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Do you often feel tired, achy and stiff? Are you not able to relax and sleep properly? Do you feel anxious, restless and depressed most of the time? Do your energy levels always seem to be on the low side? Chronic fatigue, muscle cramps and migraines are becoming a common occurrence? Maybe you, or someone you know, suffers from severe PMS?
Well, chances are you are deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium is an amazing mineral, responsible for regulating more than 300 bio-chemical reactions in the body. Virtually every cell in the body needs magnesium to do its job.
Did you know magnesium is a critical part of the crash carts in hospitals? It is used as a life-saving medicine and is given intravenously in emergency situations, such as to manage irregular heartbeat, heart failures, pre-term labour, elevated blood pressure in pregnant women (a condition called pre-eclampsia) and eclampsia.
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral; way more important than conventional doctors give it credit for. Magnesium is involved in almost all aspects of health and is particularly involved in:
- Energy production
- Synthesis of DNA and RNA
- Regulating calcium levels
- Regulating many important hormones and neurotransmitters
- Nerve and muscle functioning
- Absorption of vitamin D
- Regulating blood pressure
- Improving insulin sensitivity and regulating sugar levels in blood
- Synthesis of glutathione, the master anti-oxidant of the body
Magnesium Deficiency: A Serious Cause of Concern
Unfortunately, most of us are not getting enough magnesium. While many foods are a fairly good source of magnesium, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fruits, modern farming practices have depleted the soil of its mineral content and by extension the foods that grow in it are low in magnesium and other nutrients.
Other factors like chronic stress and excessive use of processed foods, calcium supplements, alcohol, coffee, black tea, antibiotics and other drugs also deplete magnesium in the body – making magnesium deficiency rampant in modern times.
The addition of fluoride and chlorine in our drinking water makes the matter worse as these chemicals bind to the magnesium and make the mineral less available to our body.
What complicates the problem further is that magnesium deficiency is difficult to diagnose. If you go for a blood test, chances are you will test negative for magnesium deficiency. It is because only 1 % of the body’s magnesium is present in the blood. Most of the magnesium is stored in bones, teeth and muscle tissues.
Taking supplements is one way to get more magnesium. Magnesium offers a lot of health benefits. But first let’s get a grip on one of the most important properties of magnesium; its relationship with calcium.
Magnesium regulates calcium levels
We know calcium as a mineral is needed for perfect bone health. But it has many other important functions too. Calcium also helps in transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and secretion of hormones.
Various parts of the body communicate with each through nerve impulses – electric signals that are passed on from one nerve cell to another, often referred to as ‘firing of a nerve’. This is how nerve cells (neurons) speak to each other and tell the body how to function as a whole. Nerve impulses can either stimulate or inhibit the action of a muscle or a gland. Calcium is a big player in transmission of nerve impulses. It helps nerve cells to release neurotransmitters – brain chemicals that serve as messengers and relay nerve impulses (or electrical signals) from one nerve cell to another.
Our cells (for example, muscle and nerve cells) have calcium channels in their cell membranes that allow calcium ions to enter the cells and do their job. Once its job is done, calcium is pumped outside the cells.
This is where magnesium steps in. Magnesium, like a perfect guard, keeps an eye on calcium. Once calcium has done what it is supposed to do inside the cell, magnesium pushes it out of the cell into the extracellular space where it stays until the next time it is needed for nerve firing, muscle contraction or hormone secretion.
There is a reason why there are more calcium ions outside of the cell than inside.
We need calcium but we don’t want too much of it to enter into the cells and stay there as if that happens, calcium can accumulate into various tissues and create all sorts of health problems. For example, too much of it can cause sustained, painful contractions in the skeletal muscles. It can cause abnormal contractions in the heart muscles, causing arrhythmia. Or, it can get lodged in arteries and cause plaque formation.
