Updated: Jul 21, 2019
In a previous blog, I wrote about how changes in agricultural processes over the last 50-100 years have led to a depletion in soil vitamins and minerals. This includes magnesium. In fact, magnesium levels in plant foods have decreased so considerably, that it is estimated that two thirds of people in developed countries receive less than their minimum daily requirement of Magnesium.
Another cause of magnesium deficiency is the Western Diet high in refined sugars and glucose. In order to metabolise only 1 molecule of glucose into energy, many molecules of magnesium are required to catalyse the process. Thus, a diet high in refined sugars quickly depletes our Magnesium levels.
Why is this an issue? Magnesium is an essential element required as a cofactor for over 300 reactions in the body. Low levels of magnesium can potentially cause a number of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease (e.g. stroke), migraine headaches, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Below are just some general symptoms that may be caused by magnesium deficiency; symptoms that affect many people in the developing world today.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Muscle cramping and aching
How many of you have woken up in the middle of the night with an excruciating calf cramp? Or maybe as a child, you consistently experienced muscle pain and were told they were simply “growing pains.” Chances are, you were magnesium deficient! Magnesium is closely linked with muscle relaxation, and can be extremely helpful in treating muscle cramping or aches.
Anxiety and Depression
How many teens and young adults are struggling with Anxiety these days? Too many in my opinion! Might there be a link between magnesium deficiency and anxiety during this age group? It think there may be. During puberty, girls begin menstruating and both girls and boys undergo a massive growth spurt. Both these occurrences use up a lot of magnesium, potentially leading to magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium helps to inhibits sympathy nervous system activity, which is your ‘flight or fight’ nervous system that is activated during times of stress. This is one of the ways magnesium helps to reduce anxiety. A study published in 2017 even showed that Magnesium supplementation is effective for mild-to-moderate depression in adults.
Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
Do you have difficulty getting to sleep, wake up frequently, wake up early, or feel unrefreshed on waking? This may be due to a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to assist in improving sleep quality, as well as reducing cortisol (the stress hormone), and increasing melatonin (the sleep hormone).
High Blood Pressure
Randomised Control Trials have shown that patients with hypertension who supplement with magnesium experienced a decrease in their Blood Pressure, compared with patients who were given a placebo. This is because magnesium works to widen the diameter of blood vessels to allow unobstructed flow of blood through your circulatory system.
Type II Diabetes
Magnesium can assist in the management and prevention of Type II diabetes, due to a mechanism I mentioned earlier. Magnesium is essential for the utilisation of glucose. In patients with Type II diabetes, due to a state of insulin resistance, they struggle to effectively use glucose in their cells. Consequently, glucose remains in the blood stream creating a whole host of problems. Because magnesium can positively assist the body in glucose metabolism, estimates have been made that adequate magnesium levels can reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes by up to 15% .
Although the mechanism is not fully understood yet, Magnesium may play a role in reducing fatigue. Studies have shown that it reduces fatigue scores in patients with diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
Magnesium can reduce the severity and occurrence of Migraine headaches as well! This is because magnesium concentrations can impact on serotonin receptors in the brain, as well as the vasodilation of blood vessels and a variety of other neurotransmitters (nervous system communication chemicals).
Finally, magnesium deficiency contributes to osteoporosis, which occurs when bones become porous and weak. Therefore, maintaining adequate magnesium levels can be helpful in preventing osteoporosis in the elderly.
How to make sure you’re getting enough!
Food sources of magnesium
Often, processes involving refining of foods significantly depletes the foods original magnesium content. Below is a list of whole, unrefined foods that are a great source of magnesium:
- Nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
- Green leafy vegetables (such as Spinach)
- Legumes and Beans (including black beans, peanuts and edamame)
- Potato (with skin on)
It may be hard to know which magnesium supplement is best for you. Below is a basic guide outlining how different forms of magnesium work in the body, so you can choose the type that is most beneficial for you!
Most of us would benefit from a range of these types, so if you're not sure, I recommend trying to find a supplement that has a blend of these different types. For example, the Herbs of Gold Magnesium Forte.
P.S - If you thought it was only humans who need to ensure they're getting enough magnesium, think again! Magnesium is just as important for dogs as it is for us! Click here for a comprehensive guide on what the optimum level of magnesium for dogs is.