Magnesium is a mineral that many naturopaths look to either when their clients’ muscles are “tight”, or when constipation may be an issue. This is because magnesium plays a large part in relaxing muscles and nerves, making it essential for their proper function (especially for the muscle of the heart). Magnesium is a super-powered mineral and helps with over 300 enzyme and chemical reactions all throughout the body!
The Many Roles of Magnesium:
- Provides structure to build and strengthen bones.
- Vital for the production of energy; activates ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
- Assists in regulating certain hormones that calm nerves and anxiety, and help with insomnia.
- Used in your stomach to produce hydrochloric acid (HCL) and is therefore essential to digestion.
- Helps to relax muscles in the digestive track, preventing constipation.
- Aids in relieving muscle aches and cramps; helping all muscles to relax and contract.
- Works in tandem with calcium to regulate blood pressure levels and prevent hypertension.
There's a very good chance that you are not getting enough magnesium, as most of the adult population tends to be at least somewhat deficient. Consumption of caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sodas and certain medications all decrease magnesium in the body...not to mention stress! Many studies also suggest that too much calcium and phosphorus decrease the bioavailability of magnesium [I]. This is why you often find magnesium in supplemental calcium. As with most minerals, absorption of magnesium occurs in the small intestines, and the kidneys will prevent magnesium loss when levels are low.
If you are in fact, deficient, you may experience symptoms such as anxiety, difficulties falling or staying asleep, muscle spasms/cramping, facial ticks, or poor digestion.
Magnesium comes in a large variety of forms, however, the most well absorbed by the human body are believed to be the chelate, citrate and glycinate forms. While all three forms are effective, magnesium chelate and glycinate are less likely than citrate to have a laxative effect at high doses. That said, magnesium citrate is great for use with chronic constipation. Magnesium oils are also a nice topical solution for muscle pains.
While we here at Good Decisions always suggest food sources before supplementation, additional supplementation is often useful for some of the chronic issues discussed above. Always consult with you healthcare provider before using supplements. Magnesium toxicity, however, is quite rare and typically occurs only in people taking large doses of supplemental magnesium or medications that contain magnesium such as milk of magnesia. Symptoms of magnesium toxicity include diarrhea, nausea, intestinal cramping, and in severe cases, heart failure.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
Men 420 mg/day
Women 320 mg/day
Upper Level Dosage (UL) 350 mg
Food Sources of Magnesium
Animal sources: halibut, salmon, and other seafood
3 oz halibut— 90 mg
Plant sources: legumes, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw yard long beans (Chinese long beans, asparagus beans, snake beans)— 564 mg
1 cup raw cowpeas (black eyed peas)— 556 mg
1 cup raw black beans— 120 mg
1 oz dried seaweed— 216 mg
1 cup brown rice— 85 mg
1 cup whole groat buckwheat flour— 301 mg
½ cup dry roasted almonds— 197.5 mg
½ cup dry roasted cashews— 178 mg
1 oz pumpkin seeds— 150 mg
1 oz sunflower seeds— 91 mg
1 cup spinach— 23.7 mg
1 cup beet greens— 26.6 mg
1 medium artichoke— 76.8 mg
1 medium banana— 32 mg
1 medium avocado— 58 mg
Eating an abundance of magnesium-rich foods is a Good Decision! It is associated with a decrease in symptoms for asthmas sufferers, maintenance of bone health, reduced pain and tightness of muscles, decreased gallstone formation, migraine relief, reduced risk of stroke, reduced blood pressure, and much more. As you can see, plants are your best bet for the food sources highest in magnesium. So next time you're feeling stressed, try a handful of almonds before you reach for the wine!
[I] Moe, Sharon M. "Disorders Involving Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium". Prim Care. 2008 June; 35(2): 215–vi. Web. May. 2016 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2486454/>.