Health Benefits of Using Magnesium
1. Helps in muscle cramps. Reduces pains and aches
Magnesium is known to ease pain in muscles, joints and nerves. When you don’t have enough magnesium to balance calcium, calcium can sneak into the cells and cause painful cramps and contractions in the muscle. Magnesium, on the other hand, helps to relax muscles.
Magnesium also calms down NDMA – a brain chemical strongly linked with pain. A 2013 study found that magnesium can reduce pain intensity and improve mobility in patients with chronic low back pain.  All these properties are extremely helpful in improving painful symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
2. Relieves stress and promotes good sleep
“Dietary deficiencies of magnesium, coupled with excess calcium and stress may cause many cases of other related symptoms including agitation, anxiety, irritability, confusion, asthenia, sleeplessness, headache, delirium, hallucinations and hyperexcitability” 
Magnesium calms an excited nervous system. It maintains a healthy balance of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, GABA and melatonin. All of these chemicals are extremely important for a healthy and relaxed nervous system – keeping stress and anxiety at bay while promoting good mood and healthy sleep. In addition, as a powerful muscle relaxant, magnesium also helps to relieve stress and tension stored in muscles.
Magnesium works at many levels to help the body deal with stress. Magnesium increases the synthesis of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is a brain chemical, low levels of which can cause anxiety, panic attacks and inability to relax and sleep. Magnesium increases the levels of serotonin, a mood and sleep bosting hormone.
Magnesium prevents the secretion of stress hormones, and prevents stress hormones from entering the brain and also lowers the amount of ACTH, a hormone that signals your adrenal glands to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Too much of cortisol can lead to all sorts of health problems including anxiety, memory loss, palpitations, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and depression.
Studies show that magnesium therapy can be as effective as antidepressants while treating depression and nervous system disorders, but without the side effects.  
3. Reduces the risk of diabetes, lowers insulin resistance
Magnesium deficiency can lead to insulin resistance – a condition where cells of the body become immune to insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas that help cells to use glucose circulating in the blood. Without magnesium, insulin is not able to carry glucose to the cells efficiently – leading to increased blood sugar as well as insulin levels. Furthermore, people with insulin resistance excrete more magnesium in their urine – robbing the body of magnesium and causing further mineral loss.
Studies suggest that increasing magnesium consumption reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, improves insulin sensitivity and offsets the risk of developing diabetes.  
4. Effective for migraine and tension headaches
Research shows that people who tend to have migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than people who don’t. In 2012, the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology gave magnesium a Level B rating, meaning “it is probably effective and should be considered for patients requiring migraine preventive therapy.” 
A study found that people who took magnesium reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by 41.6%. Studies also show that magnesium help reduce menstruation related migraines.
Stress also causes the neck and scalp muscles to become tense – resulting in migraines and tension headaches. Magnesium relieves stress, relaxes muscles and reduces painful spasms and contractions associated with migraines. The mineral also relaxes blood vessels, thus improving the blood flow towards the brain. Magnesium also blocks the brain chemicals that transmit pain such as Substance P and glutamate.
5. Important for healthy heart
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral to support healthy heart functions. Poor magnesium status has been linked with arrhythmias, angina, heart disease, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.
Without enough magnesium, calcium enters the cells unrestricted and causes continuous muscle contractions, resulting in irregular heart beat and even heart attack in the case of chronic deficiency. Too much calcium can become deposited in the arteries, leading to the development of atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque or fatty deposits). This can impede or completely block the flow of blood to the heart and brain – causing heart attack or stroke.
Magnesium also lowers elevated blood pressure as it helps to dilate the smooth muscles of the blood vessels – improving the blood flow to the heart and other organs.
The Framingham Heart Study reported that magnesium intake reduces the accumulation of calcium in the arteries, concluding that “magnesium intake was inversely associated with arterial calcification, which may play a contributing role in magnesium's protective associations in stroke and fatal coronary heart disease.” 
6. Improves bone health
Magnesium is one of the most important nutrients to keep your bones healthy and strong, besides vitamin D and vitamin K2. Did you think it was calcium all along? Calcium is essential, but too much calcium without magnesium can actually make your bones weak, brittle and prone to fractures.
