Your nervous system is your body’s engine room. It is integral to controlling your heart rate, breathing, digestion and skeletal muscle movement – and it is magnesium that is the mineral most critical to proper nervous system function. In fact, magnesium is an essential mineral required by every organ in the body including for energy production, metabolism and regulating levels of many other important nutrients like calcium, potassium, and zinc.
If magnesium levels in your nervous system fall below a certain point then it can affect your musculoskeletal health in many ways. And although severe magnesium deficiency is uncommon, you may be at increased risk if you suffer from gastrointestinal diseases or chronic diarrhoea, metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, are a heavy drinker of alcohol, suffer from high levels of perspiration (especially if you live in hot climates or undertake high levels of physical activity) and if you use medications such as laxatives or certain diuretics. The elderly are also more likely to suffer magnesium deficiency.
One of the malaise of modern life is insomnia and problems with sleep. But, when taken for a period of eight weeks, magnesium has been found to increase sleep time and melatonin levels (the hormone that modulates sleep/wake cycle). Poor concentration and cognitive function can also be supported with magnesium supplementation, and it can be beneficial for patients with dementia-related diseases.
However, if your diet is too low in magnesium then over time you may be at risk of certain chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and high blood pressure. The most common symptoms that may indicate magnesium deficiency include:
Magnesium is found in a wide range of foods with plant foods being the richest sources of these minerals along with green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts and some seafood. Our favourite foods that will give you a good dose of magnesium are:
It is the essential mineral, especially when it comes to heart health, helping fight symptoms of depression and type 2 diabetes, and relieving the symptoms of PMS including fluid retention, bloating and mood swings. And while there are several dietary factors that can either inhibit the absorption or increase the excretion of magnesium from the body including oxalates and phytates which bind to magnesium and other minerals; interestingly, many magnesium-rich foods are also high in these compounds.
Phytate-rich foods such as seeds, nuts, grains, legumes and soy can be cooked, soaked or fermented to reduce the levels of phytates, but it may difficult to eat enough magnesium-rich foods to meet your nutritional needs. If you are not getting enough nagnesium through dietary sources, supplementation may help to increase your intake of this vital mineral. Your healthcare practitioner can help you determine your nutritional requirements and prescribe the most appropriate supplements.
Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.