Your body depends on magnesium to maintain heart, bone, muscle and nerve health. Don’t underestimate the importance of this hard-working mineral.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies and one of 7 essential nutrients we need to develop and function properly. Our bodies use the major minerals, calcium, chloride, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur in considerable quantities. Each mineral has a different and complementary job supporting brain function, transporting oxygen around the body, and promoting wound healing.
Magnesium is a workhorse. It’s crucial for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body responsible for building proteins and strong bones, regulating muscle and nerve functions, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and making DNA.
Magnesium is a regulating mineral supporting healthy reproductive hormone balance. And it acts as an electrical conductor that contracts muscles and makes sure the heart beats at a steady rate.
More than half of the magnesium in your body is stored in your bones, with the remainder in muscles and non-muscular soft tissue.
Magnesium deficiency is linked with health complications
Although you won’t be aware in the short term of not having enough magnesium in your diet, chronically low levels are linked with a range of health complications including high blood pressure and heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and migraines.
Lower levels of magnesium are also seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and people suffering from conditions with digestive malabsorption such as celiac and Crohn’s disease, and also those with type 2 diabetes and alcohol abuse.
As we age we need more magnesium. Slowing dietary intake leading to reduced intestinal absorption, a natural decrease in magnesium content in our bones over time, and interaction with certain medications links magnesium deficiency with aging and age-related diseases.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Loss of appetite;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Fatigue and weakness;
- Pins and needles;
- Muscle cramps;
- Shaking; and
- Abnormal heart rhythms.
How to get Magnesium
Which foods are magnesium-rich?
To prevent magnesium deficiency try to include lots of magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Good sources of magnesium include:
- pumpkin seeds and kernels;
- chia seeds;
- almonds, cashews, peanuts;
- brown rice;
- whole grains;
- fortified cereals;
- leafy green vegetables;
- poultry; and
According to Mayo Clinic most adults don’t get enough magnesium in their diets, but this can be put right with daily servings of magnesium-rich foods. Just one ounce of almonds or cashews contains 20% of the daily magnesium an adult needs.
Talk to your doctor before taking a magnesium supplement
Magnesium deficiency is diagnosed with a blood test and treated with a supplement prescribed by your doctor. Some health conditions can be helped by taking a magnesium supplement. However, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor if you are considering taking a supplement.
Magnesium supplements can interfere with the absorption of medications, including some antibiotics, diuretics, and osteoporosis medicines. And while you can’t overdose on the magnesium naturally found in food it is possible to take too much magnesium in supplement form. High doses of magnesium in supplements can cause:
- stomach cramps;
- low blood pressure; and
- in extreme cases, irregular heartbeat, or cardiac arrest.
You can book an at-home doctor visit on the Nabta Women’s Health Shop to chat about any concerns you may have about magnesium deficiency and supplements.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/magnesium-supplements/faq-20466270
Castiglioni, S. et al. Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions Nutrients, Aug 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775240/
Precious metals and other important minerals for health, Harvard Health Publishing, Feb 2021 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/precious-metals-and-other-important-minerals-for-health
Barbagallo, M., & Dominguez, L. J. (2015). Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549665/
Boyle, N. B., et al. (2017). The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress—A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/
Magnesium, The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health,