Understanding the Importance of Magnesium

Magnesium is crucial for good health and excellent energy. What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency and what is the best way to increase your intake of magnesium?

Why magnesium is vital for health

Although all the minerals and vitamins found in the body are essential, some have a larger role than others.  Magnesium is one of those, and it’s particularly important to become aware of, and correct, magnesium deficiency if you’re suffering from tiredness. This is because tiredness is often connected to overtaxed or exhausted adrenal glands, while having a sufficient intake of magnesium is a key component of adrenal recovery (see Adrenal Fatigue for more details).

Magnesium also plays a vital role in producing muscular energy, so if you’re suffering from fatigue-related fibromyalgia or aching limbs, this could be an important mineral for you.

Although absorbing magnesium effectively can be challenging, it is nevertheless absolutely critical for life. It activates enzyme production, regulates body temperature and helps build bones.  Despite the fact that magnesium energizes tired muscles, it also has a soothing, calming quality which can help people relax. For this reason, it’s useful for children with hyperactivity (ADHD), especially when combined with Vitamin B6. One of the uses of magnesium is against stress, so consider this if you are going through a stressful patch in your life.

It is also thought that magnesium deficiency contributes to obesity by causing insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes).  As well as protecting against osteoporosis, and lowering the risk of colon cancer by decreasing inflammation levels, magnesium also helps in the development of good cardiovascular health.

What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?

There are quite a few symptoms of magnesium deficiency. They include:

  • Mental symptoms – mental confusion, brain fog, problems with learning and memory, irritability, predisposition towards stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Physical symptoms: hypertension, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, loss of appetite, general weakness, muscular fatigue and cramps.

As magnesium doesn’t just help with boosting your energy, but also assists with some of the mental and emotional symptoms which often accompany long-term tiredness, you can see that it’s a really vital mineral to get enough of.

Unfortunately, standard blood tests don’t always show magnesium deficiency accurately.  This is because most of the body’s magnesium isn’t stored in the blood, but in the bones and the muscles. So while there might be enough magnesium in the blood (because the body will try to keep blood levels optimum) the stores of magnesium in the rest body may be totally depleted.  So it’s better to use one of these tests:

  • Red blood cell magnesium
  • Urinary magnesium loading test
  • Urine or plasma amino acid analysis.

These will give a more accurate assessment of the amount of magnesium in your body than a simple blood test. If you’re in doubt as to what test or tests you have been given, it is really important to discuss this matter fully with your health care provider and ask for a more accurate test if necessary.

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What is the best way to increase your intake of magnesium?

You can either eat foods which are rich in magnesium or add a supplement to your diet. Bear in mind that much of modern food processing methods refine out magnesium as well as adding a toxic load to the body.  So for both these reasons, it’s important for you to avoid processed foods as much as possible and aim for fresh, whole food, especially while you are in recovery from tiredness(please see Healthy eating for fighting fatigue for more details.

These are the foods which are naturally rich in magnesium:

  • Tofu
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Brown rice
  • Sea vegetables such as kelp
  • Green leafy vegetables

If you are suffering from tiredness, then you may also have to take a supplement of magnesium in addition to eating wisely.  The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for adult males is 350 milligrams per day, while women should aim for 300 milligrams per day unless they’re pregnant or lactating when they should aim for 400 milligrams per day. Most Americans don’t get the RDA from food alone so it may be a good idea to supplement anyway, unless you are suffering from kidney failure (which is rare in people with chronic fatigue or tiredness).

There are various recommendations for magnesium supplementation:

  • Magnesium glycinate is a gentle form of supplement, which is particularly good if you have delicate bowels
  • Magnesium aspartate or magnesium citrate are also considered good, but too much can easily cause loose bowel movements.
  • Both magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride are thought to be less effective, but may work for some people.

The best time to take your supplement is in the evening. Combine it with something acidic which will increase the body’s ability to absorb it. Tomato or grape juice would be excellent choices or, if you’re eating a meal, consume it with fresh grapes or meat. If you are under stress, then consider taking a smaller dose of magnesium regularly throughout the day.

Often, magnesium deficiency is secondary to other conditions which may make absorption of the mineral challenging. These can include:

  • A high calcium intake
  • Alcohol
  • Liver disease
  • Recent surgery
  • Diuretics
  • Kidney disease
  • The contraceptive pill.

It may be worth balancing the pleasure of alcohol, or the convenience of the ‘pill’, against the importance of getting enough magnesium for your system to function properly.