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5 Reasons You Need More Magnesium
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, Director of Education for NEEDS

Did you know that pure magnesium is highly flammable, making it the perfect ingredient for the explosive energy needed for fireworks, jet engine parts, rockets, and missiles? It's even more powerful in the human body, as it is involved with over 320 biochemical reactions! Because it's used in every cell of the body, it's frightening that 60% of Americans are deficient in this key nutrient. Some of the reasons for deficiency include the fact that we lose magnesium when stressed, that sweating causes magnesium depletion, and our intake is low because poor-quality soil has lowered the natural levels of magnesium in our food.

There is an extensive list of symptoms that indicate magnesium deficiency, and you may experience several or just one as an indicator of deficiency. Some of the symptoms on this list include muscle twitching, muscle aches and pains, headaches, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. It's not easy to test for magnesium deficiency because a standard blood test only shows the magnesium levels in the blood, but the more important factor is the cellular storage of magnesium, which is not commonly tested. The easiest way to determine magnesium deficiency is if you have symptoms, and then take magnesium to see if they resolve. And if you have any of the following conditions, consider an underlying magnesium deficiency as a possible root cause.

Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is when cells don't respond adequately to insulin's attempt to shuttle glucose into cells after eating, resulting in elevated blood sugar and increased fat storage. It is the hallmark of pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Research shows that people with adequate magnesium levels have appropriate insulin sensitivity and are at low risk for developing diabetes. People with the highest magnesium levels have a lower risk of developing diabetes than people with the lowest magnesium levels. The amazing fact is that even if a person possesses other diabetic risk factors such as smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive weight, adequate magnesium stores will compensate.

Inflammation is at the root cause of so many health problems, such as arthritis, heart disease, and obesity. Magnesium has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory. More than one study has shown that as magnesium levels decrease, CRP (a marker for inflammation) increases. Elevated CRP is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other inflammation-related conditions.

Magnesium deficiency may play a role in hypertension, as demonstrated by studies that have shown an inverse correlation between a magnesium-rich diet and risk of high blood pressure. There were mixed outcomes in a review of all the magnesium trials related to blood pressure, but some of the inconsistencies may be explained by the fact that several studies measured serum (blood) magnesium levels rather than magnesium stored in cells, which is where a true deficiency would be identified. Despite conflicting research, it would be wise to rectify a magnesium deficiency in the case of hypertension because magnesium acts a vasodilator, and by widening the circumference of the blood vessels, the resistance is lowered, causing a decrease in blood pressure. Magnesium also has a dilating effect on respiratory passageways, so it benefits asthma for the same reasons as hypertension—it relaxes the airways so more oxygen can flow through.

Anxiety is a symptom that can have a variety of etiologies, both physical and psychological, but magnesium deficiency is high on that list. Animal studies have shown that when mice are given a magnesium-depleted diet for several weeks, they begin to display signs of depression and anxiety. Those symptoms are alleviated when the magnesium levels are restored. Clinical studies have shown that magnesium can relieve anxiety and depression alone or in combination with herbal formulas. Magnesium works in conjunction with calcium to contract and relax muscles, which contributes to it's relaxing properties. Add magnesium salts to your hot bath before bed for serious calming effects.

Insomnia can result from many factors, with magnesium deficiency being at the top. Magnesium calms the nervous system, relaxes muscles, and counters stress. Replenishing magnesium can lead to a longer, uninterrupted sleep pattern.

Magnesium comes in many forms, but be sure to avoid the oxide form if you want to maximize absorption. To determine the appropriate dosage, start with one or two pills, and increase the dosage over the course of a few days, until it has a laxative effect, then decrease the dosage slightly. This method determines the appropriate dosage for your individual body, based on your level of deficiency. If you want the laxative effect, then magnesium oxide or hydroxide would be a good choice. If you have a sensitive digestive tract and aren't able to tolerate the levels of magnesium that you feel you need, add topical sources such as magnesium oil, which can be sprayed on the skin, or take magnesium salt baths.

At first glance, magnesium may not strike you as an exciting, cutting-edge nutrient, but when you are lacking it, it can make a huge impact on your health!

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Curr Med Res Opin. 2004 Jan;20(1):63-71.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Jun;150(2):220-5

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