Did you know that every single cell in your body needs magnesium to function properly? It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in our body and while most of it is located in our bones, it’s also found in our muscles, soft tissues, and body fluids – even our blood.
Magnesium mainly functions as a “helper molecule” or co-enzyme, which means it helps activate other enzymes in our body. These enzymes help regulate almost every function in our body in many ways from how our muscles contract and how our heart beats, to regulating our nervous system and brain function, to creating new proteins and DNA. Even if you eat a healthy diet, you probably aren’t getting enough; studies have shown that at least 50% of Americans don’t. With magnesium playing a part in over 300 biochemical reactions in our body, you can imagine how important it is to make sure you’re getting enough.
Low levels have been linked with many chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and asthma. Magnesium helps regulate our blood sugar by influencing how the insulin our body produces reacts to our blood sugar levels. Studies have found that up to 47% of people with diabetes also have low levels and other studies have shown that diabetics taking high dose magnesium supplements had a significant improvement in their blood sugar levels when compared with a control group. Regulation of blood sugar also helps control our blood pressure and magnesium plays an important role in ensuring our heart is beating normally. It is an essential mineral to allow our body to absorb calcium, which is why it plays such an important role in keeping our bones strong and preventing osteoporosis. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits that can help relax the muscles in our airway and regulate breathing, making it very beneficial to those with asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions. The relaxing effects of magnesium can also help those suffering from insomnia, constipation, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), anxiety, and stress.
Now that we know why magnesium is so important, how do you know if you may be deficient in it? Symptoms of low magnesium can include neck and back pain, anxiety, fatigue,insomnia, migraines, muscle weakness and spasms, muscle twitching, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and abnormal heart rhythms. If your body is under a lot of stress, you will deplete your stores of magnesium more quickly and may feel these symptoms more intensely.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for men is 400-420mg daily and for women is 300-320mg daily. While you can always take supplements to ensure you’re getting enough, it can also be found in many foods. One cup of pumpkin seeds will give you almost half of your RDI (46%), one cup of quinoa or black beans have about 1/3 of your daily requirement, and a ¼ cup of cashews will give you 25%. Other foods that are high in magnesium include spinach, Swiss chard, halibut, mackerel, salmon, avocado, almond, and (my favorite!) dark chocolate. If you aren’t getting your RDI based off food alone, or if you are under a high amount of stress and it may be depleting your stores more quickly. Magnesium supplements come in many forms including magnesium citrate, glycinate, orotate and carbonate; While these are generally well tolerated by the body, it’s always important to speak with your doctor beginning a new supplement. Magnesium may not be good to take if you take certain diuretics, heart medications, or antibiotics. Because it’s linked to many other vitamins and minerals in our system, it has potential to cause a lot of damage if not taken safely.
Magnesium is essential to making sure our bodies are functioning properly and is one of the most important minerals in our body. It’s important to include magnesium-rich foods in your diet as part of your health routine. If you don’t think you are getting enough from food alone, talk to your healthcare provider about adding in a supplement.