There are very few supplements that I recommend to almost every nutrition client that walks through my door, but magnesium has become one of them. With more and more people suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders, having issues sleeping, and poorly functioning guts, magnesium has quickly become one of my go-to supplements, and one I believe many people can benefit from.
what is magnesium and what does magnesium do for our body?
Magnesium is a trace mineral and cofactor that our body needs for over 300 reactions, which translates into thousands of biochemical reactions needed for our bodies to function on a daily basis.
Magnesium is involved in so many processes in our bodies but some of the big one are in protein synthesis, regulating muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, making DNA, maintaining a healthy gut, and helps aid our natural sleep cycles by working to reduce cortisol and promote muscle relaxation.
In my personal nutrition practice, I see the need for magnesium supplementation most commonly due to issues associated with sleep, gut health, and anxiety. Because magnesium has such a profound impact on our nervous system it is known as the "calming/relaxing" mineral, and I find that it can help my clients cope with stress, nervousness, and other general feeling of anxiety.
why do so many people seem to benefit from magnesium?
There actually is a pretty simple answer to why more and more people seem to be benefiting from taking additional magnesium in the form of a supplement and that is because the quantity of magnesium in our food supply just isn't what it used to be.
We get the vast majority of our magnesium from our fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and grains. But where do these plant-based foods get their magnesium? From the soil. But with our current agriculture system focusing more on yield and profit margins then soil quality, the nutritional composition of our food has been compromised. Simply put, we just aren't consuming as much magnesium as we used to because it simply isn't there.
let's talk statistics
- Magnesium content in fruits and vegetables on average has declined by 35% in the past 50 years since we moved to a highly commercialized agriculture system, and focused on processed foods.
- Magnesium is completely removed from refined vegetable oils during the refining process
- Magnesium is removed by more than 80-95% in the refining process of grains, and is not one of the commonly fortified minerals that we then put back into our grains...after we remove all the nutrition from them in the first place.
supplementing with magnesium
There are a few different ways to supplement with magnesium and depending on what types of symptoms my clients are presenting I will recommend one of the below options.
- Magnesium Glycinate: For people who are having trouble sleeping but don't seem to present with any adverse GI symptoms
- Magnesium Citrate: For my clients who are having issues associated with a slower moving GI tract, and may be experiencing constipation
- Magnesium Oil Spray: This is the one I use and I will typically combine it with a few drops of lavender essential oil. This option is good for anyone, and is a great way to have magnesium absorbed through your skin into your blood stream. I find that it is particularly helpful for those struggling with anxiety or sleep issues as the process of rubbing the oil into your skin is very calming.
- Epsom Salt Baths: Probably one of my favorite "prescriptions" I will give my clients. For clients who are struggling with elevated stress, migraines, insomnia, or generalized muscle pain this is one of my favorite recommendations. Again the magnesium present in the epsom salts is absorbed directly through the bath water into your skin and makes for a wonderful magnesium "treatment".
best food sources
But what about food? I still love to have my clients focus on including magnesium rich foods. You can be more confident that your foods are actually magnesium rich if they are coming from smaller local organic farms, or have been certified with organic/ethical practices.
Some of my favorite food sources are:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
I hope this information has been helpful and has got you thinking about whether you may be experiencing some magnesium related deficiencies of your own, and how you could add more magnesium into your diet.
- Davis D, Epp M, Riordan H. Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):669-682. Available at: http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/23/6/669. Accessed November 11, 2009.
- Study suggests nutrient decline in garden crops over past 50 years. University of Texas at Austin. 2004. Available at: http://www.utexas.edu/news/2004/12/01/nr_chemistry/. Accessed November 11, 2009
- World Health Organization. Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water: Public health significance. Geneva: World Health Organization Press; 2009