Health specialists have always emphasized the importance of including adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in our daily diet. Magnesium, calcium, and zinc are three of the most important minerals essential for good health. Magnesium aids in the absorption of calcium by the body, while zinc actively supports the body’s immune system.
Every organ in the body — especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys — needs the mineral magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral for staying healthy and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Over 60% of all the magnesium in the body is found in the skeleton, about 27% is found in muscle, 6% to 7% is found in other cells, and less than 1% is found outside of cells. It also contributes to the makeup of teeth and bones and is required for their proper growth and maintenance. Most important, it activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, and helps regulate calcium levels, as well as copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients in the body.
Magnesium is also required for body temperature regulation, detoxification, the proper function of nerves and many other parts of the body. In the stomach, magnesium helps neutralize stomach acid and moves stools through the intestine.
What Is Magnesium?
It is a mineral that is present in relatively large amounts in the body. Researchers estimate that the average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. Dietary intake of magnesium may be low, particularly among women.
Why Take Magnesium?
People take magnesium to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon in the US. It’s particularly common among African Americans and the elderly.
Experts say that many people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough foods with magnesium. This mild magnesium deficiency could put them at risk for a number of diseases. According to a 1999-2000 NHANES study (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), 68% of Americans consumed less than the U.S. recommended daily allowance for magnesium. Studies showed that 45% consumed less than 75% of the recommended amount, and 19% consumed less than 50%. Adults who consumed less than the recommended amount of magnesium were about 1.5 times more likely to have elevated inflammation markers than adults who consumed the recommended amount.
Adults over 40 who consumed fewer than 50% of the recommended amount for magnesium and had a body mass index over 25 were twice as likely to have increased systemic inflammation, which can contribute to major health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Some people use magnesium for diseases of the heart and blood vessels including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of “good” cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, heart valve disease (mitral valve prolapse), and heart attack.
Magnesium is also used as a laxative for constipation and for preparation of the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures. It is also used as an antacid for acid indigestion.
Uses for Skin
Some people put magnesium on their skin to treat infected skin ulcers, boils, and carbuncles; and to speed up wound healing. Magnesium is also used as a cold compress in the treatment of a severe skin infection caused by strep bacteria (erysipelas) and as a hot compress for deep-seated skin infections.
Treatment Uses and Benefits
Magnesium is also used for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, leg cramps during pregnancy, diabetes, kidney stones, gall stones, migraine headaches, weak bones (osteoporosis), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), relief from symptoms of menopause, altitude sickness, urinary incontinence, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, asthma, hayfever, multiple sclerosis, helps prevent hearing loss and minimizes the risk of premature labor.
The other crucial health benefits of magnesium include protein synthesis, relief from bronchospasm (constricted airways) in the lungs, improvement of parathyroid function and boosting the bio-availability of vitamin B6.
The metabolism of carbohydrates and fats to produce energy requires numerous magnesium-dependent chemical reactions. Magnesium is required by the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-synthesizing protein in mitochondria. ATP, the molecule that provides energy for almost all metabolic processes, exists primarily as a complex with magnesium. Athletes sometimes use magnesium to increase energy and endurance.
Upsetting Magnesium Balance
Certain medical conditions, however, can upset the body’s magnesium balance. For example, an intestinal virus that causes vomiting or diarrhea can cause temporary magnesium deficiencies. Some gastrointestinal diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and ulcerative colitis), diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease, and taking diuretics can lead to deficiencies. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol, as well as heavy menstrual periods, excessive sweating, and prolonged stress can also lower magnesium levels.
Signs of Deficiency
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include agitation and anxiety, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, irritability, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle spasm and weakness, hyperventilation, insomnia, poor nail growth, and even seizures.
A deficiency in this critical nutrient makes you twice as likely to die as other people, according to a study published in The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine.
