By Eoin Roe
With the wonderful hot weather we have been having it may pay to take a look at some of the essential minerals we all need to function properly. In this article I would like to concentrate on Magnesium, which is involved in at least 300 different functions in the body but most notably for glucose utilisation, synthesis of fat, proteins, nucleic acids and coenzymes, and along with calcium for muscle and nerve function.
Magnesium is an essential component of chlorophyll in plants, like iron is to haemoglobin in animals. Any green leafy vegetable therefore will contain magnesium. It is also found in nuts (particularly almonds), seeds, eggs, fish, seafood, whole-grains, and cocoa. As it is a water-soluble mineral, it’s easily excreted by the kidneys and, when we sweat excessively, we can lose large amounts of it, which brings us back to the hot weather.
One noticeable symptom of magnesium deficiency is cramping. The reason for this is the role that magnesium plays along with calcium in muscle function. Calcium allows muscles to contract and magnesium allows them to relax by stimulating calcium re-uptake. If there are reduced levels of magnesium, muscles cannot relax efficiently.
In skeletal muscle this can present as muscle cramps, but it can also have an effect on smooth muscle contraction including blood vessels, the uterus and the digestive system. This is why magnesium deficiency is also associated with symptoms such as hypertension, PMS and constipation.
There are other factors, which also increase the excretion of magnesium. Consumption of alcohol, medications including diuretics, and oral contraceptives can all increase the excretion of magnesium.
Magnesium is utilised more quickly in the body during periods of stress and intensive exercise. Even if your daily intake is considered normal, people doing a lot of exercise or sport may find that they are magnesium deficient.
Boosting Magnesium levels
You can improve magnesium status by:
• Increasing intake of magnesium rich foods such as dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Try adding kale, spinach and rocket to a breakfast smoothie
• Soak in an Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) bath. Magnesium ions can be absorbed through the skin, which can aid muscle relaxation
• Opt for a magnesium supplement 200-400mg per day (make sure it doesn’t have any natural or artificial sweetners.
• Avoid excess alcohol
• Try stress relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness
As magnesium has its own hypotensive properties, it can possibly make the effects of anti-hypertensive drugs stronger. Therefore, if patients are on blood pressure medication, magnesium should be used with caution and blood pressure should be monitored carefully.
If you are suffering with joint, muscle pain or bone pain or cramping it is a good idea to get checked out by a professional. In my clinics in Skibbereen, Kinsale and Douglas, I use strength testing to assess which nutrients you need and can advise you further if you are deficient in magnesium or other minerals and advise on the appropriate supplementation.
If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment you can contact me on 087 958 2362.