So if I say Magnesium what’s the first thing that comes into your head? I know what my first encounter with magnesium was – it was that metal ribbon stuff I used to steal from GCSE Chemistry then set alight with my mates lighter in the school yard at break time; it flared up like a spark, burnt with a bright white light then disappeared as quickly as it came! Oh and it was difficult to put out too, when you spotted a teacher coming! Thing is, I didn’t realise back then just how important to life that ‘spark’ actually was!
You see, Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the human body. In fact there are 17 minerals deemed essential to human life 10 of these make up 99% of the body’s mineral content – no guesses here then that one of these is Magnesium – however strangely enough Magnesium is one of the most depleted minerals in the body?!
So what EXACTLY does Magnesium do that makes it so “essential” to life??
Well, for starters it regulates around 325 enzymes in the body, it’s also essential to maintaining bone mineralisation, it aids muscle contraction, it’s used in the passage of nerve impulses around the body. But probably most importantly it’s required for the body to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is basically the body’s source of energy.
So without magnesium there’s no ATP, without ATP there’s no energy, without energy there’s no life! Simples!!
It doesn’t just stop there though; there are literally countless illnesses, symptoms and behaviours that are associated with a Magnesium deficiency. Some of the most important include; heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, asthma, PCOS, diabetes and depression etc. etc. – I could go on here but run the risk of boring you! Anyway, you can start to see its pretty important stuff right?!
So why is it depleted??
Basically it’s depleted due to the modern day lifestyle. In fact current estimations are that around 80% of the western population are deficient in magnesium!
Let’s start at the bottom up, for starters there’s a natural mineral depletion of our farmland caused by a number of factors including acid rain, soil erosion etc. This then leads to the crops that would commonly contain magnesium (green leafy veg, nuts and seeds) to become deficient in it as they cannot manufacture it themselves out of thin air. So if there’s little magnesium in the soil then plants we eat will contain little or none (the exception here is organic farming). Processed and junk foods that are present in the modern day diet also lack magnesium as significant amounts of the mineral are lost during refining and processing of these foods.
The fluoridisation of tap water in the UK has a horrendous effect on the body’s magnesium supply. Fluoride from tap water basically binds with the body’s magnesium to form magnesium fluoride, making it unavailable for the body to use; a reduction in this then causes a knock on effect and a reduction in enzyme activity in the body.
Other things such as drugs and medication, stress, an excess of certain foods such as soy as well as strenuous exercise can deplete your body’s magnesium supply.
So what can I do about it?
The answer to this is pretty easy, eat more foods containing Magnesium. As I’ve already mentioned buy organic foods as there’s more chance that the organic farmers have used a full spectrum of nutrients in their fertilizer. Eat as many raw veg as possible; as when you cook or steam them a lot of the nutrients are lost. Nuts such as almonds, cashews and brazils also contain a high magnesium content – so include some of these in your diet too. One of the foods that contain the most magnesium is chocolate!! But that’s NOT an excuse to go out and eat loads of it!! However it is a reason that many people crave chocolate, it’s not always the chocolate they crave it’s the Magnesium.
An example of this is women suffering from PMS – now us guys don’t really understand it all that much Haha!! But basically magnesium is most deficient in women around the menstrual time and as a result a great many women crave chocolate – however instead of eating chocolate you should look to increase your magnesium intake by eating more nuts and leafy green veg or even taking supplements!
By way the easiest way to add more magnesium to your diet is by supplementation. Research shows that supplement with around 400mg of magnesium a day works for most people. There are two ways you can supplement with magnesium, either orally using tablets or transdermal using a spray to apply it to your skin.
If you’re looking to take your magnesium orally you need to shoot for something like magnesium citrate – which ever tablet you go for just make sure it’s not the cheap magnesium oxide variant as it’s about as much use as chocolate fireguard at replenishing your body’s magnesium supplies!!
Using a transdermal spray you apply Magnesium “oil” to your skin with is then absorbed into your blood stream, it’s not really true oil, just a super concentrated solution of magnesium chloride in water. Applying it transdermal is a quicker way to get it into your system as tablets and capsules must first pass through the digestive system before being absorbed.
So which is best? It’s personal preference really – being a bit of a geek I use both and mix and match as appropriate!
When should I take it?
The best time to take magnesium is 60 – 90 minutes before bedtime, that way it’ll help you sleep much better too, however if you need to split your dose then take ½ first thing in the morning and the remainder before bed.
Be sure to build up your dose slowly too, as one sure fire way to know you’ve taken too much too soon is you end up running to the toilet!! Believe me, I went from 200mg on an evening to 600mg and yep, you guessed it! So increase your dose slowly!
Take care and make sure YOU have sufficient magnesium in your diet!