Magnesium helps the body absorb vitamin D, which is required for calcium absorption. In addition, your body needs magnesium to activate all the enzymes needed to metabolize vitamin D. Magnesium also stimulates calcitonin, a hormone that mobilizes excess calcium from blood, muscles, soft tissues and the bones, an action that helps reduce risk of heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis and kidney stones.
As Dr. Carolyn Dean, the author of ‘The Magnesium Miracle’, writes, “When you take high doses of Vitamin D and if you are already low in magnesium, the increased amount of metabolic work drains magnesium from its muscle storage sites. That’s probably why muscles are the first to suffer magnesium deficiency symptoms. Twitching, leg cramps, restless legs and Charlie horses. Angina and even heart attacks affecting the heart muscle are also magnesium deficiency symptoms.”
Dr. Dean explains, “A hundred years ago, we enjoyed a diet high in magnesium with a daily intake of 500 mg. Today we are lucky to get 200 mg. However, calcium in the diet has never been higher. This high-calcium, low-magnesium diet, when coupled with calcium supplementation, can give a calcium to magnesium imbalance of 10:1 or even higher — which constitutes a walking time bomb of impaired bone health and heart disease.” 
According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Many studies, including the Framingham Heart Study, have found that eating foods high in magnesium and potassium increases bone density and may help prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis.” 
7. Improves PMS symptoms
Women with magnesium deficiency are more likely to suffer from severe pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS) such as migraines, dizziness, painful muscle spasms, fatigue, depression and irritability. Magnesium is even more important during menstruation as high levels of estrogen and progesterone lower magnesium levels in the body. Magnesium is nature’s original chill pill to relax muscles, with properties that help to alleviate most of these period-related symptoms.
Don’t let poor magnesium levels affect your health
The fact is magnesium deficiency impacts every major system in the body. Unfortunately, most doctors and healthcare professionals don’t realize this and are not able to tap into wide-ranging benefits offered by this magnificent mineral.
The good news is that maintaining healthy magnesium levels in the body is easy and inexpensive. Using high quality magnesium is an extremely safe and highly effective way to prevent, treat and even reverse a lot of health problems including chronic fatigue, achy joints, nerve pain, muscle cramps, migraine, PMS symptoms and asthma. Magnesium also helps to lower your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, panic attacks and insomnia.
- Katherine Czapp. Magnificent Magnesium. The Weston A. Price Foundation. 2010.
- Yousef AA, Al-deeb AE. A double-blinded randomised controlled study of the value of sequential intravenous and oral magnesium therapy in patients with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component. Anaesthesia. 2013 Mar;68(3):260-6.
- Eby GA, Eby KL. Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):362-70. Epub 2006 Mar 20.
- Eby GA, Eby KL. Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Medical Hypothesis. 2010;74(4):649-60.
- Murck H. Ketamine, magnesium and major depression--from pharmacology to pathophysiology and back. Journal of Psychiatric Resarch. 2013 Jul; 47(7):955-65.
- Dibaba DT, Xun P, eta al. Dietary magnesium intake and risk of metabolic syndrome: a meta-analysis. Diabetic Medicine. 2014 Nov;31(11):1301-9. doi: 10.1111/dme.12537.
- Adela Hruby, James B. Meigs, Christopher J. O’Donnell, Paul F. Jacques, Nicola M. McKeown. Higher magnesium intake reduces risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism, and progression from prediabetes to diabetes in middle-aged Americans. Diabetes Care 2013 Oct; DC_131397.
- Magnesium. American Headache Society.
- Hruby A, O'Donnell CJ, Jacques PF, Meigs JB, Hoffmann U, McKeown NM. Magnesium intake is inversely associated with coronary artery calcification: the Framingham Heart Study. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2014 Jan;7(1):59-69
- Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. Magnesium Is Crucial for Bones. The Huffington Post
- Magnesium. Arthritis Foundation.