Magnesium is an essential mineral used by the body in over 300 different biochemical processes. Because magnesium is so widely used in the body, it is easy for it to become depleted especially when stressed, during party season or when your diet is not what it could be. Sound familiar?
common signs of magnesium deficiency
Because magnesium is essential to so many processes, its deficiency can be felt in a myriad of ways.
Magnesium plays a vital role in muscular signals and muscle contraction. Leg cramps are not only painful but can often signal a magnesium deficiency. Likewise, restless leg syndrome is also a warning sign.
Magnesium is vital for production of the calming neurotransmitter, GABA which promotes relaxation. Insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, irritability, nervousness and low resilience to stress can all point to a magnesium deficiency.
In conjunction with calcium, magnesium is necessary for regulating blood pressure. Those low in magnesium will tend towards hypertension or high blood pressure, putting them at risk for heart attack and ischemic stroke.
A diet high in magnesium has been shown to lower the risk of type II diabetes. Not only do magnesium-rich plant foods crowd out the processed, sugar-laden diet associated with diabetes, magnesium also has a prominent role in sugar metabolism.
Of the 300+ processes that require magnesium, cellular energy production is one of the vital ones. Low energy and fatigue are a very common symptom of magnesium deficiency.
Low magnesium levels have also been linked to migraine headaches due to its importance in neurotransmitter production and vascular dilation.
Bone health relies on magnesium. As an adult, our body contains about 25 grams of magnesium and about half to hat is in the bones. Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium while ensuring sufficient levels of calcium, potassium and Vitamin D3 can slow the development of osteoporosis.
We can’t talk about what goes in without looking at what comes out. Or, in the case of constipation, what isn’t. Constipation can be the result of various imbalances, although magnesium deficiency is always a potential factor. We remove undigested food and toxins via the bowels. If we are bunged up, these toxins are reabsorbed back into the system and transported to the liver for re-processing. This is called ‘autointoxication’ and is as disgusting as it sounds. This not only loads the liver and reduces it capacity to deal with it’s thousand other jobs, it causes inflammatory damage along the way.
are you at risk of deficiency?
Magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common. Whether you are getting enough not only relies on the quality of your diet, but also where and how the plants are grown and the state of your digestive system.
Modern farming practices including mono-culture, not resting soil, lack of crop rotation and use of synthetic fertilisers depletes the land, plants which are grown on it and we who consume the plants. Choosing organic and non-GMO wherever possible will go some way to improving the mineral health of your diet.
The most at-risk groups of magnesium deficiency include anyone with digestive or GI complaints. We are not only what we eat, but what we metabolise and absorb. Since most magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine, anyone with low digestive acids, enzymes and underperforming digestive system is at risk of malabsorption of minerals.
Those with type II diabetes or insulin resistance are known to struggle with mineral absorption. They also lose precious nutrients due to frequent and increased urination.
The elderly are at risk for a variety of reasons. We produce less digestive enzymes leaving us with a less robust and efficient digestive system. As a rule, and perhaps as a consequence, the elderly generally eat less magnesium rich foods. They also naturally experience reduced bone stores and excess urinary loss.
Anyone suffering alcohol abuse is at risk for pretty much all the reasons above. Alcohol not only robs us of valuable nutrients in order to metabolise and eliminate alcohols toxins, it prevents proper absorption and utilisation of the vitamins and minerals you do eat. Consuming more than 1-2 glasses of alcohol a week is fine for most people but much more than that can place undue heavy load on the liver. Alcohol also causes dehydration, imbalance in microbiome, compromises immune function and disturbs sleep patterns. All in all, this adds up to premature ageing.
how to improve your magnesium status
If you think you are low in magnesium, then increasing your dietary levels is the first place to start, and the sources are bountiful.
Foods highest in magnesium are chlorophyl-rich green leafy vegetables. Chlorophyl is often referred to as a plant’s ‘life blood’. It is similar to human blood with the one major difference: at the centre of human blood is iron, at the centre of chlorophyl is found magnesium. Adding 1-2 cups of spinach, kale, silver beet and/or chard at each main meal is an easy and effective way of getting more magnesium. Do like the europeans and start your meals with a small bitter leaf salad dressed with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and unrefined salt.
Nuts and seeds follow closely behind as a magnesium source, especially pumpkin seeds and almonds. Keep freshly ground LSAP (3 parts Linseed : 2 parts Sunflower Seeds : 1 part Almonds : 1 part pepita) in the fridge and sprinkle on porridge, yoghurt, cooked quinoa and rice dishes, salads and in shakes.
Black beans are a rich source of magnesium and other minerals. They are also a great source of plant protein PLUS provide extra support for your digestive tract. The fibre in black beans feeds the cells lining the colon and helps keep the lower digestive tract functioning properly. Typically found in Mexican and Brazilian dishes, black beans are delicious served with avocado, tomatoes, diced onions, cucumber and coriander in a salad. Black bean chilli is another simple favourite as is mixed with rice and a big bowl of steamed vegetables dressed in oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic and generous handfuls of herbs.
Just one square of raw dark chocolate provides around 90 milligrams of magnesium and makes a great guilt free treat. Thought that would make you smile!
Other great sources include yoghurt, avocado, salmon, coriander, goat cheese figs and bananas.
Last but by no means least is magnesium in supplement form. Sometimes stress, digestive disorders, little or no access to organic produce and party season scarper best laid plans. Like all supplements, some are better than others in terms of bioavailability, or that which is of use to the body, and whether they are free of unnecessary preservatives, binders and other additives. Please talk to me if you would like recommendations.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
How to avoid that afternoon slump
January 5, 2016
Farmer's Market Pharmacy
November 10, 2015
The longer we eat healthy foods, the better they taste