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Trouble sleeping? Getting regular muscle cramps or crazy sore after a workout? Feeling stressed out and down or keep forgetting things? All of these can be signs that you are not getting enough magnesium. This often-overlooked rock star of a mineral is involved in more than 350 processes in the body, which is why it can feel like your health is falling apart if you’re not getting enough of it! Here are 12 reasons why you should make sure your magnesium levels are where they’re supposed to be…
- Better sleep quality and reduced insomnia
- Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system. If you are deficient your heart rate and sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight system) can go into overdrive which can leave you restless and having trouble falling asleep, as well as causing agitated sleep and frequent awakenings. Increasing magnesium intake can be one of the most effective ways to improve sleep.
- Get stronger and perform better
- Magnesium is necessary for our muscle’s energy metabolism, as well as being involved in protein synthesis and muscle repair after training and therefore have a big effect on our physical performance. Studies have also shown that upping magnesium intake can increase testosterone levels, which may help peak your performance even more. If you are an athlete or a serious trainee then you might want to increase your magnesium supplementation a bit extra, as you will have a higher requirement for magnesium than the average sedentary person. This is especially important if you are training in hot and humid environments.
- Improve brain function
- Having trouble focusing? Keep forgetting where you left your keys? A lack of magnesium might be the cause. Magnesium regulates a key receptor in the brain connected to memory and learning. Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium can increase attention span, which researchers suggest is due to both its calming effect and the fact that it improves brain activity.
- Reduce risk of and help with depression
- Magnesium plays a major role in our neurotransmitter release which controls and regulates our levels of different brain chemicals. Among these chemicals is serotonin – a brain chemical often referred to as our “happy hormone” and that’s known to elevate mood. Most antidepressant drugs are aimed at increasing serotonin levels but getting enough magnesium can sometimes be just as effective.
- Improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity
- Low magnesium levels will decrease your insulin sensitivity, making it more difficult for you to control blood sugar levels and lose excess body fat, especially fat stored around the abdomen and intestines. Studies have shown that people with magnesium deficiencies are much more likely to have insulin resistance and to be obese compared to those with normal magnesium levels.
- Healthy heart and lungs
- Because magnesium regulates our muscle contractions, having a deficiency can predispose a person to coronary spasms. Since magnesium also have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle it can both help with asthma symptoms (by relaxing the smooth muscles of the bronchioles) and lower blood pressure by relaxing our blood vessels. On top of this magnesium decreases coagulation and can also help the heart pump more effectively.
- Reduce stress
- Magnesium is important for the regulation of your sympathetic nervous system and regulates levels for a lot of hormones connected to our stress responses. A lack of it can among other lead to an excessive cortisol release, which again can lead to one feeling anxious, nervous and stressed. At the other end people who are under chronic stress are more prone to magnesium deficiencies due to their overproduction of adrenalin, which in turn depletes magnesium stores in the body.
- Better bone health
- Most of us growing up have been told to finish our milk to build strong bones, and while calcium is the most important building block for our bones, it does nothing without the adequate levels of magnesium and vitamin D. Not only does magnesium assist in the release of hormones that help absorb calcium into the bones, it also suppresses parathyroid – another hormone that breaks down bone tissue. No surprise then that studies have shown that chronic magnesium deficiencies increases the risk of reduced bone mineral density and osteoporosis.
- Improve digestion
- Your gastrointestinal tract is basically one big muscle, which is why a lack of magnesium can leave your bowel unable to relax and you feeling constipated and getting stomach cramps. A healthy and well-functioning digestive system and balanced magnesium levels is also shown to dramatically lower your risk of colon cancer.
- Improves detoxification
- Magnesium functions as a detoxifying agent and helps us maintain proper liver function. Every day we are exposed to environmental toxins. Magnesium inhibits heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and other toxins from attaching to our tissues and instead helps the body remove them safely.
- Reduce muscle cramps and excessive muscle soreness
- Magnesium is necessary for your muscles to contract and relax properly. If you are deficient your muscles are more likely to spasm and you may also suffer from more severe post-workout muscle soreness (DOMS).
- Fight obesity and decrease inflammation
- Magnesium is particularly important in treating obesity, as those in this category generally suffer from metabolic syndrome and chronic low-grade inflammation, which has been linked to excessive cortisol and low magnesium levels. Studies have found that magnesium deficiency led to increased inflammation in the body, affecting not only muscle tissue, but also blood vessels, cardiovascular and intestinal tissue.
So what can you do to increase your magnesium levels?
A good place to start is by increasing magnesium levels through your diet. Foods like leafy greens, Brazilian nuts, almonds, cashews, avocados, meat, fish and dark chocolate can all be good sources of magnesium. However, getting what you need through diet alone can often prove difficult. Magnesium deficiency is increasing, especially in the Western world, and one of the main reasons for this is the increased amount of refined foods in our diet. Techniques used to refine grains found in most breads and pasta these days remove up to 97% of magnesium during the process!
Another reason and major issue are that our soils are often lacking minerals in the first place and are continuously getting more and more depleted as we increase the rate of production and try to squeeze more and more harvest seasons into one. This means that food grown in this soil ends up depleted as well. Many research studies have been done proving that for this reason there is now a 14 to 80% reduction in magnesium in certain fruits and vegetables today, compared to those of our great grandparents.
A third reason for decreasing magnesium levels is the use of medication and prescription drugs. Common prescription drugs such as oral contraceptives, statins, antibiotics, diuretics, corticosteroids, asthma medications as well as drugs taken for irregular heart rhythm, depression and anti-psychosis all cause magnesium nutrient depletion in the body.
Therefore, most researchers still recommend adding magnesium supplementation even if you eat a healthy, well-rounded diet. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiencies are often missed or misdiagnosed, which is a shame because it is both easy to solve and can have a profound effect on the persons health and wellbeing.