Roll Up, Roll Up - Are you suffering from: stress/insomnia/anxiety/legcramps/irritability/migraines/pms/menopausal symptoms?
Maybe you need a dose of the marvellous mineral - MAGNESIUM.
Magnesium is one of the essential minerals for life. It's responsible for over 300 chemical reactions within the body and plays a vital role in:
Bone formation and health.
Manufacture of hormones
Regulation of blood sugar levels.
Activation and absorption of Vit D and calcium.
Wow - for something that has so much control over our bodies, it's surprising that we don't hear more about this wonder mineral.
Don't worry I'm not going to bore you and write pages and pages of sciencey stuff, I have just picked a few of the above to cover in more detail.
It's often assumed that calcium and Vitamin D are the main players when it comes to bone health. However without the presence of magnesium, these two can't do their jobs efficiently.
Adequate levels of magnesium are essential in enabling the absorption and metabolism of calcium and Vit D. Recent research at Bristol and East Finland Universities has found that low magnesium levels are associated with an increased risk of bone fractures.
Magnesium stimulates the hormone calcitonin which draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissue back into the bones. This preserves bone structure and works to prevent osteoporosis.
It's not just our bones that are affected by magnesium deficiency. If we are low in this mineral it can lead to a calcium build up in the blood. Calcium may then be deposited in different areas of the body where it can harden (calcify). This is dangerous as calcification has the potential to cause kidney stones, arthritis and clogged arteries.
Magnesium also converts vitamin D (which is actually a hormone not a vitamin) into calcitriol. This is important because calcitriol helps bond calcium to bone and tooth enamel.
Our bodies don't produce magnesium so we need to consume it, good sources are:
Nuts - almonds/peanuts/cashews
Spinach and other dark leafy greens
The Best news of all - Dark Chocolate - no this is not an excuse to eat a whole bar - just a small square will suffice!
Some elements of our diets such as refined sugars, alcohol, medication, carbonated and caffeinated drinks can interfere with magnesium absorption, leaving our bodies depleted of this essential mineral.
Magnesium is often referred to as the anti-stress mineral. It can help balance the nervous system, relax muscles and reduce cortisol presence within the cells. A lack of magnesium causes stress symptoms and stress causes depletion of magnesium - which as you can imagine will lead to a vicscous circle of feeling constantly edgy.
Have you ever been in a tense situation and even after the event has passed you still find that your nerves are jangling? It could be that your magnesium levels are too low and are not able to administer the 'chill pill' effect it normally has on the body.
Here's the science bit:
When stressed magnesium opens the cell to allow calcium to enter. This triggers the fight or flight response, creating a rise in blood pressure, muscle contraction and adrenaline release into the blood - in short everything we need to respond to a stressful situation weather its physical or physcological.
Staying in a heightened condition is not good for us, to control this state of affairs magnesium monitors the levels of calcium and when it's done it's job pushes the calcium back out of our cells, acting as a calming agent on our muscles and stress responses.
If we are deficient in magnesium it can leave calcium hanging around, the cell won't then be able to relax, leaving us in a perpetual state of feeling stressed.
At some time or another you have probably experienced pre-menstrual related symptoms, such as headaches, cramps or irritability. If you have finished dealing with those you might now be faced with peri/pre/menopausal issues, which could include anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, fatigue, panic attacks or mental fog (the list goes on!). As well as being linked with pms/menopause these problems are also included on the magnesium deficiency list.
I'm not suggesting for one minute if you have dealt with any of the above complaints, that you have a magnesium deficiency, but they could be excaberated if our bodies are lacking in this mineral.
Remember magnesium is used by the body to create a calming effect which we definatley need when our period hits. During different times of our cycle oestrogen levels are elevated, this places a greater demand on the requirement for magnesium - if we are deficient it can contribute to the symptoms we suffer with every month.
This balance between magnesium and oestrogen might be responsible for my monthly chocolate craving. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium and this craving is my bodies way of alerting me to low magnesium levels. Yes I know there are lots of other magnesium rich foods - but I really like chocolate.
Oestrogeon can enhance the utilisation and absorption of magnesium by soft tissues and bone, this is thought to be why younger women are protected from cardiovascular disease and poor bone health,
Hormonal changes as we age such as a decline in oestrogen can lead to unutilised magnesium being excreted through the kidneys. This excretion may lead to a depletion in magnesium and therefore a greater risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease as well as aggravating menopausal symptoms.
Am I Getting Enough Magnesium?
If you are eating a varied and balanced diet there should be no need for supplements.
NHS guidelines for the recommended daily intake of magnesium:
300mg a day for men aged 19-64
270mg a day for women aged 19-64
So for example -
- a hand full of Pumpkin seeds will give you approx 92mg
- a large portion of spinach will give you 157mg
- 1 square of my favorite Dark chocolate is 95mg
- 1 oz of almonds is 80mg
- 1 normal size avocado is 58mg
If you feel you would benefit from a magnesium supplement NHS guidelines suggests that 400mg or less a day is unlikely to cause any harm. However we would point out that the body is extremely efficient and only absorps the actual amount of magnesium it requires, extra will be excreted! So beware, if you take too much, you may find yourself running for the loo!
As with any supplement you should gain prior consent and advice from your medical practioner.
My advice to top up those magnesium levels: eat a varied and balanced diet with plenty of magnesium rich foods, take a bath with Epsom salts - (magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, read more about Epsom salts at positive health wellness) and indulge in a bit of dark chocolate now and again.