Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for every function in your body. It activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, supports your immune and nervous systems, helps maintain a healthy heart, build strong bones, healthy muscles… and the list goes on. Magnesium is the most basic, essential anti-inflammatory (do you know that If someone is rushed to hospital with a severe asthma attack, they may get an IV drip of magnesium sulphate if their attack is life-threatening or if high doses of the reliever medicine haven’t worked?)
Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Anyone with IBS or ulcerative colitis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or kidney disease will be deficient. Also anyone consuming too much caffeine, fizzy drinks or alcohol…or adding too much salt to meals. These days a lot of people’s magnesium is likely to be on the low side – and stress depletes it even more.
A number of anxiety and sleep issues may be related to low magnesium – the reason for its tag: nature’s tranquilizer.
Deficiency of this wonder mineral can thus lead to an array of symptoms such as restless leg syndrome, abnormal heart rhythms, palpitations, high blood pressure, migraines, and to the bigger-picture diseases, such as cardiovascular, diabetes, osteoporosis and cerebral infarction.
Back to the asthma link mentioned above: low magnesium intake in childhood is correlated to lower measures of several lung functions (eg. airway flow and lung capacity; American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002). Interestingly, in another study, researchers found that lab animals severely deficient in magnesium had much higher blood levels of histamine when exposed to allergy triggers. Hence, they believe that magnesium deficiency may be causing the release of substances that can act on immune cells such as mast cells, making them hyperactive and more likely to release histamine and suffer an allergic reaction.
Even though there are contradictory opinions regarding the effectiveness of supplemental magnesium and chronic asthma, a study published in the Journal of Asthma (Kazaks et al, 2010) looked at the effect of 6 months of magnesium supplementation (170mg taken 2x daily) on pulmonary function tests, asthma control and the quality of life in patients with mild to moderate asthma. They found that the 6 month supplementation improved objective measure of asthma alongside their quality of life and asthma control.
If you suffer from frequent involuntary muscle spasms, or eye twitches, anxiety attacks or palpitations it might be worth considering taking a magnesium supplement for at least 3 months, and see if it helps (keep to the daily recommended dose on the bottle, usually 200-400mg).
In spite of our soils often being depleted of minerals, it’s definitely worth adding some top magnesium foods to your diet:
Almonds (and, to varying degrees, all nuts), leafy greens especially spinach, eggs, bananas, avocado, soya, kidney and pinto beans, potato, brown rice and cocoa.
And remember that prolonged stress will zap your levels, so now’s the time to start those yoga, pilates or mindfulness classes you’ve been intending to do since January 1st!