Minerals are critical to overall health because they are necessary for the proper activation of the body’s nerve and muscle cells. They also help regulate metabolism, maintain body pH and allow the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes. Clearly, ingesting the optimal amount of each mineral daily is vital to our well-being — but unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.
“The present state of our soil is not just deficient, it’s dead,” says Carolyn Dean, M.D., ND, Medical Advisory Board member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association and author of The Magnesium Miracle (Ballantine Books, 2017). “Most modern farming techniques use chemicals and pesticides, which bind up half the minerals that are remaining in the soil, making our foods severely mineral deficient. If there’s no magnesium in the soil, plants will have none. You simply cannot get all your nutrients in a good, balanced diet — you need to take supplements.”
Magnesium is Dean’s main area of expertise, and she estimates that our depleted soil results in more than 75 percent of Americans being unable to meet their Recommended Daily Allowance of this important building block.
Benefits of Magnesium
This miraculous mineral wears many hats in our daily lives, Dean says, including the following:
Magnesium’s most important function is the creation and transport of energy in the trillions of cells making up our body. Magnesium is a cofactor in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism.
Research has found that magnesium is required for the structural integrity of numerous body proteins. To date, 3,751 magnesium receptor sites have been found on human proteins.
Magnesium is used in synergy with dozens of other vitamins, minerals, nutrients and enzymes to modify food and create the structural components of the body.
Transmitting Nerve Signals and Regulating Calcium.
Magnesium permits a small amount of calcium to enter a nerve cell, just enough to allow electrical transmission along the nerves to and from the brain. Even our thoughts, via brain neurons, are dependent on magnesium.
Dangers of Deficiency
Because magnesium catalyzes most of the chemical reactions in the body, Dean says that insufficient levels can cause countless functions to suffer. This, in turn, causes or exacerbates more than two dozen common conditions, including acid reflux, adrenal fatigue, aging, angina, anxiety, atrial fibrillation, brain function, high blood pressure, calcium deposits in our arteries, high cholesterol, constipation, depression, Type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, headaches, heart attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammation, insomnia, kidney stones, migraines, muscle spasms, nerve twitches, premenstrual syndrome, seizures and sports injuries.
“With insufficient magnesium levels, too much calcium accumulates in the cell and triggers excessive contraction and disrupts cell function,” Dean says. “Too much calcium unregulated due to magnesium deficiency can deposit in soft tissues and may become toxic, causing painful conditions such as some forms of arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis and calcification of the arteries leading to heart attack and cardiovascular disease. Thus, magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker without the harmful side effects of calcium channel-blocking medications.”
Magnesium Makes Muscles
Magnesium is intimately involved in efficient muscle function. The mechanisms include oxygen uptake, electrolyte balance and energy production. Dean explains that magnesium relaxes muscles and balances calcium, which contracts muscles, working together to make muscles work properly.
“ATP, the main source of energy in cells, must be bound to a magnesium ion in order to be biologically active,” Dean says. “To make ATP in the Krebs cycle in mitochondria, you need magnesium in six of the eight steps of that cycle.”
Athletes take note: Magnesium is lost in sweat but not replenished by the normal electrolyte replacement drinks. Ensuring your magnesium levels stay sufficient will ultimately help eliminate muscle cramps, lactic-acid buildup, and aches and pains.
Getting Your Daily Dose
While magnesium is critical, it’s not easy to come by in food. “One hundred years ago, we could obtain 500 milligrams of magnesium in our diet, but today, we are lucky to get 200 milligrams,” Dean says.
While that’s no reason to skimp on magnesium-rich foods — such as green leafy vegetables, seaweed, cacao, nuts, seeds and whole grains — it does mean you’ll need to pair it with supplementation.
Because our bodies don’t easily absorb all forms of magnesium, Dean recommends choosing magnesium citrate powder. “It’s highly absorbable and can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped throughout the day,” she explains. “I consider 600 milligrams a day of elemental magnesium to be necessary — which is above the 350 to 400 milligrams RDA.” Just be careful not to go overboard — too much magnesium may result in a laxative effect.
The Magic of Magnesium
So now you know why you need it. Here’s where you can find it. Try one of these three products to hit your recommendation on the daily.
Stir this powdered magnesium citrate that’s sweetened with organic stevia into water and sip throughout the day. 16-ounce powder, $24.59
Because magnesium can be absorbed through your skin, Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is a great choice for those who like baths. For kids and adults, put 1 to 2 cups in a warm bath (or foot bath) and soak for no more than 30 minutes. 3-pound bath salts, $6.99
This powder makes a fizzy drink that will help relax you, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep, which helps restore your body’s optimum magnesium levels. 6.7-ounce powder, $17.99
These products can be found at The Vitamin Shoppe or on vitaminshoppe.com.