Magnesium. You probably haven’t given it much thought. At best, you might know that magnesium is a mineral that our bodies need for optimal health. Why? What’s so important about magnesium? What happens if we don’t get enough of it, and how will we know that we’re deficient?
Magnesium is both a mineral and an electrolyte.
As a mineral, magnesium plays an important role in keeping the heart and bones strong. Actually, all of our organs need magnesium. The mineral adds to the production of energy and supports the regulation of other nutrients and cholesterol production in the body such as calcium, zinc, and vitamin D.
Magnesium plays a role in hundreds of metabolic reactions in the body such as the breaking down of carbohydrates and fats. In fact, it out-performs all other minerals as a regulator. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Importantly, the body needs magnesium for energy and cellular production, proteins, enzymes, and antioxidants.
Our bodies are smart.
If we don’t consume sufficient amounts of magnesium, the body will take magnesium from other sources like our bones. Of course, as fascinating as it sounds this state of deficiency is less than ideal. Chronic magnesium deficiency leads to bone weakness. As the body works to remove magnesium from the bones to maintain symbiosis, calcium is released. As you can imagine, magnesium deficiency leads to an imbalance in the other minerals in the body, which causes problems throughout seemingly countless processes in the body.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to diagnose magnesium deficiency. There are several warning signs to look out for, symptoms of deficiency, including neurological, muscular, metabolic and cardiovascular warnings. Some of these include:
- Low energy
- Impaired memory and cognitive function
- Appetite loss
- Muscular weakness
- Muscle spasms, cramps, and tics
- Difficulty swallowing
Of course, these abnormalities may be associated with other medical conditions. Ideally, doctors should be able to rely on blood testing to pinpoint the root cause of these symptoms. It is possible to detect severe deficiency through blood tests. However, researchers admit that, “there is still no simple, rapid, and accurate laboratory test to determine total body Mg status in humans.”
What does this mean for you and me?
It means we have to intentionally include magnesium-rich foods in our diet or take a magnesium supplement. The research is conclusive. Most Americans do not get as much magnesium from nutrition as is recommended.
It’s widely accepted in the medical field that it’s best to get nutrition from whole foods rather than rely on supplements. Some of the most magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens. Magnesium powerhouses in the nut and seed category include pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, cashews, and almonds. It’s also recommended to eat a variety of whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. Tofu and other soybean-based products are good magnesium sources, as are black and navy beans. Check out the World’s Healthiest Foods website for a comprehensive list of excellent food sources to begin incorporating into your diet.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Heart Disease
Some medical conditions impair the body’s ability to absorb or retain magnesium. If you suffer from alcoholism, type 2 diabetes, or gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s and Celiac, you may be at a greater risk of magnesium inadequacy.
In addition to evaluating your symptoms and diet, you can find self-assessments online for support. Please contact a health professional before making changes to your diet or before adding magnesium supplements. Make an appointment to talk about your concerns. It’s always best to get professional help.