Why do we need magnesium?
Magnesium is absolutely essential for over 300 chemical reactions in the body and is sometimes even referred to as the ‘miracle mineral.’ Despite this auspicious title, it’s estimated that magnesium deficiency is still a major problem in the West, with only around 25% of either youths or adults in the UK thought to meet their recommended daily amount (RDA). (1)
This can be quite serious as your body does need magnesium for a variety of functions. The mineral is pivotal for maintaining your energy levels and healthy muscle and nerve function. It works to convert the amino acid, tryptophan, into serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone, and is even considered a natural blood-thinner, helping to protect blood vessels and improve cardiovascular health. (2)
In spite of all of these many beneficial properties, why are people still not getting enough magnesium? As I will explore, magnesium-deficiency can be due to a number of factors, but sometimes at certain phases in our lives, it’s possible that our bodies may require more magnesium.
What causes magnesium deficiency?
Why are we so deficient in magnesium? Well, as I mentioned, it does come down to a number of factors, but most cases of deficiency in the West are largely caused by our diets. These days, our diets are less focused on fresh sources of fruit, veg and wholegrains, and more concentrated around processed fats, refined sugars, salt, synthetic sweeteners and caffeine.
Not only is this type of diet limiting your intake of magnesium-rich foods, these foods groups themselves can actually deplete your levels of magnesium and hinder its absorption. For example drinking too much coffee affects your intestinal absorption of magnesium, resulting in a substantial loss of the mineral. (3)
However, even if you do try and eat magnesium-rich foods you may still be at risk. There simply isn’t as much magnesium present in these foods as there used to be and that can be related to the treatment of soil. Certain herbicides and pesticides can affect the levels of magnesium present in the soil, meaning that growing food sources may not be able to absorb the same levels of the mineral as they used to. (4)
Finally, you also have to consider another mineral – calcium! Calcium is an excellent mineral in its own right; however it has to be balanced. Excessive amounts of calcium can affect your intake of magnesium and cause a number of side-effects.
Magnesium deficiency is sometimes known as the ‘invisible deficiency’ because often people don’t even realise they are deprived. Nevertheless, there are a number of unpleasant side effects associated with low levels of the mineral and I’ve listed a few of them below for you to consider:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Mood swings
- Muscle spasms
- Thyroid issues
Why would you need more magnesium?
It goes without saying that if you are deprived of magnesium, then naturally you will require more magnesium but what if your diet isn’t to blame? It’s no secret that as we age, some of our essential body functions start to slow down, such as our production of collagen, a key structural protein for our skin.
As we age our ability to absorb magnesium can be impacted, not to mention that most of us will be encouraged to take a calcium supplement to support our bones. However, taking a magnesium supplement may be useful in these instances, not only to help balance the calcium, but also to perform the same task.
Magnesium can be extremely beneficial for conditions such as osteoporosis, with some research suggesting that increasing your intake of this mineral may work as a preventative measure against the condition.5
What about other conditions though? Well here at A.Vogel, our menopause expert Eileen regularly recommends magnesium to menopausal women and with good reason. As she details in her blog, ‘Why you need magnesium during menopause’, magnesium can help to support your muscle function, maintain some of your hormones and balance your mood, which is why our Menopause Support remedy contains a small amount of the mineral!
However, menopause aside, magnesium can be very beneficial for women’s health, particularly when it comes to our periods. It’s not surprising that teenage girls are advised to take more magnesium, with their RDA being increased to 360mg. This is in part to help with developing their bone density, although there is some evidence to suggest that magnesium can help with our periods too!
This is because our menstrual cycles can be affected by low levels of magnesium, with some PMS symptoms even being triggered by this deficiency! Not to mention that our levels of magnesium can fluctuate due to our changing hormones, making women a bit more vulnerable to magnesium deficiency than men. Research has also indicated that magnesium can be very useful for menstrual cramps, with studies demonstrating that increasing your magnesium intake can reduce period pain.6
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What are the best sources of magnesium?
Okay, so we’ve established that increasing your intake might be a good idea if you’re suffering from problems such as osteoporosis or menopause, but how exactly do you go about achieving this? The NHS recommends that adult males get around 300mg of magnesium a day, with this amount being slightly reduced for women to 270mg.
However, this amount can vary depending on your age and other factors. As I mentioned earlier, teenage girls are recommended to increase their intake of magnesium significantly, as are pregnant or breastfeeding women! Most guidelines advise that pregnant women between the ages of 19 and 30 increase their intake to 350mg, with those over 31 needed around 360mg a day.7
When it comes to increasing your intake of magnesium, you have two options really – you can try and get more magnesium-rich foods into your diet or try supplements.
I would always try to increase your dietary intake first before turning to supplements though. Not only is there the risk that you may increase your intake too much, but increasing how much magnesium is in your diet naturally may have more benefits for your overall health.
There are plenty of dietary sources of magnesium available but below are a few of my personal favourites!
|Pumpkin seeds, 50g
|Dark chocolate, 100g
However, if you do decided to choose a supplement, it’s important that you consider absorbability. Certain forms of the mineral are easier to absorb than others which is why I would always recommend trying a liquid magnesium supplement. Our sister company, Jan de Vries, offer an excellent option in the form of Floradix’s Magnesium Liquid Mineral, which provides 250mg of magnesium that’s easy to digest and gentle on your stomach. It’s also 100% vegetarian-friendly for an added bonus!
Can you have too much magnesium?
As with most supplements moderation is definitely key. It is possible to consume too much magnesium, which can inspire a number of symptoms that are just as unpleasant as the side effects of magnesium deficiency. You should be aiming to have no more than 300mg in one dose and definitely NOT any more than 600mg!
Unfortunately, when taken in excess, magnesium can act similarly to a laxative, meaning that diarrhoea is often one of the main symptoms. However, other side effects could include nausea, low blood pressure, muscle weakness and lethargy. If you suffer from any kidney problems, you should keep a close eye on how much magnesium you are ingesting and perhaps consult your doctor before considering a supplement.