nutrient spotlight: magnesium

29 January 2015

An often overlooked nutrient, magnesium seems to be getting some much deserved buzz these days.  Maybe it is because studies have show that we are chronically deficient (with most adults only getting on average, 66% of the daily recommended amounts) AND the fact that deficiencies manifest themselves in such a variety of super common symptoms.  Here, listed by The Chalkboard Mag’s Health Editor, are ten conditions magnesium has the potential to help:

1. Hypertension and cardiovascular disease: May lower blood pressure, reduce incidence of stroke and cardiac arrhythmias.

2. Type II diabetes: Magnesium is a co-factor for over 100 enzymes involved in the control of blood sugar and glucose metabolism. Optimal magnesium levels helps to balance blood sugar and prevent Type II diabetes.

3. Migraine headaches: Magnesium deficiency is related to factors that promote headaches, including neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction.

4. Restless leg syndrome: Preliminary studies suggest that supplemental magnesium may be helpful for treating restless leg syndrome, even when magnesium levels are normal.

5. Insomnia: Supplementation of magnesium improves the length of sleep, while promoting a deeper sleep and reducing the incidence of insomnia.

6. Constipation: Magnesium increases water in your intestines, which helps initiate peristalsis – the wavelike motion that is needed for normal bowel movements. The water also softens stool, easing the passing. Magnesium relaxes the muscles in the intestines, helping to eliminate constipation.

7. Osteoporosis: Magnesium is involved in bone formation and also affects the concentrations of both parathyroid hormone and the active form of vitamin D, which regulate the health of the bones.

8. Mood: Research studies have shown that when magnesium in our diet is low, we have increased risk of depression. Magnesium has an anti-depressant effect, since it plays a role in several enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters that effect mood.

9. Inflammation: A diet low in magnesium has been linked to an increase in the inflammatory process.

10. PMS (premenstrual syndrome): Although conclusive research is still in progress, there are strong correlations between magnesium supplementation and a reduction in premenstrual cramps and changes in mood. Its mode of action is attributed to magnesium’s ability to relax muscles and influence neurotransmitter pathways.

How to increase your magnesium levels

While it is important to make sure we are consuming magnesium rich foods throughout the day, it is equally as important to reduce the foods (and behaviours) that interfere with the absorption of this nutrient, while also supporting a healthy digestive system. Our health is not just determined determined by what we eat, but rather what we absorb.  So if your gut is out of whack, its not going to be able to use all the great stuff you are putting in.

Foods + behaviours that deplete magnesium:  

  • excess caffeine
  • excess alcohol consumption
  • processed foods
  • too much stress
  • prolonged use of medications
  • antibiotics
  • excess exercise or sweating
  • too much calcium (too much calcium can affect magnesium absorption)

How to maintain a healthy gut:

  • avoid the foods and actions listed above
  • consider taking a high quality probiotic (I like HMF Forte by Genestra)
  • consider taking digestive enzymes or bitters
  • includ more fermented foods like kimchi or raw sauerkraut that natural contain probiotics
  • avoid food sensitivities if you have them
  • avoid/be mindful common allergens and irritants like dairy + wheat
  • avoid refined sugar
  • stay hydrated with water and herbal tea

*if you have severe digestive issues you may want to consider consulting with a nutritionist or naturopath for a more personalized, advanced digestive protocol

Magnesium rich foods to include:

  • dark leafy greens: kale, swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, dandelion greens, parsley
  • nuts + seeds: pumpkin seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
  • grains + pseudo grains: millet, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, oats
  • beans + legumes: black beans, navy beans, lentils
  • fruit: avocado, banana
  • fish: sardines, wild salmon, oysters

Magnesium supplement I love:

  • natural calm, a powder you can mix with water just before bed (I recommend building up to the recommended dosage on the package)

note: These are very general guidelines.  As I emphasize in my practice, each and every person is unique.  If you are concerned about any of the above mentioned conditions, seek help from your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist for individual attention and a plan that is right for you.





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