magnesiumTo achieve optimal health and well being, experts agree that, along with regular physical exercise, we should consume plenty of healthy, nutritionally balanced foods. Our diets should include lots of fresh produce to supply nutrients for our bodies. Many people choose to supplement their diets with vitamins, which do play a vital role in overall wellness.  It is important to also include trace minerals.  Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral within the human body.  It is found in many different foods including dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, and dark chocolate.  However, healthy diets are no guarantee of adequate magnesium, and if there is a deficiency, it can affect health in many ways.

Magnesium is a factor or cofactor in at least 700 individual biochemical and physiological reactions within the body. It provides benefits for numerous systems, including the muscular skeletal system, the cardiovascular system, and the central nervous system. Magnesium also plays a vital role in our disease prevention and treatment, and has been used successfully in patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines, heart disease, osteoporosis, anxiety, and insomnia.

Nutritional experts recommend consuming a minimum of 410mg for people aged 14 – 18, 400mg for people aged 19 – 30, and anything from 320mg and 420mg for individuals aged 30 and older.  However, many people need much more magnesium and they either have poor absorption or increased elimination of this important mineral.

Much of the soil in which our food is grown today is seriously depleted in minerals. This has been due to many years of crop growing to produce maximum yields without period of regeneration. As such, there are significantly less minerals available to plants as they are growing and this result in our food being mineral-deficient. The issue is further complicated by our diets and lifestyles that also contribute to magnesium deficiencies. We consumption of “soft” water that is lacking in natural minerals, we take recreational and pharmaceutical drugs that can interfere with magnesium absorption rates, and we live in almost constant stress in our modern world, creating digestive disorders that prevent nutrient absorption.

It is estimated that slightly more than 70 to 80% of North Americas are deficient in magnesium to some degree. This may play a role in higher levels of anxiety, weakness, fatigue, heart disease, poor cognitive function, and other degenerative diseases over time.

Supplementation with magnesium may be helpful for many people. Possible benefits include:

Muscle Relaxation – Magnesium relaxes muscles will calcium contracts them. With muscle spasms, cramps, and twitches, sometimes supplementation with oral or transdermal (through the skin) magnesium can be very helpful.

Improved Athletic Performance – If you are actively involved in sports, or if you’d simply like to get more out of your workouts, you may wish to consider including a magnesium supplement as part of your daily supplement stack. Magnesium has been found to shuttle glycogen into your muscles, while simultaneously disposing of lactic acid while you exercise. Your muscles use glycogen as a primary source of energy for physical exertion, whereas lactic acid is a by-product produced as a result of exercise, and that causes muscle cramps and fatigue. Put simply, magnesium can help you to increase your energy levels during exercise, while ensuring you ward off the effects of tiredness and fatigue.

Improved Brain Function – Magnesium also plays a role in the support of cognitive health and function. Research with magnesium supplementation found improved focus and concentration among those studied, as well as enhanced short and long-term memory. This is very promising as it may help to prevent degenerative diseases later in life, such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Support for Cardiovascular Disease – Hypertension, or high blood pressure, as it is better known, is a common and potentially serious health condition. It has been linked with many ailments, including heart disease, stroke, heart attack, organ failure, collapsed arteries to name a few. Studies have revealed that supplementing with daily magnesium can lower both systolic, and diastolic blood pressure (both upper and lower numbers in the reading).  This is likely due to magnesium acting as a natural “calcium channel blocker” to support relaxation of the heart muscles.

There is evidence to suggest that this mineral can also act as a kind of natural statin, as is slows down the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase that catalyzes the body’s production of cholesterol. (Inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase is the target of most statin drugs.) Other research has correlated low magnesium levels with higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and while higher levels are present with more “good” HDL cholesterol.

According a National Institutes of Health article:

“Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.”

Bone Health – As we grow older, much of our skeleton becomes more brittle, putting us at increased risk for conditions such as osteoporosis and brittle bone disease. Numerous studies have revealed that magnesium supplementation can increase calcium absorption rates in bones, which then increases bone density levels.

It is interesting that even with all the calcium supplementation today, rate of osteoporosis continue to rise. When calcium and Vitamin D are used to support calcium absorption without accompanying magnesium supplementation, a magnesium deficiency results which can promote bone loss. It may be that supplementation with magnesium is very helpful as we age.

There are many ways to supplement with magnesium. These include both oral and transdermal routes:

Magnesium citrate – Magnesium citrate is derived from the salts found naturally within citric acid, and has a very high bioavailability of around 90%. This supplement is ideal for people suffering from constipation, and is also use to prevent kidney stones.  A common preparation is Natural Calm, which many people take twice daily. Start out at a low dose and build up your tolerance gradually.

Magnesium oxide – Commonly referred to as magnesia, this supplement is used naturally as a treatment for acid reflux, as well as for treatment for constipation and upset stomachs. Take care with this formulation can be very powerful to flush the intestines.

Magnesium chelates – Chelated magnesium is a magnesium supplement bound to a negatively charged group, in two or more locations. As it is chelated, it is far more likely to make its way from the stomach, all the way to the small intestines, without being damaged and broken down by natural stomach acids. This is important because it allows more of the supplement to be absorbed and also reduces the laxative effect.

Magnesium sulfate – The wonders of Epsom salt have been known for many years, with benefits to mind, body, and spirit. In a warm water bath, magnesium sulfate is absorbed through the skin. The Epsom salt bath helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. It is also helpful to ease pain and relieve inflammation.  Taken internally (dissolving a little in a glass of water), Epson salt acts as a detoxifying agent, and supports elimination.

Transdermal magnesium – My favorite way to supplement with magnesium is to use magnesium oil or gel directly on the skin. It is well absorbed and can have both local effects for relaxation as well as systemic effects a bit later. This can be done with an Epsom Salt bath or by apply the oil or gel on your stiff or sore muscles.

Magnesium is both safe and well tolerated for optimal health. Deficiencies of this mineral have been associated with multiple health conditions. I consider magnesium supplementation a cornerstone of my health regimen and suggest oral and/or transdermal magnesium supplements to most of my clients.

An excellent resource on magnesium is a book called the Magnesium Miracle by Caroline Dean.