How to Get Magnesium
You can get magnesium from many foods. However, most people in the United States probably do not get as much magnesium as they should from their diet. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Rich sources of magnesium include tofu, legumes, whole grains, vegetables especially broccoli, squash and green leafy vegetables, Brazil nuts, soybean flour, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and squash seeds, pine nuts, black walnuts, buckwheat, filberts, millet, pecans, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, dandelion greens, and garlic.
Other good dietary sources of this mineral include peanuts, beet greens, spinach, pistachio nuts, rice bran cereals, bananas, and baked potatoes (with skin). Many herbs, spices, and seaweeds supply magnesium, such as kelp, dulse and agar seaweed, coriander, dill weed, celery seed, sage, dried mustard, basil, cocoa powder, fennel seed, savory, cumin seed, tarragon, marjoram and poppy seed.
Poor dietary habits, pharmaceutical drug use, and nutrient-depleted growing soils are among the most common reasons why many people today are dangerously deficient in the mineral magnesium.
So, as with most nutrients, daily needs for magnesium cannot be met from food alone which is why magnesium dietary supplements are recommended as well.
Since magnesium is required by the body to properly digest foods, supplementing with it can help:
1) Alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort and disease. Magnesium acts as a coenzyme in the digestive tract, which means it helps break down food and assimilate nutrients into your body. Magnesium also aids in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, as well as triggers the healthy production of bile in your liver.
2) Regulating healthy blood sugar levels. Magnesium deficiency is directly linked to causing insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to diabetes and other chronic health conditions.
3) Maintaining a healthy heart, as the mineral aids in the proper transport of potassium, calcium, and other nutrient ions across cell membranes. According to a 2006 study published in the journal Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, these nutrients help promote healthy nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.
4) Nurturing healthy bones. The mainstream media is constantly talking about the importance of calcium for maintaining healthy bones, but a much more important mineral for nurturing healthy bones is magnesium. In fact, roughly half of your body’s magnesium supply is stored in your bones, and magnesium also acts as a co-factor with both calcium and vitamin D to maintain and strengthen your bone structure.
5) Powerful detoxifier. Because of its strong elimination potential, magnesium is considered a strong detoxifier as well, especially since your body’s “master antioxidant,” glutathione, requires magnesium in order to function properly. Heavy metals, environmental chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, and various other toxins are greatly inhibited from taking hold inside the body when magnesium is present.
6) Greatly decrease your risk of developing cancer. A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that for every 100-milligram (mg) increase in magnesium intake, a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer drops by about 13 percent.
Look for a high quality magnesium supplement at your favorite health food store and follow the directions of your healthcare provider. It is best to do magnesium, calcium and zinc together. Most good supplements will be a combination of these minerals. You can also check out the supplements we use at my clinic for adults http://www.drbo.com/cal-mag-zinc and for children http://www.drbo.com/kids-cal-mag.
It is a good idea to take a B vitamin complex, or a multivitamin containing B vitamins, because the level of vitamin B6 in the body determines how much magnesium will be absorbed into the cells. To properly absorb magnesium we need a lot of it in our diet, plus enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium to get the job done.
Magnesium’s benefits can include reduced symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. Magnesium may also provide protection from a number of chronic diseases, especially those associated with aging and stress.
Recently re-discovered as an overlooked key to good health, a number of medical researchers are recommending increases to the RDA for magnesium — sometimes suggesting as much as double the current recommendations — to ensure protection from diseases such as osteoporosis and hypertension.
Essential to life, necessary for good health, and a vital component within our cells, magnesium’s benefits help our bodies maintain balance, avoid illness, perform well under stress, and maintain a general state of good health.
To Your Good Health,
About the Author:
Dr. Bo Wagner holds a Doctor of Natural Medicine, a Doctor of Naturopathy, a Ph.D. & Diplomate in Clinical Nutrition, is Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, a Fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine and a former Dean of Internal Wellness & Professor of Functional Medicine and currently serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Natural Medicine. Visit: www.drbo.com for more information and resources, and connect with Dr. Bo on Facebook and Twitter.
*These statements in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have a medical condition before beginning supplementation. Information contained in this bulletin is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician.
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