Magnesium is a very interesting mineral in that it is involved in so many functions in the body and as humans we actually need it in reasonably large amounts, around 420mg daily. It is actually referred to as the ‘smoothie mineral’ because it relaxes and eases both nerves and muscles as well as keeping blood circulating efficiently. Magnesium is also essential for creating bone where it works in conjunction with calcium. It is often not understood that 60% of the body’s magnesium is actually stored in bone. The majority of the rest, (25%) is found in muscle.
So what does magnesium actually do?
Magnesium is so essential because it reacts with over 300 enzymes in the body to produce literally millions of metabolic reactions, building protein, breaking down carbohydrates and fats as well as aiding gene function and storing fuel. If magnesium is deficient so many body reactions are affected.
What are the symptoms of Magnesium deficiency?
Because of the countless roles of magnesium in the body, symptoms of deficiency can also be extremely varied. You may experience weakness or tremors, muscles can spasm or cramp. Sometimes circulation can be affected with people experiencing high blood pressure as well as irregular heart beats and even faster beats (tachycardia). You can experience mood swings as well as anxiety or depression and research has shown people with chronic magnesium deficiency are more prone to experience calcification of tendons etc.
So how does Magnesium affect muscles specifically?
As health practitioners we are very aware of the role of trigger points in muscles, causing tension, spasm and pain. A trigger point is a tight knot or band. We imagine them as a part of the muscle with a million tiny power points (motor endplates), in a very small area. The brain sends messages to the power points which in turn release their transmitters causing calcium ions to rush into the muscle causing a contraction. Magnesium has the effect of slowing the uptake of calcium into the muscle and dampening the overall muscle tension. For mor information on this process check out ‘Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual’ Travell and Simons.
What Foods are Good for Magnesium?
Popeye didn’t eat spinach for no reason!! Spinach is one of the worlds leading sources of natural magnesium. Other natural sources include pumpkin, cauliflower, tuna, cashews, watermelon, brown rice, carrots, shrimp and even strawberries!
What about Magnesium supplements?
For whatever reason it seems that over 50% of all people are magnesium deficient. This is in most cases due to a diet of predominantly processed foods but it seems that often even if we are getting the right food, for whatever reason our body can’t absorb all the good minerals. Whether this is due to chemicals in our environment, toxins, genetically modified food, the facts are we often don’t know why but if you are experiencing some of the symptoms above it may pay to talk to your health care professional about magnesium supplementation. As a rule chelated magnesiums are easier for your body to absorb. Be aware that some people experience stomach upset with magnesium and if you are taking high doses it can store in the gut and draw water, sometimes causing diarrhoea. It is always best to monitor magnesium use in conjunction with your health care professional.