Magnesium is a very well talked about mineral. Most people have heard about it, tried it, take it or should be taking it. So before we get into, are you getting enough magnesium, let’s find out a little more about our popular friend, Mr Magnesium (yes it’s a Mister).
Magnesium is vital to our body. How vital? This vital..
– Over 300 enzymes need it to function. In particular those enzymes involved with ATP (ATP is the little energy fuel within cells) and enzymes involved in DNA & RNA production (that’s some pretty important stuff right there).
– It’s an important mineral for bone health (most people only consider calcium when discussing bone health) and actually most of the body’s magnesium is stored within bone.
– Magnesium calms the nervous system.
– It is an important mineral for hormone health. In particular steroid hormones (progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen) and thyroid hormone.
– It sensitisers insulin receptors
– And is a great sleep enhancer
Are you getting enough magnesium?
Unfortunately most people don’t get adequate magnesium to support these essential functions. Reason being, it is quite difficult to get enough through the diet. Firstly, the major reasons for this is the richness of magnesium in todays soil has declined. And secondly, the presence of anti-nutrients like phytates which inhibit the absorption of magnesium, are present in many of the foods highest in magnesium.
Certain conditions can also predispose you to having lower levels of magnesium. They include:
– digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gastrooesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) especially those taking Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s)
– Renal disorders
– Some diuretic medications
– Older age
Signs of magnesium deficiency can include:
– muscle cramps, probably the number one reason seek out magnesium. On a side note cramps can also be associated with several other mineral deficiencies. Check out this podcast for more info about cramps.
– heart arrhythmias
– type 2 diabetes
So how much magnesium do we need?
Well the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 400 to 420mg per day for males and 310 to 320mg a day for adult females. However, RDA refers to the amount required to avoid deficiency versus optimum performance. It has been suggested that a more optimal range is about 500 to 700 mg per day from a combination of food and supplements.
So unless you are consciously aware of your intake, be it through food or supplements, it’s pretty safe to assume, that you’re probably not getting enough.
How to ensure you are getting enough magnesium?
1. Eat foods that are rich in magnesium.
– Nuts and seeds. Eg. pumpkin seeds and almonds. But they also contain phytates. Remember they are anti-nutrients that reduce the absorption’s of the magnesium (and other minerals). One way around this is to soak nuts and seeds overnight, then put them into a dehydrator or roast them at a low temperature (150-170 degrees) before consuming them. This process is call “Activating” and reduces the phytic acid. For the most delicious Activated Nuts and Seeds, check out Star Anise Organics, the taste is like no others.
– Dark leafy veggies. Eg. spinach, chard.
– Molasses (Did anyone else use to dip their finger in the horses molasses and like it? I did, haven’t had any recently, but maybe I should get back into my old habits!)
– Dark chocolate .. MMM HMM … That’s right, I say go ahead with some quality dark chocolate. Are you craving it? Maybe your body is trying to tell you something.
– Banana’s …. See delicious Bedtime Banana Tea Video BELOW!!!
– Legumes are a good source too. Impressive on paper but they also contain phytic acid, so they need to be soaked prior to eating in order to make the magnesium more bioavailable (means the amount that actually gets absorbed into the blood stream and has an effect i.e. different to the amount written on paper).
– Probably a good idea considering the average American gets less than 250mg per day (sorry couldn’t find the Aussie data, but I assume it will be around the same) through the diet which is below the RDA (which as I mentioned it not the “ideal level”). Those who consume a nutrient dense, whole foods diets probably do have a higher intake closer to the RDA, hence may only need to supplement with an additional 100 to 200 mg per day.
– Chelated forms of magnesium are better absorbed. Eg. Magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate. I have had a hard time finding these forms in Australia in most shops but ask at your local health shop/pharmacy/naturopath. When it comes to supplements – quality matters!!! Like most things you tend to get what you pay for. So look for quality brands, as the quality of the ingredients, manufacturing, form of the compound, what else is in the supplement matters. This one is a pretty good option http://au.iherb.com/Now-Foods-Magnesium-Bisglycinate-Powder-8-oz-227-g/59860
– Epsom salt bath. Well absorbed, cheap and an awesome excuse to have a bath. Go on, when’s the last time you treated yourself!!!!
– Topical magnesium preps. I like the Ancient Minerals Brand. Rub in yourself, or con someone to give you a massage, just before bed. That should get you feeling relaxed and ready for bed!
I like to think of myself as a minimalist when it comes to supplements in general. There are less than a handful of supplements that I recommend to take as maintenance supplements and magnesium is one of them. It is also helpful therapeutically for people dealing with a lot of stress, tension and sleep disturbance. For more tips on sleep check out this blog here.
It does interact with a few medications (bisphosphonates, nitrofurantoin, digoxin) so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting if you are on any other meds. If you take too much, you will know about it – because it is also used as a laxative. So if you notice things are on the looser side, dial it back.
Do you want to add a little more magnesium into your life RIGHT NOW?
Here is a little Bedtime Banana Tea recipe that is super easy, quick to make, and tastes delicious.
Enjoy - Love Chantel