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Sep. 17th, 2012


Between prepping the new dojo for its grand opening next week, and keeping up with all of life's other responsibilities, I've been working on Living With Bears--the wellness book focusing on stress and nutrition.  (I mention the standard stress advice in the book, but it instead focuses on the nutritional aspects that make that other stress advice feasible rather than unattainable.)

One of the nutrients I discuss is the mineral magnesium--a mineral the body uses for a multitude of processes that make a healthy life possible.  Magnesium levels influence cardiac health, muscular health, bone health, and mood.  I thought I'd share a bit of what I'm putting in the book.

The USDA estimates nearly 70% of Americans don't get enough magnesium from their diet.  It's increasingly hard to do.  Research in the US and the UK show a decline in the magnesium levels in foods considered "high" in the mineral.  Much of the decline is attributed to industrial farming methods.  Additional declines are attributed to refining processes, which separate the magnesium-rich portions of a plant from the "preferred" elements.

Increasing magnesium intake has been shown to have the following benefits.  Usually, magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide work much better than magnesium sulfate:

  • Reduction of frequency and severity of migraines, especially in women who have migraines connected with their monthly cycles.
  • Coincidentally, adequate magnesium intake also decreases the severity of PMS symptoms.
  • Reduction of health palpitations and blood pressure.  Excessive amounts of magnesium may cause arrhythmia, but proper amounts support and strengthen cardiac health.
  • Reduction of sleep disturbances, especially difficulties falling asleep and frequent awakenings.  I've worked with a bunch of clients who have found relief from sleeplessness by taking a magnesium-calcium supplement before bedtime.
  • Reduction of osteoporosis and osteopenia.  Magnesium is necessary for the body to use calcium and other bone-building minerals properly.
  • Reduction of depression, especially among people who aren't getting adequate relief from prescription anti-depressants, because it raises serotonin levels.  In fact, some research shows magnesium is as effective as tricyclic antidepressants among people who also have diabetes.
  • Reduction of muscles cramps and aches.  Magnesium is often used in the prevention of certain seizures, and in the prevention of irregular heartbeat.  (The heart is a muscle, after all!)
  • Reduction of insulin resistance.  While there is disagreement in the research as to how much magnesium impacts blood sugar levels, there isn't a bit of research that indicates it reduces insulin responses.
  • Reduction of chronic constipation.  Magnesium draws water into the intestinal system and soothes the intestinal muscles.

If anyone needs the sources for the above, for their own information or to open discussions with one's doctor, let me know and I'll be happy to provide them.

What amazes me is the number of conditions that are common doctor-visit complaints compared to the number of times a mineral supplement is recommended in place of a prescription.  Much of this is due to the structure of the US medical system, which will permit insurance payments for expensive drugs but restricts payment for key nutrients.  Even Health Savings Accounts are now limited in their use to those supplements prescribed by a physician.  If your doctor doesn't believe in supplementing key nutrients as part of preventative medicine, you're stuck with an out-of-pocket expense.  Fortunately, magnesium is pretty cheap.  (Mine costs me about six bucks a month.)

Usually, folks who take magnesium are advised to take B6 as well (as part of a multivitamin) since B6 impacts how well the body can use magnesium.

The side effects of too much magnesium include stomach cramps, headache, nausea, low blood pressure and heart rate, and confusion.  You have to work really, really hard to ingest excessive magnesium intake from food.  In supplements, laxative effects are found at about 350 mg daily (I take 400 mg daily). Magnesium can alter the absorption and metabolizing of certain drugs, so as always it's important to do a little research before taking anything.

As always, I must state I provide the above accurate information for educational purposes only, and that you should discuss any health decisions with your physician.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2012 05:32 am (UTC)
That's really interesting. After I read your post, I googled what foods are rich in magnesium. I assume that homegrown would be more likely to contain higher amounts than those veggies, for example, bought at the grocery? (I did see some nuts, seeds, and halibut also contain magnesium.)
Sep. 18th, 2012 12:44 pm (UTC)
It depends. The health of the soil is the primary factor, followed by watering methods.

I'm always wary of the "rich in X" lists that don't also tell the amoung of X in an actual serving. Sure, whole grains have higher amounts of magnesium...if you're going to eat an entire cup of flour! But once you put it in actual serving sizes, a slice of whole-grain bread has as much magnesium as hot cocoa.

Spinach and collard greens are among the highest for Mg, though you'd need to eat two to three cups of them daily to hit the RDA. But if they're combined with daily intake of nuts and seeds, beans (white or black), and the occasional halibut, you can hit that number with a total of about four cups of food total. Without those key foods, you're looking at 10 to 15 cups of food daily to hit that mark.

If you have hard water, you'll also have some mineral intake from the tap.

Sep. 18th, 2012 02:41 pm (UTC)
I think you mean "heart palpitations," above. I've been thinking about adding magnesium to see if it helps with some benign arrhythmia I get from time to time. Then again, I haven't had it lately, so nothing to test at the moment. Interesting post.
Sep. 18th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
I think you mean "heart palpitations," above.

Why, yes. Yes, I did. :) Thank you.

I started looking more at magnesium when my son started suffering from migraines. We finally narrowed the onset to two conditions: anything that caused him to sweat a great deal, and the time leading up to growth spurts. The first one we could take care of preemptively with a bit of fizzy mineral drink. The second took us a day to catch, since there were no other indications, but then weren't an issue with magnesium supplementation.
Sep. 18th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I am so bad at taking daily supplements. You'd think a person with all of my education could handle taking a vitamin each morning. *sigh*
Sep. 18th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
I hear ya. I've used tricks such as putting the supplements next to my toothbrush, putting them on top of the coffee maker, keeping some in my briefcase, setting my cellphone alarms...

Oddly enough, I do better when I travel.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Blair MacGregor

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