Magnesium is the most important mineral in your body. It regulates more than 325 enzymes, which produce, transport, store, and utilize energy. Magnesium regulates many crucial aspects of cell metabolism, such as DNA and RNA synthesis, cell growth, and cell reproduction. It is also crucial for proper nerve function, heart activity, neuromuscular transmission (a process that allows the central nervous system to control the movement of muscles in the body), muscular contraction, blood vessel tone, blood pressure, and peripheral blood flow (important for carrying cellular waste to the excretory system and overall immunity).
I was first introduced to magnesium during my obstetrical training, where I saw how effective magnesium sulfate was in preventing seizures and restoring normal blood pressure in pregnant women suffering from toxemia. Magnesium is also frequently given to stop contractions in women having preterm labor.
Magnesium is truly a medical wonder. No other mineral does as much to support your cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems while also modulating blood sugar levels and lessening the occurrence and severity of pain, cramping, and headaches
The Calcium–Magnesium Relationship
Calcium received an enormous amount of attention in the past, and generations of women were told they needed to take calcium to prevent bone loss. However, when it comes to maintaining healthy bones, magnesium is just as important as calcium and vitamin D!
Magnesium and calcium work together. Magnesium controls the entry of calcium into each and every cell—a physiological event that occurs every time a nerve cell fires. Without adequate magnesium, too much calcium gets inside the cell. If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles and nerves go into spasm. This can cause cramping and blood vessel constriction and can even set the stage for kidney stones and excess tissue calcification under the right circumstances.
Do You Suffer from Magnesium Deficiency?
Most people today are deficient in magnesium. That’s because farming practices over time have depleted the soil of magnesium. Most farmers do not remineralize their soil, and fertilizers mainly replace nitrogen and potassium.
Lifestyle factors can also lower your magnesium levels, including drinking alcohol; taking certain medications such as diuretics, birth control pills, insulin, tetracycline and other antibiotics, and cortisone; taking supplemental calcium; using antacids; and perspiring. Vaccines will also deplete your magnesium levels.
That said, it’s hard to test for magnesium deficiency. Blood levels are typically steady (around 1% of the body’s magnesium level). If the level of magnesium in your blood drops below that 1%, your body will draw magnesium out of your bones and tissues. This means that a blood test could easily show a normal reading even though the rest of the body is very deficient.
Common Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is associated with many symptoms and conditions. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., author of The Magnesium Miracle (Ballantine Books, 2007), says that some of the more common symptoms include:
Anxiety and panic attacks. Chronic emotional and mental stress is associated with magnesium deficiency. This occurs because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline deplete your cells of magnesium. Proper magnesium levels help keep adrenal stress hormones under control and also help maintain normal brain function.
Asthma. Magnesium helps relax the muscles of the bronchioles in the lungs.
Constipation. Magnesium helps keep bowels regular by maintaining normal bowel muscle function.
Heart disease. Many people with heart disease are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker, so it is an effective treatment for heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmias. Studies have also documented the effectiveness of IV magnesium in helping prevent cardiac damage and even death following a heart attack. The reason for this is because 40% to 60% of sudden deaths from heart attack are the result of spasm in the arteries not blockage from clots or arrhythmias
Hypertension. Without adequate magnesium, blood vessels constrict and blood pressure increases.
Infertility. Magnesium can relax Fallopian tube spasms that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Nerve problems and muscle spasms. Magnesium helps eliminate peripheral nerve disturbances that can lead to migraines, leg and foot cramps, gastrointestinal cramps, and other muscle aches and pains.
Obstetrical problems. Magnesium can prevent premature labor (because it calms contractions) as well as eclampsia. It can also help relieve menstrual cramps.
Some other symptoms and conditions associated with too-low levels of magnesium include bowel disease, cystitis, depression, diabetes, fatigue, hypoglycemia, insomnia, kidney disease, migraines, osteoporosis, and Raynaud’s syndrome.
How to Increase Your Magnesium Levels
Magnesium can be found in certain foods, including nuts, seeds, seaweed, and dark leafy vegetables. But it is very difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone. That’s why I suggest taking a magnesium supplement.
There are several different forms of magnesium. If you are purchasing from your local store, you can try magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, or chelated magnesium. Capsules usually contain 250–500 mg of magnesium.
You can also use a calcium/magnesium supplement. Most combined calcium-magnesium supplements are 2 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium. But, you should try to find a supplement with a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium; or better yet, try to find 1 part calcium to 2 parts magnesium. You will know when you are getting too much magnesium if your stools become loose. To avoid this, simply lower your magnesium dose to tolerance. And be sure to take your magnesium in divided doses throughout the day with meals.
Another way to get magnesium is to add Epsom salts to your baths. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. It’s absorbed through the skin and will help replenish magnesium stores. This “treatment” can easily include a relaxing bath with a good book. Epsom salt with lavender is widely available, too. It’s the perfect “end of the day” relaxer.
Dr. Dean recommends angstrom magnesium, a form that is completely and instantly absorbed through the cell wall due to its incredibly tiny size. Because of its high absorption rate, the dose for this form is about 10 times lower than for most other types. I take a highly absorbable magnesium and a mineral formula created by Dr. Dean. I do this first thing in the morning with water, some Himalayan sea salt, and a little apple cider vinegar for taste.
After taking magnesium supplements, many women have said that their symptoms have reversed. This includes PMS, painful periods, improvement in symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, muscle spasms, and greater enjoyment of sexual activity.
The only contraindications to magnesium are for people with outright kidney failure, bowel obstruction, myasthenia gravis, or heart block. Also, if you have a heart condition, you may find that taking magnesium can lessen the need for heart medication, but you should be under your doctor’s supervision to guide this process.
Have you tried magnesium supplements? What was the result?