This blog post forms the first part of the Nutrient series- keep coming back to find out about a whole range of nutrients: what they do and where we find them.
We could not survive without magnesium. It plays a role in many, many different processes in our body, such as energy production, the functioning of all nerves and muscles and bone health. It has relaxing properties and is known as the anti-stress mineral. It helps to maintain normal blood pressure and blood flow, and it's also needed for cell growth and development. But really, the list goes on...
So consequently, low levels of magnesium can create all sorts of problems for our health! It might trigger anxiety or panic attacks, or contribute to insomnia as it's needed for melatonin regulation (the hormone essential for normal sleep cycles). Migraines, muscle cramps or gastrointestinal cramps may all have to do with low magnesium levels as well. It may be implicated in PMS and constipation. Chronic fatigue in particular may be a signal of depleted magnesium levels. Again, the list goes on..
Now I am not suggesting that your tiredness or headaches are just down to low magnesium in your body. Nutrients shouldn't generally be looked at in isolation- they work synergistically, i.e. effecting each other and working together. However, magnesium deficiency is pretty common(Ref 1) and as it's such an important mineral, it should definitely receive some attention.
There are many possible reasons for low levels of magnesium in your body: For example, food processing depletes large amounts of magnesium so try to choose whole, natural foods as much as possible (brown bread and brown rice are much better choices) and try steaming your veg instead of boiling it as magnesium can leach out into the water. Stress can deplete mineral levels, particularly magnesium. Indigestion and poor nutrient absorption can mean that even if you eat magnesium rich foods, you may not be getting all those nutrients into your bloodstream, so get help if you suffer from digestive problems. Poor farming practices has led to many soils being depleted of minerals- one reason why organic produce may be better. Another more obvious reason is of course the fact that you might not be eating enough magnesium rich foods!
Which foods are high in magnesium?
- · Dark green and leafy vegetables, e.g. kale and spinach
- · Beans and lentils
- · Whole grains such as brown rice and millet
- · Nuts and seeds
- · Seaweeds (plenty of them around on Scilly!)
- · Spirulina, blue green algae and chlorella
Whilst chocolate has high magnesium levels, it's also a stimulant and regular intake may actually lower overall mineral absorption. So don't go overboard thinking you're doing a great job at increasing your magnesium..
You can also use Epsom Salts in a hot bath to try and increase your magnesium levels. I know they work for a lot of people and in fact, I’ve used them countless times for leg cramps during pregnancy and it always helped enourmously!
Another method used by many are magnesium sprays which can, for example, be applied straight to areas where your muscles feel tight such as your legs after exercising. (But please follow the instructions on the bottle.)