If you are like me, searching for concrete and real information is a full time hobby.
When it comes to Magnesium, the wave of misinformation flooding the net is unbelievable, and just makes me want to research it even further, using peer-reviewed medical articles.
I am aware that I have a very special relationship with Magnesium, and for many reasons.
First, I was receiving a soup of vitamins and minerals, sometimes subcutaneously, when I was still a young child. This was allegedly prescribed to make me grow (too small and too skinny for my own good), balance my chronic (and dangerous) hypoglycaemia (especially in my teens), and was also another attempt at modulating my sleep. And, I had to take even higher doses of Magnesium two to three times a year.
Looking back, I suspect, our family doctor was onto something.
Looking now, with all the naturopathic nutritional knowledge I have amassed, I know I still have that very special relationship with Magnesium. My body refuses to obey the rules of nature. Period!
For example, taking Magnesium, in any form, or strength, in the evening, usually gives me a bout of energy that prevents me to fall asleep. However, if I take it in the morning, nothing... No incredible feeling of being full of energy.
Taking supplemental Magnesium at lunch time seems right for me. I cannot put it all on Magnesium, but in the afternoon, I start to feel clearer, focus more, and my energy levels are stable.
Why taking Magnesium supplements would you ask?
Because, in my case, Magnesium is very fragile. I just have to listen to my body to know, but it was confirmed when I finally decided to do a second DNA test, much thorough this time. What came up, was that my body requires much more Magnesium that the average person, and as a result, makes me even more deficient than most of the population.
No matter I eat Brassicas at every meals, and plates full of greens daily, but, Organic or not, mass production simply depletes the soil of all nutrients, and as a result, I have still doubt to how much Magnesium enters my cells.
Magnesium is an essential element to our well-being, which plays a key role in more than 300 biochemical processes in the human body, and is the subject of countless medical studies, and yet, due to soil depletion, it is estimated that up to 95% of the population is magnesium deficient.
If you are stressed or anxious, then your Magnesium need is multiplied: stress depletes your magnesium levels. Deficiency leads to a host of problems such as insomnia, anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms and cramps, restless leg syndrome, depression, ADHD symptoms, brain fog and memory issues to name a few.
Magnesium is also important for hormonal health, and a deficiency can lead to debilitating hormonal imbalances.
Thyroid function: Magnesium helps convert the less active T4 thyroid hormone to the more active T3.
Oestrogen balance: Along with Folic Acid and the antioxidant Glutathione, Magnesium is critical to Phase II detoxification in the liver, making oestrogen metabolites water-soluble so that they can be excreted from the body. If you have insufficient magnesium, Phase II liver detox may be too slow or compromised, which may contribute to Oestrogen Dominance Syndrome. This can cause weight gain, fluid retention and also contribute to the development of cancers of the breast and ovaries. Chronic constipation is also known to contribute to the syndrome by allowing detoxified oestrogens to re-enter circulation (amongst other elements from waste lingering too long in the gut, like toxins created by non-symbiotic bacteria in the bowel and, inflammatory cells), and overwhelm the liver with hormones it had to detoxify once already.
Adrenalin and Cortisol: Magnesium helps to reduce over-reactivity of your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, and as a result reduces the production of stress hormones. Plus, it contributes to regulating cholesterol use for sex hormones, by directly acting on Corticosteroid production (Pregnelonone steal).
If you are under chronic stress, then you are most likely to be deficient in Magnesium, even if you supplement. Talk to your practitioner to assess and address your Magnesium levels.
Insulin Sensitivity: Magnesium is also proven to lower blood sugar. Some experts call it ‘natural Metformin’ (the prescribed drug for people with diabetes Type 2) and demonstrate that deficiency increases the risk of impaired insulin and the development of diabetes Type 2 shoots up.
Serotonin production: Magnesium helps to convert Tryptophan into the important mood-boosting hormone, serotonin. Serotonin also makes melatonin, which is also regulated by our circadian rhythm.
Signs of deficiency
In the short term:
Longer-term, increased risk of:
The body stores Magnesium in the cells of tissues and organs, and combined with calcium, it is stored in the bones to keep them strong and healthy. Only a tiny fraction (only about 1%) of Magnesium freely circulates in the blood. This is why blood tests are not very helpful for checking magnesium because they do not take into consideration the levels in the cells.
Remember that we are not only what we eat, but what we absorb. Any gut dysfunction will impact directly on how much Magnesium is extracted from the food you eat and how much actually enters your cells. A very acidic diet, smoking, etc. will force the body to use Magnesium reserves to buffer acidity in tissues.
Conversely, low stomach acid can greatly interfere with Magnesium assimilation, because as a mineral, Magnesium required stomach juices to be digestible. It is also why Magnesium must always be supplemented (taken) with food.
Iron supplementation, is usually not recommended, but sometimes prescribed (in case of severe fatigue or anaemia), and can interfere with Magnesium absorption. Best to take both separately.
Oxalates: acting like magnet, these molecules can interfere with the availability of Magnesium in the gut, by literally encasing Magnesium and prevent its absorption. Fluoride, as found in some tap water, may also have identical effect on Magnesium availability.
Beware of Diuretics: Caffeine, and some prescriptions, act as diuretics and accelerate the excretion of minerals (and electrolytes) such as Magnesium.
Remember that not all magnesium products are created equally, and many of them are ill-absorbed by the body and be excreted without effect whatsoever. Talk to your practitioner for the best supplemental form for your needs.
Many companies now offer topical Magnesium, allowing to bypass the digestive system completely. Used as oils or lotion, or even gels, they can also be used to treat skin issues.
Epsom Salt baths are also a great way to allow the body to rest. Enjoying a warm bath alone, is a great opportunity to switch off from the world around, and by using Magnesium salts may also help relax aching muscles, and promote restful sleep.
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Olivier is a Michelin trained chef, a registered Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating.