Why is magnesium so important?
It would be impossible to talk about all of the functions this multitalented mineral can perform or is involved in but, to name just a few, you need magnesium to maintain healthy energy levels, to absorb calcium properly, to support your muscles and joints, to protect your blood vessels and to enhance your mood – and this is just barely scratching the surface!
However, despite its importance, magnesium deficiency remains a big problem and is considered to be one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the UK. This is unfortunate as low levels of magnesium are associated with a number of less than pleasant symptoms, I’ve listed just a few below:
A few of these symptoms definitely have the capacity to interrupt your sleep, such as muscle pain, constipation and anxiety, but more specifically, low levels of magnesium can directly affect your quality of sleep.
Can magnesium improve your sleep?
If low levels of magnesium are linked to poor sleep and insomnia can addressing this imbalance improve your sleep quality? Well, research would seem to favour this conclusion, with one study conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry in Munich finding that a magnesium supplement increased deep slow wave sleep and decreased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.1
This is possibly because of how magnesium can affect your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system responsible for calming your body down and helping you to relax. Magnesium can also increase your levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety and feelings of fear.
It’s also thought that magnesium plays a role in regulating melatonin, the sleep hormone, helping to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. It’s even been connected with restless leg syndrome, with low levels of magnesium believed to be a primary factor in the condition, possibly due to its role as a muscle relaxant. One study found that magnesium therapy helped to ease the insomnia associated with restless leg syndrome.2
Is it possible to get too much magnesium?
It’s very uncommon, but it is possible to get too much magnesium. Usually this is caused by over-supplementing and it can be just as damaging for your sleep as not getting enough.
Sometimes it can arise because many become confused by how much magnesium they should be getting each day – to put things into perspective, an adult man should be getting around 400-420mg of magnesium a day while a woman’s requirements are approximately 310-320mg.
Of course this can change due to factors such as age and sometimes the guidelines for women fluctuate due to factors like pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Why is magnesium deficiency so common?
If magnesium is so important why is magnesium deficiency so common? Unfortunately, the answer often lies with our diet, as our nutritionist Emma elaborates in her blog, ‘Should you be taking more magnesium?’ Over the past century, our diets have moved increasingly away from fresh fruit and veg and now revolve more and more around processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sugar.
These foods can play a role not only in depleting our store of magnesium, but also in inhibiting its absorption. Caffeinated beverages like coffee are particularly at fault here, affecting your intestinal absorption. In the blog Emma also mentions that ingesting too much calcium can sometimes impact your absorption of magnesium while the treatment of soil with herbicides and pesticides can leach away the presence of the mineral.
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How can you increase your intake of magnesium naturally?
It might tempting to immediately consider a magnesium supplement, however, this mineral is available in plentiful amounts – simply eating the right foods should be enough to get your intake back up to scratch which is why I’ve listed 5 of my favourite sources of magnesium below!
1 – Spinach
Popeye might have been on to something as one cup of this green leafy plant contains almost 40% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium! Impressive, but spinach goes the extra mile with its rich content of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, and the elusive vitamin K, which is essential for your heart and bones!
2 – Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are another great source of magnesium, with just two tablespoons containing around 25% of your daily intake! These powerful little seeds are also bursting with protein and iron, making them an extremely nutritious and simple snack.
3 – Swiss chard
Incredibly rich in antioxidants that can help to prevent free-radical damage, Swiss chard also contains impressive amounts of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium in addition to containing plenty of magnesium, with 175g of chard loosely amounting to 150mg of magnesium!
4 – Avocado
Better known for its content of healthy fats, avocados also help to increase the absorption of fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D & E. They are also surprisingly rich in potassium and copper, as well as magnesium, with 150g of avocado containing approximately 43.5mg of the miracle mineral!
5 – Brown rice
Brown rice, unlike its more refined cousin, still contains a respectable amount of B vitamins and manganese as well as fibre and essential fatty acids. It’s also quite rich in magnesium too, with just 100g containing a satisfying 44mg of magnesium.
Which magnesium supplement is right?
It’s brilliant if you can get all the magnesium you need from your diet, however, it’s still important to consider that our need for the mineral can fluctuate. Our menopause expert Eileen frequently recommends that menopausal women consider upping their intake of magnesium and it’s also often suggested to menstruating women too!
Under these circumstances, it might be worthwhile considering a supplement but which one is best? Well magnesium comes in a variety of different forms but what really matters is its absorbability. Unfortunately, sometimes minerals are not easily absorbed by your digestive system which means that, despite taking a supplement, you’re still not getting the full benefit.
That’s why a liquid magnesium supplement might be best – it’s gentler on your stomach and easier for your body to absorb, meaning you’re reaping all the rewards.