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November 14, 2013

Understanding The Importance Of Magnesium, A Vital Mineral

Consuming the right balance of vitamins and minerals helps to keep us healthy. Essential fats and amino acids also play a key role. The body makes some of these, but generally we must rely on our dietary intake of a variety of foods to keep our vitamin and mineral stores at the right levels. Some vitamins can’t be stored by the body, such as Vitamin C, so we need to consume enough to meet our needs every day.

One very important, and sometimes over-looked mineral, is magnesium.

Getting magnesium from your food

Ideally, we would eat enough nuts, seeds and grains to minimise the need for magnesium supplementation, but this may not always be the case. To increase your natural intake of magnesium look for some of the following foods: wholegrains that retain the germ of the grain, such as wheatgerm, brown rice, quinoa, and unrefined oats (avoid the “quick oats” products); nuts such as Brasil nuts, almonds, cashews and pecans; seeds such as sesame, pepitas and sunflower; legumes, beans and peas; spinach and avocado; dairy products; cacao (raw chocolate); and bananas.

Role of magnesium in the body

It’s important that blood magnesium levels are maintained at a static level of around one percent. This is because magnesium plays a role in more than 300 metabollic processes, and when blood magnesium levels drop there can be severe repercussions, particularly in relation to the nervous system, blood pressure and the regulation of hormones and sugar in the body. Most of the body’s stored magnesium, however, is in bone.


How magnesium moves through the body

Magnesium enters the body via our food. We eat magnesium-containing foods, the foods are digested in the stomach and intestines, and nutrients – such as vitamins and minerals – pass from the intestines and travel in the blood via the capillaries which lead to the cells.

Are there symptoms of magnesium deficiency?

So, how do you know if you have enough magnesium? The symptoms of magnesium deficiency may not be easily recognised, until the deficiency becomes extreme. There are some more moderate indictors of deficiency, though, and they include:

-      Muscle contractions, cramps, seizures

-      Muscle weakness

-      Numbness or tingling, especially in the extremities

-      Changes to mood, personality or anxiety, resulting from variable electrical activity in the brain that can result from magnesium deficiency

-      Not feeling hungry

-      Nausea or vomiting

-      Fatigue, general tiredness

-      Irregular heartbeat, or tightness

People most likely to be lacking in magnesium

As the body tries to hold onto magnesium, even a few days without enough dietary magnesium will not trigger an event or result in deficiency. A chronic dietary lack of magnesium, or behaviours such as high levels of alcohol consumption, is necessary to result in significant depletion. Certain medicines also draw heavily upon magnesium stores and can be a key cause of magnesium deficiency. Uncontrolled or poorly managed diabetes can also result in depleted magnesium levels. Individuals with poor digestion, or a chronic digestive disorder, can also end up deficient in magnesium.

If you are taking a medication long-term for the management of a chronic condition, your doctor should discuss the possibilities of side effects such as magnesium deficiency and may pre-emptively suggest magnesium supplementation as a preventative measure.

Katherine West is a health freak and freelance writer who in 2003 studied for a Diploma of Nutrition. She is also into yoga and pilates.

Image Credit: 1, 2.

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1 comment so far

  1. Omega-3 Rich Plant Foods : Vegetarian Meals on 12.03.2013 at 11:04 pm | permalink
  2. [...] in the right dosage can help in heart health. It prevents irregular heartbeat, reduce blood clotting, decrease blood fats, and reduce fatty plaques in arteries, increase in good [...]

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