Why Magnesium Is So Important

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We’ve touched on vitamin and mineral deficiencies before in this blog, and how important it can be to make sure you have the proper intake. One of the most crucial minerals that your body needs to function, especially as an active person or a runner, is magnesium. You may already know that magnesium plays a key role in the balance of electrolytes in your body, but there are several other major roles it plays in your body (along with about 300 other minor roles!). “It plays a role in nerve and muscle function, blood sugar, bone health, and metabolism, among other things,” says Lauren Manaker, R.D., founder of Nutrition Now Counseling.

What is Magnesium & Who’s At Risk?

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for your body to perform its metabolic processes. Studies have shown that in our modern world, the amount of magnesium found naturally in our food sources is decreasing. Furthermore, a severely low level of magnesium has been identified in some people who suffer from chronic diseases, leading the medical and scientific community to further research magnesium’s effect on the human body.

Some sources of research on the subject of mineral deficiencies in the United States seem to indicate that up to 75% of our population does not meet the recommended intake of magnesium. That’s not to say that many people may have a severe deficiency. I don’t want to sound alarmist –  the amount of the people at risk for a severe magnesium deficiency (the kind that can play a part in chronic diseases) is at a number closer to 5% of the population. However, even relatively low levels of magnesium can still wreak havoc in your body and with your metabolic processes, and if the mild deficiency is present for years, can cause some serious damage.

This is especially true for athletes because magnesium plays such a crucial role in your metabolism, electrolyte balance, nerve and muscle function, and bone health. All essential functions that need to be running at optimal levels when you lead an active lifestyle!

Why Would I Have Low Levels of Magnesium?

Well, there are two different types of mineral deficiency. On the one hand, there is an inadequate intake in your diet. This is the most common reason, and happily, also the most easily remedied. As mentioned above, our diets have changed and many packaged and processed mainstream foods just don’t have enough vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy. It’s an easy fix! Most of the foods rich in magnesium are pretty delicious! Dark chocolate, avocados, beans, tofu, spinach & other leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and bananas are a few examples. You can also take a magnesium supplement, just be sure not to exceed the maximum dosage recommended for adults (350mg).

On the other hand, the deficiency may be caused by the loss of magnesium from the body. An example of this would be celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten can lead to inflammation and damage to the small intestine) which causes malabsorption and can prevent the body from absorbing important nutrients from food. Other examples are diabetes, chronic diarrhea, or alcoholism. If you suffer from one of these conditions, your best bet is to talk with your doctor or health professional.

How Can Magnesium Be Used Therapeutically?

Below are just a few examples of some of the conditions that correct levels of magnesium have proven effective in treating, or that have shown great promise. Maintaining a healthy level of magnesium has been shown to help prevent, improve or treat the following health issues in people who are magnesium deficient:

  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Confusion, apathy, depression & other mental disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arrthymia or irregular heartbeat
  • PMS or premenstrual disorder
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Severe asthma
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Glucose and insulin metabolism
  • High blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia

Important Notes

More isn’t always better, in this case – very large doses of magnesium can actually be harmful. If your intake of magnesium far exceeds the recommended safe dosage (which is less than 350mg of supplements or medicine), it may build up to an unsafe level in your body. An unsafe buildup of magnesium in your body can lead to serious health issues such as low blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, slowed breathing, confusion, a coma, and even death. This is only a precaution, it’s very rare to reach such high magnesium levels that it causes these significant side effects, and the warning is only for supplements and medicines, not magnesium found in foods. It’s just a word of caution to remember because if you’re anything like me you may tend to have the mentality of “more is more” when taking vitamins and supplements.

Another thing to keep in mind is that magnesium is excreted through your kidneys. For this reason, a supplement should only be taken with caution and with a doctor’s advice for people with kidney disease.

Conclusion

Magnesium is an essential mineral for your body to function. If you have any symptoms or health issues listed above, talk to your doctor or health professional to make sure you’re reaching the recommended daily intake of magnesium that’s right for you.

Sources

  1. Guerrera MP, Volpe SL, Mao JJ, Therapeutic uses of magnesium., Study, Jul 15, 2009
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