The Importance Of Magnesium In The Body
The body is made up of many different components and substances. We have cells, tissues, nerves, organs, and organ systems. But what controls those components? If we take a closer look at our body, we see that it is a very complex system. Each component is somehow dependent on something else for it to function correctly. Electrolytes are a perfect example. Electrolytes are minerals in the blood (and other fluids) that carry an electrical charge. These electrolytes work together to help the body function properly. There are five main electrolytes; sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphate, chloride, and magnesium.
While all of these electrolytes are critical in their own way, this week’s blog will focus on the importance of magnesium in the diet, how much we need a day, different types of magnesium, what foods we can find it in, signs of a magnesium deficiency, risk factors for developing a deficiency, and precautions when choosing to supplement with magnesium.
As stated before, magnesium is an electrolyte that is found in the body. It has many different roles, but it mainly keeps our bones, our muscles and our nerves functioning properly. It plays an important role in nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. It also helps with synthesizing proteins, regulating muscles, controlling blood glucose, and even aids in blood pressure regulation. Magnesium also helps takes part in building bones and even some aspects of cardiac function. As you can see, magnesium has a lot of important roles in the body!
According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), the daily intake of magnesium for an average healthy adult should be 310-420 mg/day. These values vary depending on age, sex, and other lifestyle factors so consult with your health care provider before increasing or considering supplementing with magnesium. It is important to take a magnesium complex or blend, not just magnesium glycinate. Supplementing with magnesium glycinate alone is helping mainly with GI conditions such as constipation or heartburn. For heart health and optimal neurologic function, look for a magnesium supplement that also has aspartate and taurinate complexes. Ideally we want all three types in a magnesium supplement.
Luckily, magnesium is a mineral that can be easily found in foods. In fact we can get our recommended amount by consistently incorporating a variety of the following foods: dark leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds, seaweed, beans, lentils, unrefined grains, bananas, dried figs, blackberries, halibut and other fish. Opt for local and organic whenever possible. These are just a select food sources that contain magnesium, there are a wide variety of others. The important thing is that you make it a habit to eat a healthy diet to help give your body the proper vitamins and minerals it needs. It is always best when we get all our vitamins and minerals from food rather than a supplement but balance is key.
The good news is that in general, for most people, it is rare to have an excess of magnesium because the kidneys help eliminate it from the body. On the flip side, magnesium deficiencies are more common than you might think. Causes of a magnesium deficiency vary but the main causes are alcohol abuse, chronic diarrhea, unmanaged diabetes, malabsorption, malnutrition, and some medications.
Some signs and symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. If the magnesium deficiency is severe enough, symptoms may progress to numbness, tingling, muscle contractions, cramps, seizures, personality changes, and even cardiac arrhythmias. Having a long term magnesium deficiency may place a person at an increased risk for certain diseases and health conditions, such as: hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and even migraines.
While for most people supplementing with a magnesium complex is safe, there are some precautions to follow which include:
- looking at nutritional label to make sure it is a magnesium complex
- buying from a reputable source
- talking with your healthcare provider if you have any kidney or heart problems
- consulting with your prescribing doctor if you are taking any antibiotics to ask about any possible interactions.
It is important to note that magnesium is just one electrolyte in the body and we see how one electrolyte is responsible for so many critical roles in the body. As mentioned earlier, there are other electrolytes that include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus. All five of these electrolytes work together in the body to maintain homeostasis or balance to the system.
Electrolytes are critical for making sure the body is functioning properly. That being said, when one electrolyte is out of balance the others are affected as well. This is why is it important to make sure that you are keeping all of these electrolytes in check for optimal health and function.