Magnesium plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of the body. Registered dietician Shana Terhart says that magnesium is mainly found in the bones, coupled with calcium: “Magnesium and calcium work together to support the structure of our bones.”
Magnesium also plays an important role in the muscles and soft body tissue where it helps to make energy for that tissue, acting as the building blocks needed for repairing damage. If magnesium levels in the body are low, the functioning of the soft tissues and muscles will not be optimal. In the blood, magnesium is again coupled with calcium – here they perform synergistically to ensure that muscles can contract and blood is able to clot. When calcium promotes a process, magnesium inhibits it, they work hand in hand to maintain balance in the body.
Magnesium is also important for heart health. In the article Magnesium: Why you need it, Dr Daniel Heller says, “Magnesium is probably the most important nutrient for that energy powerhouse, the human heart, it helps the heart muscle itself function better. Magnesium also helps protect blood vessels, which is where most of what we call heart disease actually happens. Magnesium is also a natural blood thinner, much like aspirin, so many doctors and researchers believe that it may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.”
Are you deficient?
Magnesium deficiency may result from alcohol abuse, protein malnutrition, kidney disease or prolonged vomiting and diarrhoea, says Terhart. The prolonged use of diuretics may also lead to a magnesium deficiency. Further to this, many experts believe that poor soil quality due to modern farming practices accounts for magnesium-deficient produce. An unhealthy diet consisting of an abundance of carbonated beverages, pastries, sweets and caffeinated beverages can also result in a deficiency of this vital mineral.
Deficiency signs and symptoms
Because magnesium is active in so many bodily functions, deficiency symptoms are varied. A severe magnesium deficiency would show itself similarly to a calcium deficiency – through muscle spasms. Magnesium deficiency may also cause the walls of arteries and capillaries tend to constrict, potentially causing high blood pressure.
Other common symptoms include:
- Excessive fatigue after exercise
- Headaches and migraines
- Irritability and anxiety
- Facial tics
- Muscle cramps
In extreme cases:
- Abnormal muscle movements
- Difficulty swallowing
- In children: poor weight gain and growth
How to supplement
Managing your diet is the best way to counter magnesium deficiency. Terhart advises including plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as legumes, spinach, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables, barley, green beans, nuts, avocado, whole grains, fish and bananas.
Supplementing with magnesium is also a good way to ensure you are getting enough of this important mineral. The recommended daily allowance for magnesium for females is around 310mg per day, and 400mg per day for males. Clicks stocks a range of magnesium supplements to help boost levels of magnesium in your body. Ask your Clicks pharmacist for advice about a supplement to suit your needs.
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