Let’s talk about…..MAGNESIUM!
The sad fact is, most people aren’t getting enough magnesium. And if you happen to be one of those people, I’m here to tell you; it’s not your fault!
If you’re not getting enough, it’s not your fault?
Magnesium can be very difficult to get into the body. It is not readily absorbed through the intestines for reasons we will discuss in a moment, so unless you are actively getting exposure via non food sources, which we’ll discuss later, you may very well be deficient in this really important nutrient. And living the way we do today places way more pressure on our need for magnesium than at any time in our human past. We pour through the stuff just by living in this modern world.
Why is magnesium so important?
- Magnesium is used in over 300 enzyme systems in our body.
- It’s also a part of the DNA/RNA replication process (that’s pretty important if we want to age gracefully)
- Magnesium is an important electrolyte – Electrolytes are responsible for electrical generation – every muscle in our body including our heart, depends on electricity to move
- It’s also necessary for the health of every one of the 37 trillion cells in our body.
The blood and chlorophyll parallel
Aside from the fact that one is very red and one is very green, blood and chlorophyll are incredibly similar. Plants have chlorophyll in their “veins”, it’s what makes them green (hence the photo above!) and the core element of chlorophyll is magnesium. It’s the magnesium that allows the plant to convert sunlight into energy.
We humans have haemoglobin containing blood coursing through our veins and the core element of haemoglobin is iron. When we look at a haemoglobin molecule, it looks exactly the same as the chlorophyll molecule except in the exact spot where the magnesium atom is placed in the chlorophyll molecule, there’s an iron atom in the haemoglobin.
Magnesium and bones
50% of the magnesium in our body is stored in our bones.
And speaking of bones, we’ve all had it drummed into us that calcium is vital for strong bones, but without enough Magnesium, our bones can’t take up the calcium we consume. Magnesium ensures our bones take up calcium by converting vitamin D into its active form so that calcium absorption can be turned on. In fact, it turns out that with all the focus on Vitamin D, it may well be that Vitamin D and Magnesium deficiencies go hand in hand. This article outlines how the two interrelate if you are interested.
And why are we so magnesium deficient as a society when it’s required in such large quantities for optimal health? Is nature having a game with us? Did they get it wrong when they made the human blue-print?
Magnesium stores are depleted in many ways
- A high sugar diet (magnesium is an important element in sugar metabolism and insulin response and so stores get used up quickly when we consume sugar). *Fun fact*, for every molecule of sugar we eat, we need 54 molecules of magnesium to process it.
- Way too much stress in our lives – magnesium is an important ingredient for making the stress hormone cortisol.
- Too much coffee or black tea – they are diruretics which deplete magnesium
- Intake of pharmaceutical drugs – they deplete the body of magnesium
- Grains and soy – their hulls contain phytic acid which can inhibit the uptake of many minerals including magnesium. (Fermented soy like miso, tempeh, tamari (wheat free soy sauce) are much less likely to cause a problem). For more information see this article
- Simply by burning through big amounts of Magnesium. Magnesium is a macro nutrient meaning we need large quantities of it for our bodies to function properly. (Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium and chlorine are the other macro nutrients.)
And aside from all the reasons listed above, it turns out that fluoride (the type of fluoride that is added to most town water supplies), prevents magnesium from being absorbed into the cells. The only way to be sure of avoiding this substance is to get a filter that will remove fluoride (now that’s a blog post in it’s own right and quite a mine-field) or drink spring water or rain water. This article will tell you more if you are interested. Another way to improve magnesium absorption is to apply it to the skin which we’ll talk more about shortly. When applied to the skin, magnesium is absorbed directly into the cells so it by passes the intestines where the fluoride/magnesium war occurs. This is quite possibly a big reason for the poor absorption of Magnesium from our food.
