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The miracle mineral - magnesium

Published:Tuesday | March 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Almonds are a good source of magnesium.

THE PUBLIC is often being reminded of the importance of many minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, selenium and zinc for good health. Unfortunately, another important mineral, magnesium is often neglected and forgotten.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is found predominantly in the bones, muscles and nervous system. It is needed in more than 300 different important biochemical reactions in our bodies and is absolutely critical to health and wellness.

Medical research, however, shows that magnesium deficiencies may be widespread all over the world and may contribute to a long list of common disorders. For example, it is estimated that the average magnesium consumption in the United States of America is about 300 mg/day, but 300 per cent more may be needed to help prevent killers like heart attacks and strokes. The high consumption of soft drinks, alcohol, animal fats and sugar depletes magnesium from the body and several prescription drugs like diuretics (water tablets), digitalis, tetracycline and steroids also lead to magnesium loss. To make matters worse, our modern water supply (including bottled water) is lacking in enough magnesium.

Conditions related to magnesium deficiency

Angina, asthma, heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, constipation, depression, digestive disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, insomnia, dizziness, irritability, nervousness, seizures, poor concentration, migraine headaches, muscle cramps, spasms and weakness, kidney stones, premenstrual (PMS) symptoms, menstrual pain, sugar cravings and temper tantrums are just some of the conditions related to magnesium deficiency.

Foods and herbs high in magnesium

Magnesium is widely distributed in whole unprocessed foods: green, leafy vegetables, apples, bananas, avocados, legumes, soybeans, tofu, peas, beans, nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium as are some herbs and spices like chamomile, dandelion, garlic, hops and kelp. All green foods have magnesium and green vegetable juices are great sources of this key mineral.

Magnesium reduces cardiovascular diseases

One of the most important benefits of magnesium is that it lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, the number-one killer. Surveys have also shown that sufficient magnesium intake may reduce the risk of stroke, the third commonest cause of death. Magnesium deficiency increases the risk of abnormal heartbeat and death following a heart attack. Taking the recommended amounts of magnesium supplements regularly is, therefore, very beneficial to the heart and circulation.

Magnesium lowers high blood pressure

Magnesium plays a key role in naturally regulating blood pressure and most people with hypertension are magnesium deficient. The expensive hypertension prescription drugs known as 'calcium channel blockers' prevent calcium from invading the walls of the blood vessels (hardening the arteries) and elevating blood pressure. Inexpensive magnesium is "nature's calcium channel blocker."

Using magnesium supplements and a magnesium-rich diet, including plenty of fruits and green vegetables, are consistently associated with a lowering of high blood pressure.

Magnesium helps prevent diabetes

Studies show that individuals with a magnesium deficiency are at increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes and its complications. Magnesium aids in carbohydrate metabolism and influences the activity of insulin and blood sugar control. Research has demonstrated that for every 100 milligrams of increased daily magnesium intake, there was a 15 per cent fall in the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Studies also show that diabetics with magnesium deficiency are more likely to have severe diabetic retinopathy and lose their sight.

Magnesium benefits migraines and mental health

Magnesium is beneficial in the treatment of migraine, insomnia, and the symptoms of depression. Magnesium is also useful in many psychiatric disorders including panic attacks, stress, anxiety disorders and agitation. Magnesium supplements considerably reduce the severity of such attacks and may also help in preventing them. Magnesium is so important to the nervous system that the brain stores twice as much magnesium as other body tissues. Magnesium is often called the anti-stress mineral because it has a calming effect, induces restful sleep and is very useful for the person with an overactive nervous system or who is anxious or agitated.

Magnesium corrects osteoporosis

It may not be more calcium that you need for strong bones, but magnesium. Although the recommended daily allowance for calcium has been doubled and western women have increased their calcium intake, osteoporosis has increased instead of going down. Magnesium deficiency alters calcium metabolism resulting in osteoporosis. Research studies show that calcium plus magnesium supplementation improves bone density. Magnesium is very important in preventing osteoporosis.

Magnesium for constipation

Relief from constipation is another benefit of magnesium. If your body has insufficient calcium and magnesium, you may have weak peristalsis, which are those automatic contractions that happen during a bowel movement. Peristalsis moves food through the colon, and a lack of calcium and magnesium may slow or stop this action, causing constipation.

Magnesium for asthma

Magnesium relaxes the airways and acts as a bronchodilator for asthma. Magnesium administered intravenously work even when powerful drugs fail to stop an asthma attack. Doctors may know about the use of IV magnesium for asthma attacks, but a 2006 survey showed that patients seen in hospital for acute attacks were rarely given magnesium.

Magnesium prevents kidney stones

Research at Harvard University clearly demonstrated that supplementing with magnesium along with vitamin B6 significantly reduces the formation of most kidney stones.

Magnesium supplements

In addition to eating magnesium rich foods, I advise taking magnesium supplements. Use a chelated form of magnesium, such as magnesium aspartate, orotate citrate, glycinate or malate capsules. Your body absorbs these formulations best. When combining magnesium with calcium, use a ratio of one part magnesium to two parts calcium. Vitamin C taken at the same time improves the uptake of magnesium by your body. From 600 to 1,000 mg of magnesium daily in divided dosage is usually an adequate dosage.

Soaking in a bath with magnesium chloride (magnesium oil) or magnesium sulfate, better known as Epsom salts, is also an excellent way to administer magnesium as the mineral can be absorbed directly through your skin. You can even spray it unto your skin and massage it in as an excellent way to soothe and relax your body while enjoying the many benefits of magnesium.

Patients with advanced kidney disease should consult their doctor about the use of magnesium supplements.

You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.