As a Holistic Nutritionist, I am a firm believer that a whole foods, balanced diet is at the root of good health, and supplementation comes next. Counting on supplements for our nutrients instead of eating high quality foods should never be the plan, unless there are extenuating circumstances involved (severely impaired digestion or lack of access to healthy food, for example).
However, magnesium is a mineral that most are deficient in, and is almost always totally safe to supplement with. What’s more, we go through our magnesium stores at a faster rate during times of stress. Given the chronic stress of our modern day society, supplementing with magnesium is almost always beneficial.
According to one of the world’s leading experts in pain management, Dr. Normal Shealy, “Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency.” He goes on to say that “magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body. A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.”
Magnesium is a crucial mineral in the human body, carrying out over 300 different chemical reactions. Over half of the magnesium in our body is stored in our bones, making it very important for bone health and maintenance. Additionally, magnesium is interesting in that it plays a vital role in the chemical reaction that gives us energy, while also supporting our nervous system and allowing us to relax. Magnesium is a co factor to the enzymes needed to produce energy, and studies have pointed to low magnesium levels contributing to fatigue.
Here are some top evidence-based benefits of magnesium:
As mentioned above, magnesium places an important role in balancing the nervous system. All of our cells hold receptors which allow chemical messengers to enter and exit. One such brain cell receptor is called NMDA, and magnesium is a mineral that largely contributes to their function. With low magnesium levels, we can find ourselves feeling depressed and anxious.
Increased Exercise Performance
Studies show that during moderate to intense exercise, the human needs up to 20% more magnesium than when at rest. The science behind this is that magnesium mobilizes blood sugar into the muscles and helps to dispose of lactic acid. Supplementing with magnesium is thought to support both professional athletes and average gym-goers alike.
Supports Symptoms In Type 2 Diabetics
Experts believe that almost 50% of type 2 diabetics are low in magnesium, and one of magnesium’s many important role is working alongside insulin to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Furthermore, magnesium might help prevent type 2 diabetes in healthy individuals.
Studies show that low magnesium is connected with chronic inflammation and its many related conditions (such as obesity and heart disease). Not only via supplementation, but also focusing on a diet of magnesium rich foods (more on this later), you can work to cool inflammation and prevent degenerative disease.
Prevents Headaches and Migraines
Studies suggest that magnesium can help to both treat and prevent migraine headaches. Additionally, some health experts believe that low magnesium levels are a precursor to migraine headaches, so being sure to keep your levels up to par (even if you don’t suffer from headaches), should be key.
Alleviates Muscle Tightness
Because magnesium helps our body to relax, it can be extremely effective in relaxing and alleviating the pain and tension caused by tight muscles.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
You should consider magnesium deficiency if you suffer from some or all of the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Irritability and insomnia
- Muscle spasms, particularly in the legs
- Loss of appetite
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle pain, tension and soreness
- Chest tightness
- Abnormal heart rhythm
Of course, if you are experiencing any sort of chest discomfort, pain, or abnormal heart rhythms you should see your doctor, but if all checks out, magnesium deficiency should be considered as a contributing factor.
Foods Highest in Magnesium (in order)
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Summer squash
- Black and navy beans
- Brown rice
While we always need to start with a base of healthy foods, magnesium is one nutrient most of us can benefit from supplementing with. As mentioned before, stress has a huge impact on our magnesium stores, so particularly if we are in periods of stress, magnesium is an essential nutrient.
If possible, opt for a magnesium glycinate or citrate, as these are better absorbed than other versions. In terms of dosage, it is generally safe to supplement with up to 500 mg (some health experts say even up to 1,000), but start slowly. If you develop loose stools or diarrhea, simply lower your dose.
While a nutrient-rich diet should be first priority, magnesium is one nutrient that is not only safe for most people to supplement with, but almost always a good idea, as well. Talk to your doctor if you have any pre-existing health conditions, and choose the best quality brand supplement you have access to.
- https://normshealy.com. Retrieved March 10th, 2016.
-  whfoods.com. Retrieved March 10th, 2016.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17172008. Retrieved March 10th, 2016.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26322160. Retrieved March 10th, 2016.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25023192. Retrieved March 10th, 2016.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25278139. Retrieved March 10th, 2016.