It’s also well known that our soils are becoming more and more depleted of essential minerals from conventional farming practices. The soils are overworked without improving their structure and mineral profile. Conventionally produced plants are subjected to pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. These chemicals destroy soil microbes that allow the plants to take up the minerals and other nutrients that make them so valuable to us as a source of nutrients. Yet another reason to buy organically grown produce.
Why would we want to improve our magnesium levels?
- It improves sugar metabolism and decreases the risk of developing diabetes
- It improves our ability to handle stress
- For bone strength
- Improved muscle growth and muscle flexibility
- It keeps our nervous system health
- It supports our immune system
- It works to keeps our heart healthy and beating rhythmically
- It’s essential for a good night’s sleep due to its role in the production of melatonin and the control of stress hormones.
- Enzyme production and function – Magnesium is a required ingredient in most of our enzymes
- Improved energy because magnesium is a major component of ATP which is the energy source in our cells
- Controlling of migraines and headaches
- Improved collagen production
It’s really difficult to test for low magnesium levels. However, because magnesium is needed for so many bodily functions, we can look for symptoms related to an inability to perform what we know it’s good for (e.g., maintaining a regular heartbeat) as a good indication that there is a deficiency.
Symptoms of possible low magnesium
- Muscle twitching/spasms/tics
- Restless legs
- Body odour
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Anxiety, anger, aggression
- Migraines, headaches
- Chronic Fatigue
- Craving chocolate is often associated with magnesium deficiency as well. If you are craving chocolate (well…more than usual), it may well be that your body is under stress from magnesium deficiency.
So how can we get more magnesium in our lives?
These foods are all rich sources of magnesium however as mentioned above, it can be difficult to get a good absorption rate from any food we eat. Having said that, here’s the list.
- Filtered water (non fluoridated)
- Himalayan salt – not refined salt!
- Try adding 1/8th of a teaspoon of Himalayan salt to every 500mls of (filtered) water you drink.
- Kelp and seaweeds
- Dark leafy greens
- Fish (wild caught please)
- Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts (filberts), Pecan nuts
- Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Dried figs
- Dark Chocolate and raw cacao
- Green Smoothies – I use celery tops, cucumbers (skin on of course), spinach, green apples, lemon (whole and peeled), avocado (half is plenty), weeds from my organic garden (dandelion leaves, milkweed, sorrel, purslane – I feel another blog post coming on!), parsley (from my garden where it self sows). But really anything edible and green will bump up the magnesium quotient. Add half a glass of filtered/spring water and blend in a high speed blender for at least a minute. You may need more water depending on your ingredients but you’ll know once you’ve blended it.
As mentioned above, there are also some great non-food ways of getting more magnesium into your body:
Our skin is an excellent absorber of whatever we put on it or around it (hence the importance of using organic, natural, non petrochemical derived personal care products) so:
Take Epsom salts baths. Put 2 cups of Epsom Salts into a hot bath and soak for at least half an hour.
Swim in the sea. Sea water is loaded with magnesium.
Another really effective way to get magnesium into your system is by applying it topically. For this you need a product called magnesium oil. You can purchase it or make your own.
It’s really easy to make your own using half a cup of magnesium chloride flakes and half a cup of distilled water. Boil the water and pour over the flakes stirring till dissolved then store in a clear glass jar.
Some people use a spray bottle and spray this on directly but I prefer to mix it with carrier oil and some essential oil (that becomes my perfume for the day) and rub it all over after my morning shower. Here’s how I do that –
After a shower, in a small dish add ½ a teaspoon of magnesium oil and 1 teaspoon of carrier oil – I use jojoba oil but any quality massage oil such as sweet almond, camellia or even coconut oil will do. Add 2 – 3 drops of your favourite essential oil – whatever you are feeling in the mood for on the day. Mix together with finger tips. Massage all over your body. (Inspired by and adapted from a method used by Kim Morrison at www.twenty8.com)
Hopefully you now know just how important Magnesium is and how we all need to spend more time working on getting it into our bodies.
Has increasing your Magnesium intake improved any of your symptoms? I’d love to know how. Please let us know in the comments below.