Magnesium – The “Miracle Mineral”

30 11 2011

About a month or so ago, and before I went down this blogging road, Doc Newman, our Navy Flight Surgeon friend in Maine, sent me an excellent and thorough article about magnesium (recent studies, benefits, etc. – see below). I immediately forwarded it to my family and then did nothing about it (my excuse is we were getting ready to travel)! While on the trip and reading Is Your Cardiologist Killing You?, I was reminded of the article and the role magnesium plays in a healthy life. Anyway, I thought magnesium would be a good place to start on my blog because it is such an important key to good health for EVERYBODY – regardless of your age or current health condition.

What Is Magnesium and . . .

Magnesium is one of six major minerals the body requires and is an essential “enzyme co-factor”. It is responsible for two of the cell’s most important functions: energy production and cellular reproduction. Because of this, it  affects electrolyte balance, metabolism, and hundreds of other biochemical reactions in the body. The body does not make magnesium, so you must get it through diet and/or supplements.

. . . What Does it Do?

The short answer: Just about everything.

The long answer: Because it operates on a cellular level, it helps in the formation of healthy bones and teeth, regulates body temperature, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, helps detoxification, improves parathyroid function, aids in absorbing calcium, reduces symptoms of asthma, boosts the bio-availability of Vitamin B6 and cholesterol, improves muscle functions, and helps prevent osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attacks, stroke, diabetes (affects insulin), insomnia, fatigue, constipation, migraines, kidney stones, and gallstones. Dang, I can’t believe I’m just now learning about its significance!

For example, let’s take calcium absorption. What happens to unabsorbed calcium? “It gets stuck in your muscles where it can cause cramps and even fibromyalgia; it gets stuck in your joints where it can cause arthritis; it gets stuck in your kidneys, where it can form kidney stones; it gets stuck in your arteries, where it can cause the plaque that contributes to heart disease”! Magnesium helps get the calcium absorbed so it doesn’t get stuck.

Sadly, You’re Probably Deficient!

In the old days, the average daily intake of magnesium was around 500 mg/day. Today, it’s around 175-225 mg/day. The current U.S. adult recommended allowance is 320-420 mg/day. The optimal amount is 500-750 mg/day, although Dr. Rogers thinks 1,000 mg is a bare minimum. (see links below) It’s estimated that three-quarters of Americans don’t get sufficient magnesium. Some of the symptoms of deficiency include muscle cramps (you lose magnesium when you exercise and sweat), eye twitches, irregular heart beat, fatigue, etc.

Why Aren’t Magnesium Deficiencies More Widely Recognized?

1. Well, in general, accurate magnesium tests are not widely available. The current accepted method for testing human magnesium deficiency is by a blood test. The problem is that only about 1% of the magnesium found in the body is in the blood – the other 99% is in your cells. So while your blood may test “normal”, your cells could be vastly depleted of magnesium. An RBC magnesium test will check the magnesium in your red blood cells, but it’s not usually included when you are getting your blood work done. You have to specifically ask for it and I think it might be expensive. I don’t know how easy or hard this is to get.

2. Because magnesium influences so many of the body’s systems, magnesium deficiency is hard to pinpoint as the exact cause of symptoms of disease – it could be an alternate cause or it could be the cause. It hasn’t necessarily been the first place doctors look to treat some diseases. However, more and more experts are investigating magnesium supplementation as a possible treatment before starting other treatments for disease.

3. This is kind of cynical but I’ve read in a couple of places that since magnesium can’t be patented, there’s no money in it – no big pharmaceutical company investing in research or advertising, no sales representative visiting doctor’s office to market it, no lobbying, etc. As well, one article said doctors are trained more in how prescription medications work than in basic nutrition. However, research is continuing and awareness is on the rise.

How Can you Get Magnesium?

It’s very difficult to get all your magnesium daily requirements from just food. Supplements are a necessity. Doctors recommend anywhere from 400 mg/day up to 1,000 mg/day. Check with your doctor. The problem with taking too much magnesium at one time is that it can give you the runs (ever heard of Milk of Magnesia?).

Diet-wise, you can get magnesium from nuts (especially almonds and cashews), whole grains, wheat germ, buckwheat flour, fish, and green leafy vegetables (spinach is great). For example, when whole grains are refined in to white flour, 80% of the magnesium is lost. Diet just won’t give you your daily nutritional dose.

Supplement-wise, these are the two most common types:

1. Capsules and Tablets – easy to add to your daily vitamin regimen.

2. Powder Form – have to take the time to mix it up. However, it has better absorption rates than capsules or tablets. It comes in Magnesium Chloride form (tastes bad) or Magnesium Citrate (tastes better) also known as CALM – you can find it at various health supplement websites. May take a few times to figure out what is the right amount to take without having to race to the bathroom.

Caveat: Always check with your doctor before trying anything new. Everyone is different and what might be good for me might not be good for you, considering your medical history and medications. For example, if you’ve got kidney problems, you should definitely check with your doctor.

What Am I Doing?

I have started taking 400 mg/day of magnesium by Nature Made that I bought at Costco. Doc Newman and Dr. Rogers (of the books) both recommend the CALM. Once I am done with the magnesium capsules, I will probably give the CALM a try. Taking the capsule is easy for me and the CALM may require more time and effort, but I am willing to give it a shot.

Diet-wise I have always eaten raw almonds so that is easy. I have recently switched to “brown bread” and have just decided to like whole grain bread with no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats, etc. So far so good. The coolest thing I am doing is juicing. Love it. Every night we are drinking juice from our Jack LaLanne Power Juicer – I shove in combinations of kale, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, cucumber, tomato, carrots, sweet potato, etc. and always an apple to keep it sweet and drinkable. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals and I really notice a difference. An article on juicing is coming up!

Links

Well, I haven’t made this stuff up. Below are the links I referenced and they will give you more detailed information of how magnesium works and what it actually does for various body functions.

http://www.ancient-minerals.com/magnesium-deficiency/

http://reviveyourlife.com/inspiration-and-wellness/buying-magnesium-supplements-3-reasons-to-consider-sustained-release-technology/

Is Your Cardiologist Killing You? by Dr. Sherri Rogers

Detoxify or Die by Dr. Sherri Rogers

http://www.ancient-minerals.com/magnesium-benefits/

This link is really specific about magnesium’s role in various diseases:

http://www.alternative-medicine-digest.com/health-benefits-of-magnesium.html


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