Magnesium is a vital mineral found throughout the body. It works with an astounding 300+ different systems within the body, everything from protein synthesis to blood pressure regulation. It is one of many cogs in the human machine that lends a hand in ensuring everything works properly. Magnesium's cofactor function makes it an especially important in the body as a deficiency will literally affect the entire body, even if you're otherwise consuming the proper nutrients.
Typically an adult has an approximately 25 mg of magnesium present in their body at all times, with more than half of this amount located in the bones. The kidneys are responsible for majority of magnesium management in the body. The body will excrete roughly 120 mg of extra magnesium through the urine every day. The RDA recommends the average adult gets about 320 mg to 420 mg of magnesium daily, with the higher end of the spectrum needed for men and the elderly. Some doctors may want their patients to consume more if they are using this mineral to treat a specific ailment.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Roughly 80% of Americans are magnesium-deficient. Common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include:
Lack of appetite
Unusual body fatigue
Slow muscle recovery
Muscle cramping, twitches or spasms
Mood swings or irritability
Numbness and/or tingly in the extremities
Those most at risk of having or developing a deficiency include:
Older adults (55+)
Those with gastrointestinal disorders
If a magnesium deficiency isn't addressed and is allowed to worsen, the body will eventually end up in a state of hypocalcemia or hypokalemia.
It's important to realize that not getting enough magnesium affects all aspects of overall health, even if you're otherwise getting enough nutrients. Simply put, your whole body relies on magnesium to function properly. As an example, even if you're consuming large amounts of calcium you can still end up hypocalcemic if you're not getting magnesium.
Health Benefits of Magnesium
It's unfortunate that so many are unaware of the numerous health benefits magnesium offers. While most people have a general idea of why other minerals like calcium or iron are important, a shocking number aren't educated on magnesium.
Some of the major health benefits of magnesium include:
Helps Alleviate Anxiety
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder or just struggle with combating daily stress, you'll be happy to know that getting more magnesium can drastically reduce anxiety symptoms. While studies haven't been done directly on increasing magnesium for anxiety relief, some studies have shown that patients experiencing anxiety symptoms have a diet too low in magnesium. It can easily be deduced from this research that purposely supplementing with magnesium, even if you aren't deficient, can have very positive effects. Those suffering from depression may also benefit from the anxiety-lifting effects of magnesium. Some doctors even recommend magnesium baths for intense relaxation.
Improves Sleep while Reducing Insomnia
In the same vein of anxiety relief and heightened relaxation, magnesium is also a winner when it comes to insomnia control. It seems strange that this mineral could be the answer to sleepless nights, but researchers for one medical journal found that participant fell asleep faster, achieved deeper sleep and slept for longer.
Even if you don't have insomnia, magnesium supplements could be the natural answer for the odd sleepless night or achieving more restful sleep during stressful periods or travel.
Manages Calcium Levels in the Body
Most people know the link between calcium and bone health, but may not know that magnesium is needed. Magnesium helps to transport calcium into the bones and vitamin D in the kidneys. Research shows that those who have high levels of magnesium along with calcium have healthier skeletal structures and a reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Reduces Muscles Pain and Random Spasms
Muscle pain, spasms and cramps are painful, but you may be able to find relief by getting more magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is used by the body for muscle recovery and overall health. Because magnesium helps to move other important elements and minerals around the body, your muscles are positively affected by soothing muscle contractions and allowing for relaxation. Magnesium also helps streamline proper nerve impulses.
Aids in Glucose Metabolization
If you have diabetes or a family history of diabetes, increasing your consumption of magnesium should be right at the top of your health to-do list.
Many studies have been done on the link between glucose metabolization and magnesium, showing an obvious correlation between magnesium supplementation and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Research shows that this reduction could be as high as 15% for every additional 100 mg of magnesium consumed on a daily basis.
Lowers the Risk of Hypertension and Atherosclerosis
Magnesium is widely known for its ability to help regulate various other minerals within the body, such as how it works with calcium. Another important key element in the body that magnesium works with is it facilitates the transportation of sodium and potassium in our body. These macronutrients facilitate proper functioning of the heart and the circulatory system in general. Normal levels of sodium and potassium in our body along with proper functioning of the circulatory system helps prevent hypertension, plaque build up in the arteries and other heart diseases including stroke. If you have a family history of heart disease, upping your intake of magnesium is an excellent idea.
Dietary Sources of Magnesium
Increasing your magnesium consumption through diet isn't as daunting as it may seem. In fact, many normal foods, both whole and processed, can have high levels of magnesium. Simply making an effort to consume more everyday will go a long ways in maintaining overall health and improving a possible deficiency.
According to health authorities, such as the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the best dietary sources for magnesium include a range of dark green vegetables, legumes, cereals and other grain products, fish and some nuts. Here are just a few examples of appropriate food options within these categories:
Many people choose to also supplement with magnesium, rather than relying solely on dietary sources. Using a tablet, capsule or liquid oil form of magnesium has faster effect on the body than diet alone, making it useful for those who are increasing their magnesium intake for specific reasons, such as stopping a muscle twitch, helping anxiety or as a sleep aid. Taking a maximum strength magnesium supplement may seem like a good solution for deficiency issues, but don't forget the power of consuming natural dietary sources of this mineral. After all, supplements are only meant to add to your diet, not work as a complete substitution.
Magnesium really is a powerhouse of a mineral. Not only does it bring its own health benefits all across the body, but it also helps bring out the best in other elements and minerals like calcium. The average American diet is sorely lacking magnesium, especially the typical diet high in processed foods.
Striving to simply eat clean and a variety of produce is often enough to bring up magnesium levels in the body, unless you suspect a deficiency.
If you think a magnesium supplement would be an appropriate addition to your diet, consult your doctor first. There are different types of magnesium supplements, and some are more easily absorbed by others. Your doctor will offer the best insight into whether you need a supplement, and if so, which would be best for your body.
Zoey is a part-time blogger and a full-time nurse. She is the founder and editor of juicingjournal.com an avenue for sharing her passion about juicing, plant-based diet and living a healthier lifestyle.
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