Magnesium - the much needed but underestimated mineral

Increasing magnesium-rich foods in your healthy diet plan can help boost your mood - and at the very least add a bounty of healthy foods to your diet.

Magnesium is another one of those co-factors (like copper), which help enzymes in the human body to function properly.

Magnesium is not fully absorbed by the human body. Only about one third of the magnesium we eat, is absorbed, which is why human beings are prone to developing deficiencies. Added hereto our bodies can also lose large amounts of magnesium through the kidneys. People who take diuretics or drink too much alcohol and caffeine which increase urine excretion are exposed to potential magnesium deficiency. Diabetics who have to use insulin also tend to excrete more magnesium via the kidneys and are at risk of magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency

  • Nerve and muscle spasms, twitching, tremors, muscle weakness, jerkiness, leg and foot cramps, shaking hands, poor muscle control
  • Irregular pulse
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Convulsions (only occur when the magnesium content of the body is totally depleted)

Sources of magnesium

  • Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which gives green vegetables their colour) contains magnesium. Some legumes (beans and peas), nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are also good sources of magnesium.
  • Tap water can be a source of magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. Water that naturally contains more minerals is described as "hard". "Hard" water contains more magnesium than "soft" water
  • Relax in a hot bath for 10 - 15 minutes with 1 cup of Epsom salt added to the bathwater. Magnesium is absorbed through the skin and will help with muscle pains as well as restless leg syndrome.
  • Supplementation

Refined food like white flour is stripped of magnesium during the refining process

Remember that a healthy balance is necessary for any vitamin or mineral to function as it should. Therefore a good multivitamin is usually the better choice for daily use.

Sometimes one vitamin or mineral might be undersupplied or a higher need for a certain vitamin or mineral may arise from time to time. Under these conditions it is advisable to supplement the specific vitamin or mineral for a short period of time, never exceeding the prescribed dosage.

Dietary magnesium does not pose a health risk, however pharmacologic doses of magnesium in supplements can promote adverse effects such as diarrhoea and abdominal cramping. Risk of magnesium toxicity increases with kidney failure, when the kidney loses the ability to remove excess magnesium. Very large doses of magnesium-containing laxatives and antacids also have been associated with magnesium toxicity.

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