HTP to serotonin, the “feel good” hormone.
Cardiovascular Health Magnesium works synergistically with calcium to control the electrical impulses of the cell, and is absolutely vital for the optimal functioning of cardiac muscle. It is also responsible for vascular tone and maintaining blood pressure.
Musculoskeletal Health Ask anyone what is needed for strong bones and teeth and inevitably the response will be, “Calcium.” While this is certainly true, without adequate magnesium, calcium will not be deposited in these hard tissues, and the structures will not be sound. “When you load up your system with excess calcium,” writes William Quesnell, in Minerals: the Essential Link to Health, “you shut down magnesium’s ability to activate thyrocalcitonin, a hormone that under normal circumstances would send calcium to your bones.”
Detoxification Magnesium is utilized by the body for all sorts of detoxification pathways and is necessary for the neutralization of toxins, overly acidic conditions that arise in the body, and for protection from heavy metals. It plays a vital role in protecting us from the onslaught of man-made chemicals all around us. When our bodies are replete with magnesium (and in balance with the other essential minerals) we are protected from heavy metal deposition and the development of associated neurological diseases.
Hormone Balance Partly due to its actions as a potent detoxifier, magnesium helps your body potentiate the activity of certain hormones – namely insulin, testosterone, DHEA, parathyroid hormone and estrogen. Estrogen dominance is very common and tends to be worse in women with a low magnesium status. Supplementation helps to treat symptoms associated with menses, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause. It is also incredibly helpful in helping to alleviate PMS symptoms, particularly those associated with irritability and cramping.
What happens if I don’t get enough? Low magnesium levels can manifest itself in any number of unexpected ways, contributing to muscle cramps, PMS, memory problems, heart irregularities, asthma, allergies, diabetes, restlessness, ADD and insomnia. It is also helpful in the treatment of headaches and migraines.
My advice? Research shows that up to 80% are deficient in this essential nutrient for a number of reasons – we use more than we intake, the soils are deficient, produce travels many miles for most of the year, and we don’t eat enough of the right types of foods that contain it. Even if you maintain a good diet, stress, alcohol/drug use, and exercise can still deplete your system of its magnesium requirements. My recommendation is don’t fall short, when it is so easy to get this vital nutrient into you. Depending on your individual factors, I would supplement from between 300-600 mg of magnesium glycinate at bedtime, the most bioavailable and well tolerated form available on the market today. Another option is to regular use a magnesium transdermal gel (often called “magnesium oil”), or take epsom salt baths regularly.
Where else can I find magnesium? Excellent dietary sources include – wild-caught Pacific Halibut, leafy greens, spinach, black beans, pumpkin and squash seeds. Adding a greens supplement daily is another great way to up your intake.