Are you getting enough of your body’s “Master commander”, magnesium?
You probably know that magnesium is an essential mineral for bones and muscles. But it’s also vital for your heart, brain and nervous system, for producing antioxidants to ward off diseases, and for proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes that rule and regulate the body.
Magnesium deficiency causes all kinds of havoc within your cells, and the wreckage worsens as you age. After bones, the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body are in your heart and brain, which is why a deficiency can even be deadly.
And yet, up to 75% of North Americans may be magnesium deficient. The US National Academy of Science’s Food & Nutrition Board simply states, “The average American 14 or older is magnesium-deficient.”
The Top 7 Health Benefits of Magnesium
There are so many health benefits of magnesium that it is difficult to choose just seven. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium plays a top role in the following conditions:
Lacking time with the Sandman? Many of us don’t sleep well. In fact, nearly 50% of older adults have insomnia, with difficulty getting to sleep, early awakening, or not feeling refreshed when you wake because you didn’t sleep soundly. This is partly due to changes in your circadian rhythms, and lifestyle factors, but also from decreased nutrients. You may have heard that magnesium helps you sleep. In fact, it’s a key nutrient for sleep that must be eaten or taken in supplements and properly absorbed to get a good night’s shut-eye.
Magnesium prepares your body for sleep by relaxing your muscles. It also helps to “shut your mind off,” and calms your nerves by regulating two of your brain’s messengers called neurotransmitters that tend to keep you awake. Magnesium is also essential to maintain a healthy “biological clock” and sleep cycle. Getting enough of this mineral helps reduce and prevent sleep disorders.
Research from 2012 found out that magnesium supplements were very effective to improve sleep efficiency, sleep time, and reduce early morning awakening, especially in older adults.
Restless? Magnesium may also prevent restless leg syndrome that contributes to sleep loss in some people. Magnesium is thought to do this not only by relaxing muscles but by lowering inflammation and helping to make your main sleep-enhancing chemicals called melatonin and glutathione. Magnesium and melatonin supplements make good partners. A 2011 study showed that elderly patients with insomnia taking both magnesium and melatonin got to sleep easier, had better quality sleep, had longer sleep time, and were more alert the following morning.
Protects Your Heart
If you’re an athlete, you know that magnesium is important for muscles. So what about the most important muscle in your body? Lower magnesium in your diet equates with higher risks of heart disease. That’s because magnesium fuels the heart, protects your heart’s pump, prevents heart attacks, and provides elasticity for heart and blood vessels.
Research from 2016 found that magnesium reduces calcium build up in your heart and arteries (called coronary artery calcification). This is a marker of atherosclerosis and a predictor of cardiovascular death. People with the highest magnesium had 42% lower odds of coronary artery calcification compared to those with the lowest serum magnesium. They also had 48% lower odds of hypertension, and 69% lower odds of myotonic dystrophy (muscle wasting disease that affects many muscles including the heart).
Comparing how small your heart is to the size of the rest of your body, for which it pumps blood throughout, you’ll appreciate how hard your heart must work every second of every day to keep you alive. To accomplish this, it requires huge amounts of energy. The energy that fuels your heart is called ATP: adenosine triphosphate. It is made from the food you eat (especially glucose from carbs). But you can’t make ATP without magnesium. Magnesium is needed for all three stages necessary to convert glucose into ATP. Once made, ATP must attach itself to a magnesium ion in order for it to be used by the body; magnesium is in every ATP molecule.
Find out more about how to tell if your heart is healthy!
Shortness of breath, chest tightness, trouble sleeping because you’re coughing or wheezing — you know it when you have symptoms of asthma. Magnesium is often used as therapy in hospitals for life-threatening asthma. If you head to the ER with a severe attack, you might receive magnesium because of its potential to stop the spasms of your bronchial muscle (that create narrowing in the tubes carrying air to lungs), and help your lungs breathe easier. This is done to relieve the symptoms, but it also makes sense that low magnesium may relate to the cause of the condition.
