Magnesium; What Is It?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Found in bones, teeth, and red blood cells, magnesium serves as a building block for DNA and is an essential element required for proper functioning of the nervous, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.
What Depletes Our Electrolytes?
Well, sweating in warmer temperatures is an obvious cause. An additional cause of depletion is alcohol consumption which will drain the body of electrolytes, water and B vitamins. All are essential for daily function, mental sharpness, and improved sports performance.
Other causes can include dietary restrictions, increased age, inadequate hydration, stress, medications such as diuretics or blood pressure medications, inadequate kidney function, increased urination, and digestive ailments. Deficiency can result from many causes including the extended use of proton-pump inhibitors, such as Nexium and Prilosec.
All contribute to electrolyte deficiencies.
Sources Of Magnesium
It’s best to get nutrients, like magnesium, from food sources whenever possible, since they provide other health benefits, too.
How much magnesium you need depends on your age and gender. But for men over 30, I recommend at least 400 mg/day.
Because magnesium supplements can interact with some medications, it’s important to discuss the need for a dietary supplement with a healthcare provider before taking one.
Why We Need To Supplement
Modern farming techniques have caused a depletion of magnesium in the soil, and our reliance on highly processed food also means we get less. Water-softening technology has stripped drinking water of magnesium, contributing to our deficiency.
Reductions in magnesium levels, or changes in the way that it is processed, have been linked to increased levels of anxiety. Magnesium is one of the nutrients in our bodies that support well-being by regulating the chemicals in our bodies that control our state of mind. In fact, research shows a link between low magnesium intake and depression.
So what happens in the brain and body when we don’t get enough magnesium? “When you start to untangle the effects of magnesium in the nervous system, you touch upon nearly every single biological mechanism for depression,” says psychiatrist Emily Deans, MD, in Psychology Today.
Magnesium is involved with our hormone balance and stress response, Deans explains. Chronic stress causes excess cortisol in the body, which damages the brain and can make the effects of stress even worse, leading to depression. Magnesium can help suppress the release of stress hormones like cortisol and acts as a barrier to prevent the entrance of stress hormones into the brain. It also protects receptors against an excess of calcium, which can damage the brain by over-activating neurons.
Research has also shown that a low-magnesium diet may alter the types of bacteria present in the gut, and this may impact anxiety-based behavior.
Signs You’re Magnesium Deficient
It’s estimated that nearly half of Americans are magnesium deficient. A magnesium deficiency is difficult to diagnose due to its wide distribution throughout the body and symptoms associated with other health conditions. But early signs of a deficiency might include everything from irritability and muscle weakness to an irregular heartbeat.
Another common sign of a magnesium deficiency is cramping. Cramps can affect any muscle in the body but are most common in muscles or muscle groups that span two joints – e.g. the calf muscles of the lower leg (gastrocnemius) and the hamstring muscles of the rear thigh. Muscle cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes, and a muscle cramp in a particular location may also reoccur multiple times until it finally goes away.
Cramping occurs when the normal mechanisms controlling muscle contraction and relaxation become temporarily impaired. Genetics are also known to play a role (some people are simply more prone to muscle cramping than others all other things being equal) as does age (muscles in the elderly are more prone to cramping than in younger people).
However, most scientists agree that “true cramps” – those we normally associate with vigorous exercise, fatigue, and dehydration/electrolyte imbalances etc. – are caused by hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles, which also explains why much attention on preventing cramps has been focussed at minimizing this excitability through optimum nutrition and conditioning protocols.
Some studies have shown that a 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink can help delay the onset of exercise-induced muscle cramps in endurance activities such as distance running, but not prevent them entirely.
Moreover, magnesium supplementation has also been shown to help sufferers of “night cramps”, which involves nocturnal muscle cramping (normally in the legs).
*In my personal experience I have had many clients over the age of 60 over the years who have complained to me about “night cramps” in their legs. I recommended a magnesium supplement of 400 mg/day, and in all cases, the cramps went away.
If you drink a lot of water but run to the bathroom soon after, it means that your body is not absorbing the water. You are low on electrolytes and will be dehydrated at the cellular level, while also feeling thirsty during the day. One of the ways to solve this problem is to make sure you are drinking quality water from spring, glacial or artesian aquifers. These sources already have a naturally high mineral content.