Magnesium: a powerful essential mineral

Are you getting enough?

Though it is required by every organ in the body, magnesium often flies under the radar. But the health-promoting properties of this powerful essential mineral are many – which is why we all need more of it.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is used by every organ in the body. It assists with bone, fatty acid and protein formation, as well as activating vitamins B and D, blood clotting and relaxation of muscles.

It also plays a pivotal role in energy production. It is relatively easy to become mildly deficient in magnesium. Typical symptoms include: muscular cramps and weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, insomnia, irritability and confusion. While magnesium levels are affected by lifestyle, such as too much stress, processed food, alcohol, coffee, pharmaceutical drugs and calcium supplements, other factors such as heavy periods can drain your stores.

Magnesium-rich foods

Simple dietary changes and regular supplementation can restore optimum levels. Magnesium-rich foods include nuts (notably almonds, cashews and Brazils), molasses, kelp, buckwheat, millet, tofu, pumpkin, spinach and sunflower seeds. A simple way to select foods high in magnesium is to identify those high in fibre – the two are often found together.

Health benefits of magnesium

Extensive research is continuing into magnesium, but researchers believe maintaining adequate levels is beneficial in treating and managing a number of conditions. Health benefits of optimum magnesium levels are said to include:

  • Better sleep: Hormones that regulate our sleep cycle are disturbed when magnesium is deficient.
  • Muscle tension relief: Magnesium can help to loosen tight muscles and ease cramps, including period pain. It also reduces symptoms of muscle soreness from lactic acid build-up after a gym session.
  • Alkalising: Magnesium helps return the body’s pH balance, which aids digestion, mental acuity and physical energy.
  • Bone health: Magnesium can support bone integrity and strength because it stimulates the hormone calcitonin.
  • Improves insulin secretion: Magnesium facilitates the metabolisation of sugar by enhancing insulin secretion.
  • Relieves constipation: In the stomach, magnesium helps neutralise stomach acid and move stools through the intestine while cleansing the bowl of toxins.
  • There are many other reported benefits of magnesium, such as stroke prevention, easing of period pain, heart disease, improving concentration and memory and more.

Sources and dosage

Maintaining a balanced diet with foods rich in fibre can provide adequate intake – focus on enjoying plenty of whole foods, as magnesium can be lost during refinement and processing.

If you do need to supplement your diet, adults should aim for between 300 to 400 milligrams a day. There are many forms of magnesium supplements, but ‘magnesium chloride’ supplements are generally considered to be the form that allow for the greatest uptake and availability. Try to avoid supplements containing magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide – they are poorly absorbed by the body and relatively ineffective.

Top Tips

  1. Rub magnesium oil on your feet before you go to bed to encourage a restful, deep sleep.
  2. Having a warm bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is a great alternative way to absorb magnesium.

Excessive supplementation of magnesium can lead to diarrhoea and stomach upsets. It’s important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with magnesium may have serious consequences. If you’re considering the use of magnesium in treatment of a chronic condition, consult your primary care provider.

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The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Notice.