Twenty years ago when I first started out in the world of naturopathy and was doing my clinic hours with a GP/naturopath in Sydney, the main observation that I noted was in his use of magnesium. He prescribed it to nearly every client who came in, so of course I thought there must be a good reason for this. Of course in my general studies in naturopathy we are taught about so many different things, all seeming important, but this magnesium thing really stood out in clinic practice back then as it does still for me today.
Magnesium has many many uses, but the reason it is prescribed so frequently is that magnesium is used up heavily in times of stress. This can be any type of stress, whether it be stress on the body from allergy or illness, mental or emotional stress or even the general life stress of say having a job, relationship or kids. so as you can see, we all have some stress in our lives. It is part of being alive, but unfortunately this stress can deplete our reserves of magnesium and when we are low in magnesium, stress tends to affect us more easily, thus further depleting our levels creating a vicious circle of further depletion.
The most common symptoms of sub-clinical magnesium deficiency are restlessness, mood disturbances, personality changes, anorexia, nausea, anxiety, depression, headaches, restless legs syndrome, muscle aches and twitches and the list goes on, or can bea asymptomatic, at least to the individual.
Where is magnesium located in the body?
Magnesium in the body is represented as either extracellular 1% (that is, outside the cell) or intracellular 99% (inside the cells). Approximately half the magnesium is in the bones and most of the rest is in the muscles and soft tissues. Because most of the magnesium is in the cells instead of in the blood, a blood test to determine magnesium is an inaccurate estimate of levels in the body in general. However, a live blood analysis may show the signs of the body’s needs.
An analogy I like to use to describe the magnesium in and out the cells and how we can’t be sure if a blood test reflects our true levels in the body, is one of an expressway and city parking. If the expressway into a city is our blood vessels, the cars are magnesium, and the car parking spaces in the city our cells or storage spaces in our body then we can see that at times, say peak hour, we can have the expressway full of cars and nothing in the carpark, but at say 10am the car spaces are full up, but the expressway is nearly empty. We can’t necessarily say that the carpark is full by looking at how full or empty the expressway is, just as we can’t say if we have enough magnesium by testing the levels in our blood.
What are some common sources of magnesium?
Good sources include kelp, nuts, especially almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and hazelnuts, seeds, esp sunflower and their sprouts, tofu, legumes (brown), whole grains, wheat bran and germ, dark green vegetables, seafood and chocolate. Incidentally a chocolate craving is a sign of magnesium deficiency. Also rich sources are the concentrated super greens mentioned last month such as chlorella, barley and wheat grass. You may already consume a lot of these foods and this will certainly help to keep up your levels of magnesium, but if you have any ongoing stress in your life of any description then it may pay well to supplement with extra magnesium.
What are the best forms of magnesium supplements?
There are over 20 different types of magnesium, however, not all forms are available in Australia, nor are all forms equal in their bioavailability and absorptive qualities. Forms that offer good to excellent levels of oral absorption include magnesium; aspartate, chelates (to amino acids), citrate, fumurate, glycinate or diglycinate, lactate, malate, orotate, phosphate, picolinate, and succinate, with my favourite being the diglycinate form as it appears to give the best repeatable results.
Magnesium sulfate and hydroxide are used primarily as laxatives, as they are rarely absorbed, but rather are hydrophilic (draws water to itself) in nature. Magnesium hydroxide is also used in antacid preparations. Magnesium acetate and chloride are both used in food preparation, particularly in non-alcoholic beverages and in some supplements as a filler/binder.
Some medical uses for Magnesium (prescribed):
ADD, ADHD, adrenal exhaustion, alcoholism, angina, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, autism, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, Celiac disease, Chronic fatigue syndrome, cholesterol (high LDL), colitis, coronary thrombosis, dental caries, depression, diabetes, diarrhoea, environmental toxin poisoning, epilepsy, oedema, fractures, gastric reflux, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, immune system depletion, inflammatory bowel disease, insomnia, irritability, kidney stones, migraine, muscle weakness and excitability, multiple sclerosis, myocardial infarction, nephritis, nervousness, neuritis, obesity, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, PMS, psoriasis, radiation therapy, restless legs syndrome, serotonin synthesis, tremors and vomiting.
What things can deplete or antagonise magnesium?
The conditions listed above will not only require supplemental magnesium, but will often cause a depletion in magnesium reserves. Other circumstances that deplete magnesium include: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, saturated fat intake, excess sweating, stress, surgery, insomnia, ketoacidosis, excess calcium, copper, fluoride, iron, lead, mercury, phosphorus, zinc, oxalic acid (eg. spinach), phytic acid, vit D, ammonium chloride, thyroxin, pharmaceutical diuretics, oral contraceptives, beta-blockers. IBS, renal and hormonal diseases, parathyroid gland disorders, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, Paget’s disease, and malabsorption.
Originally published in Here & Now magazine, written by Sue Kira, from True Vitality
By Sue Kira