How to tell if you're magnesium deficient (and what to do about it)
Magnesium is an essential mineral for vibrant health and wellness.
As the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions. It's vital for energy production, healthy bones and hormonal balance, and helps maintain our nervous system and cardiovascular health.
But in my work as a naturopath, magnesium deficiency is something that is becoming more prevalent in my clinic.
AM I MAGNESIUM DEFICIENT?
Magnesium deficiency is fairly widespread among Australians, bringing with it symptoms of fatigue, pain, headaches, nervous tension, period pain, constipation, weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, muscle spasms and twitches.
The cause of this deficiency has been attributed to factors such as a high intake of alcohol, caffeine, salt and sugar, as well as high levels of stress.
It can also be attributed to modern agriculture and farming methods which "have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows", according to Scientific American. Industrial agriculture is the main source for food production, and the negative impact this has on the quality of food, soil and the environment has had a follow-on effect on people.
WHERE DO WE FIND MAGNESIUM IN OUR DIET?
There is a vast variety of natural food sources rich in magnesium. However, we must consider that the source and method of production will have an impact on the overall nutritional value of magnesium in foods.
When what we eat comes from well mineralised soil or from healthy animals, the following foods can be a good source of magnesium:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Legumes & nuts
- Whole grains – properly prepared
- Natural salt
- Bone stock from pastured or grass fed meat bones
- High-quality organic pastured dairy products
TYPES OF MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTS
Another way of increasing your magnesium levels is to try one of the many different supplements available.
These can can even include different forms of magnesium, such as magnesium citrate, magnesium orotate, and magnesium oxide which each have their own therapeutic value and is absorbed by the body in different ways.
Clinical studies have found that magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate, gluconate and chloride forms is absorbed more completely and is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.
So depending on your symptoms, you may need one of the following specific forms of supplement:
Muscle Relaxation: trying a magnesium lotion in the form of magnesium chloride can be beneficial. The transdermal application of magnesium works quickly to provide relief, but if your muscle pain and cramps are an ongoing it may be a sign of greater magnesium deficiency. In this case an oral supplement including the most bioavailable forms of magnesium to optimise absorption could be beneficial. I recommend looking for a practitioner-only magnesium supplement, that includes a blend of magnesium orotate, magnesium citrate and magnesium amino acid chelate.
Constipation: magnesium is already a common ingredient in some laxatives, and the best form of magnesium to take for this purpose would be a magnesium oxide as it has stool softening properties. It is always important to treat the cause of your constipation, but the magnesium oxide can provide symptomatic relief of constipation.
Headaches and migraines: research shows that daily dose of 600 milligrams of oral magnesium citrate significantly reduces the frequency of migraines compared to the placebo. It also suggests that headache and migraine sufferers often have low levels of magnesium.
Cardiovascular health and blood pressure: magnesium is an essential mineral for cardiovascular health, and can be useful in lowering and regulating blood pressure. A clinical study showed that magnesium supplementation showed substantial reductions in blood pressure in patients suffering from mild hypertension. As with muscular pain, I always recommend a high quality, bio available form of magnesium such as a citrate or orotate.
Another option: magnesium baths (Epsom salts)
If you're looking for a more relaxing way to top up your magnesium stores, or relieve muscle pain, a bath with natural magnesium salts could be the way to go.
When selecting a magnesium-based bath salt, always opt for both a food grade and natural Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate), instead of a chemically derived alternative.
Natural Epsom salts are a rich source of magnesium and can help assist the body's detoxification pathways, calm the nervous system and relax our muscles. Simply add two cups of natural Epsom salts into your bath and relax for a minimum of 20 minutes to reap the benefits.
To find the out more information about magnesium, or which magnesium would be best for you, it is always best to consult your healthcare practitioner.