Metals matter. We pop a zinc lozenge in our mouth to shorten colds. We check calcium levels to protect our bones and count on iron for red blood. But we rarely think about magnesium, even though it’s active in over 300 natural processes throughout our bodies.
Studies show that nearly half of Americans don’t get as much magnesium as they should.
Severe magnesium deficiencies are rare. They affect only about 2% of Americans. But even a small shortfall can mean that several systems in your body could be unable to function at their best. For instance, you could have a calcium deficiency because magnesium is needed to transport it to your bones and cells. Tremors and muscle cramps may occur. You mood can be affected. You may even be more sensitive to pain.
Magnesium supports good blood pressure, cell health, muscle development, and energy production among other things.
Magnesium’s Many Benefits
- Magnesium protects bones from becoming fragile, weak and brittle.
- It may help prevent irregular heartbeats, heart disease, and heart attacks.
- It greatly improves muscle performance. It helps relieve muscle aches, pains, and cramps.
- Signals throughout your brain and nervous system are regulated by magnesium.
- Magnesium aids in the creation and repair of DNA and RNA.
- It is an important mineral for maintaining a healthy skin barrier and moisture.
- Magnesium will help you fall asleep faster and remain asleep longer by relaxing your muscles and lowering your heart rate.
- It helps you digest your food and reduces stomach acid.
- It may prevent or lower the frequency of migraines.
How To Get Enough
A well-balanced meal could give you about 300 mg of magnesium… if you choose the right foods.
That would nearly fill a woman’s daily needs (310-320 mg). It would supply about three-quarters of what a man needs per day (400-420 mg).
But it’s unlikely you would manage those levels most days unless you eat a lot of beans, seeds, nuts and dairy. Look at these “high magnesium” foods and you can see the problem:
Magnesium Content in Foods
*DV = Daily Value, as set by FDA.
Burgers and fries aren’t going to help much. The American diet that is high in prepared and fast foods is not a reliable source of magnesium. In addition, other conditions can make it hard to get enough. You need vitamin D to metabolize it. Also, people with diabetes, chronic diarrhea, or Crohn’s disease have difficulty absorbing enough.
What Happens When You Run Low
Magnesium is especially important in relation to calcium. The two minerals support and oppose each other, so they need to be in the right ratio.
For instance, calcium helps muscles contract. Magnesium helps them relax. Obviously you want your muscles to do both. And if you sometimes get a Charley Horse in your calf muscle at night, it could be a sign you need more magnesium.
So that our bodies have enough magnesium to run all our body's processes, we store the mineral in our bones, muscles, and soft tissue for future use. But a prolonged period of low magnesium can upset that ratio.
In addition, when the amount of magnesium in the blood is low, calcium is released from the bones.
Because magnesium is involved in so many processes, a severe shortage could be related to multiple effects:
- Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
- Dizziness and involuntary eye movements
- Memory loss and reduction of mental faculties
- Mood changes
- Poor muscle coordination
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Joint Pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep issues
- Swallowing difficulties
Sources of Magnesium:
You saw how difficult it can be to get enough of this mineral from your food. Since almost half of all Americans don’t keep up, many of us need to take action.
You could certainly raise your levels by raising the amount of magnesium-rich foods like nuts, beans, and oatmeal you eat every day.
You can also take magnesium as a supplement. It is often included in multivitamin formulas, though usually in low amounts.
If you are a bottled water drinker, certain mineral brands are good sources. Check labels. Magnesium will be listed on brands that value their mineral content. Evian offers 24 mg per liter. San Pellegrino carbonated has 49 mg per liter. Check your local water while you are at it because some areas of the country are richer in magnesium than others.
And if you think you are actually deficient (as opposed to needing some help getting enough) see your doctor. A blood test can help diagnose a problem, even though most of your magnesium is stored in your bones and cells rather than flowing through your blood. If you are deficient, your doctor can prescribe the right form to increase levels and help you figure out why you are low.