Did you know that you need up to 400 grams of magnesium a day if you are a man and around 300 if you are a woman? The problem is that only 5% to 25% of Americans are actually getting that amount through their diet or use of supplements. Why is this alarming?
First, because every organ and cell in our bodies needs this vital mineral. The heart, kidneys and muscles all need magnesium to function properly. It helps create energy, activates over 300 enzyme reactions and also helps us to absorb and utilize other essential minerals and nutrients.
Second, because a lack of magnesium can lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), depression, headaches, insomnia, moodiness, fatigue, seizures, behavioral disturbances and irritability.
As regards depression, there is a fascinating account here where magnesium treatment was instrumental in patients recovering from depression. The authors of this paper made a plea that magnesium should be used in more clinical trials for treating this major illness and they also affirm that this magnesium deficiency may actually be causing the increase in depression.
How can you tell if you are not getting enough?
You can always have a blood test. The only problem here is that only about 1% of magnesium actually remains in the blood so these tests are not wholly reliable. But there are some telltale signs that this magnesium deficiency may be troubling you.
I used to get excruciating leg cramps at dawn and my doctor put me on a magnesium supplement. That problem soon disappeared. You may also suffer from a lack of sleep, facial tics and suffer from chronic pain.
Lifestyle habits may be depleting your magnesium levels
Another fact that is often overlooked is that certain habits can actually lessen the amount you have. For example, eating loads of sugary snacks, drinking lots of coffee and soda and simply getting older, are all activities that can reduce your magnesium levels. Certain medications such as diuretics, antacids, antibiotics and a faulty digestion system can also play a negative role.
A stressful lifestyle may deplete magnesium levels even further. A lack of magnesium may lead to stress hormones such as catecholamines and corticosteroids getting out of control and increased stress related illnesses such as heart failure and high blood pressure.
Modern agriculture has reduced the magnesium content in food
Pesticides and all the other trappings of modern food production have depleted our natural supply of magnesium via the food chain. Our ancestors had no problem because their meat, water and seafood had plenty of magnesium.
Nowadays, purification treatment removes it from our drinking water. Herbicides do not help either. It is alarming to read that the amount of magnesium in whole wheat flour is reduced to about 16% of its normal content through modern refining methods.
“Magnesium is farmed out of the soil much more than calcium… A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we’re lucky to get 200 milligrams.” – Dr. Carolyn Dean, naturopathic doctor
Natural sources of magnesium
What should you eat and drink to keep to make sure that you are not deficient in magnesium?
When you go shopping, stock up on bananas, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens such as spinach. These greens have lots of calcium, help relieve joint pain and can aid your digestion too.
Go for fish, soybeans and avocado when you can find them. Look at this site where you can get a better idea of the actual quantities and magnesium content of these great foods. You can also indulge in dark chocolate (lots of Vitamin B and iron) and a limited intake of coffee.
If you are stuck for recipe ideas, you can get some great ones here.
Finally, did you know that you can absorb some vital magnesium by swimming in the ocean? If you live near a beach and the weather is great, you know what you have do, don’t you?
Featured photo credit: Seattle Farmers Market/Rob Bertholf via flickr.com