There is evidence that people who eat foods higher in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, flavonoids, selenium, and magnesium have lower rates of asthma, all being nutrients which protect cells from damage. Magnesium supplements also help to manage non-extreme cases of the disease on a daily basis in both children and adults. Magnesium relaxes the bronchial muscles (bronchodilation) even when you are not having an attack. Studies show magnesium does this either because it blocks calcium (which can reduce dilation) or due to its vital connection to the enzyme responsible for cell function called adenylyl cyclase.
Reduces High Blood Pressure
You might think that high blood pressure is caused by stress or lack of exercise or being overweight or too much salt. But these may just exacerbate the condition that is already lurking in your arteries, caused in part by a mineral deficiency.
Magnesium plays an important role in regulating your blood pressure. It relaxes “smooth muscle” cells, meaning those in your veins and arteries, so they don’t constrict the flow of blood. It also regulates other minerals vital to blood pressure; it maintains the delicate balance between sodium and potassium; it helps the body absorb calcium (and not be deposited in arteries). So magnesium has direct and indirect impacts on high blood pressure risks.
A 2013 study tested not just how much magnesium people ate in their diet, but how much was actually absorbed by their body to qualify whether it indeed reduces risks. Researchers examined over 5,500 people aged 28 to 75 and found that “absorbed magnesium” was associated with a 21% lower risk of hypertension even after considering other aspects of their lifestyle and diet.
A 2017 clinical review involving 20,119 cases of hypertension (and 180,566 people) also found magnesium reduced risk of high blood pressure. Just taking 100 mg per day of a magnesium supplement was associated with a 5% reduction.
Improves Digestion and Alleviates Constipation Symptoms
Listen to your gut. Rectify a digestion problem before it becomes chronic. Whether you suffer from acid reflux, constipation, gas, bloating or indigestion, the food you eat isn’t being properly processed. This reduces your ability to absorb nutrients from it, and can result in long-term, serious health issues.
Did you know that it’s impossible to digest food without magnesium? A deficiency contributes to your digestive trouble.
Without magnesium, your body can’t perform the “mechanics” of digestion, make hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), make digesting enzymes for carbs, proteins and fats, and repair and protect your digestive organs (esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, colon).
As soon as you put food into your mouth, magnesium comes into play. It helps to make enzymes in your saliva that break food down into smaller parts, helping the entire digestive process. The hormones that tell your stomach to produce digestive acid need magnesium to be made; without it, you can’t digest food. After your stomach, food goes into your intestines, where more enzymes made by the pancreas break it down small enough to be absorbed as nutrients. The pancreas must have magnesium to make these vital enzymes. Magnesium also keeps the pancreas healthy, helping to prevent pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
Common conditions including acid reflux (heartburn) and GERD are not linked to excess stomach acid, as many people think, but low stomach acid. These conditions, too, are affected by magnesium deficiency. How? GERD and acid reflux are caused by a malfunctioning esophageal sphincter. This may happen due to a bacterial overgrowth that occurs when there is too little stomach acid. Magnesium aids stomach acid production that reduces bad bacteria in the gut.
Slow flow? Of all of these issues, poor elimination (constipation) is the most common final result of poor digestion. One symptom of magnesium deficiency is constipation. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, 16% of adults (including one-third of people over 60) are chronically constipated, meaning they have three or fewer bowel movements per week. Learn about the common causes of constipation and what you can do it about it!
Protects Against Diabetes
Are you on the edge? Being pre-diabetic can leave you wondering what steps to take to make certain that you never get type 2 diabetes. Once again, ensuring you have enough magnesium is a natural route to health. Magnesium is the key to insulin sensitivity. It’s not surprising then that magnesium deficiency is common in metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
Research from 2014 says magnesium deficiency is associated with triggering “acute phase response” that contributes to type 2 diabetes. Supplements were given to apparently healthy people with prediabetes who had low magnesium. Taking magnesium supplements decreased their C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is high in those who become diabetic.
When you already have type 2 diabetes, magnesium deficiency has also been linked to poor glycemic control, diabetic retinopathy (damage to eyes leading to blindness), nephropathy (damage to kidneys leading to renal failure), neuropathy (nerve damage), and foot ulcerations. Therefore, scientists highly recommend supplementing with magnesium due to the increase of these conditions among type 2 diabetics.
Do you have type 1 diabetes? The American Diabetes Association promotes that magnesium supplementation can also create a more positive health outcome for those who have insulin-dependent diabetes. It offers research showing that patients with type 1 diabetes taking magnesium had improved metabolic control, increased good (HDL) cholesterol, and lower triglycerides that reduce risks of heart trouble.
Supports Bone Health
You know you need calcium to build bones. But calcium is only one of several minerals required for bones to be strong and malleable. Its partner magnesium is just as vital (and is aided by minerals like boron, copper, nickel, phosphorus, silicon, and zinc). Magnesium is actually a metal, and is found in abundance in bones to keep them as strong and malleable as metal! An adult body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and over half is in your bones.
Magnesium is known to reduce the rate that bones degrade or break down. And magnesium deficiency can result in fragile bones. A 2013 study says that a balanced level of magnesium within bones is crucial for bone health — too little magnesium contributes to bone loss by:
- Affecting “crystal formation” in bone cells.
- Impacting the amount of parathyroid hormone produced. (The amount of calcium your body absorbs is controlled by parathyroid hormone.)
- Creating inflammation in your bones.
Magnesium is therefore important to prevent bone loss. Research shows that people who get higher amounts of magnesium in their food and supplements have a higher bone mineral density. This is important to reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. To find out more about osteoporosis, check out our top Osteoporosis Treatment article.
Magnesium Deficiency and Symptoms
Some researchers state that magnesium deficiency has reached epidemic proportions. Why has it? A major reason that our bodies are being “drained” of magnesium is stress. This stress can be created by intense exercise, processed food (and even the many foods fortified with calcium but not magnesium), prolonged exposure to light from a computer screen (which reduces your hypothalamus gland from releasing healing hormones), and emotional stress. Stress also damages and inflames your gut which is where magnesium is absorbed into your body.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are difficult to pinpoint because they can show up in any part of your body. Initial mild symptoms can range from trouble concentrating, dizziness and excessive menstrual pain to fatigue, headaches, facial twitching and heart palpitations. Common symptoms also include constipation, food cravings, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, irritability, and anxiety.
Read about additional magnesium deficiency effects, symptoms and causes!
How to Effectively Increase Your Magnesium Levels
The first step is always the same. As with any deficiency, begin eating foods high in the nutrient on a daily basis. Challenge yourself to create a high-potency meal plan including as many of these foods as possible.
Not sure which foods contain magnesium? See our comprehensive Magnesium Rich Foods article.
Yet most research agrees that if your body is already in a deficit state, achieving a therapeutic dose of any nutrient from meals alone is rarely possible. Supplementation is the only route to top up your shortfall.
How to take it: You know that a magnesium supplement can’t do work on its own. First, it requires its close companion, calcium, to be in the right balance or ratio; the absorption and metabolism of calcium and magnesium are dependent on each other. So, a ratio of 2:1 calcium to magnesium is optimal. (Too much magnesium without calcium can bring unpleasant side effects including diarrhea, nausea, muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat.)
Magnesium and calcium also need co-workers, called “cofactors,” to benefit bones, muscles, heart and other processes. They must have enough vitamin D3, vitamin K2, boron and trace minerals. The mineral boron, for example, helps to prevent calcium and magnesium from being excreted in urine, and silicon helps calcium and magnesium to be absorbed by the body. Therefore, an effective bone-building and illness preventing strategy must include these booster nutrients.
AlgaeCal Plus has taken all of this into consideration and not only includes plant-based calcium but 350 milligrams of magnesium per day, vitamins K2, D3, C, boron and trace minerals!
In fact, it boasts the optimal 2:1 calcium to magnesium ratio we just talked about. So, AlgaeCal Plus can help prevent magnesium deficiency, and actually increase bone density too!