After oxygen, water and basic food, some say magnesium may be the most important element your body needs. Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body and it is involved in 350 different bodily processes. The role of magnesium is important in biological processes and its effects in those processes are extensive. Furthermore, there is a consensus of opinion in the health care community that magnesium ranks among the most important of all nutrients. Unfortunately, 90-95% of individuals are deficient in magnesium. There are numerous reasons for this deficiency but generally speaking we don’t consume the correct amount in our diets and we are exposed to factors that deplete what we do have. One primary reason it’s hard for us to consume enough magnesium is our society’s dependence upon processed foods. Food processing removes almost all nutrients from natural foods and cooking destroys what might remain. Also, natural, whole foods have fewer nutrients than it did 50-100 years ago. The fertilizers farmers’ use do replenish the soil but generally only 3 nutrients are part of the fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium). On top of that, food is selected for yield and not content and is not checked for nutritional value when harvested. The carrot your grandma ate is not nutritionally equal to the carrots we eat today… So it’s hard to get an adequate intake of magnesium, but the problem is exacerbated (big word, two points) by factors that steal/deplete what we do have in our bodies. Magnesium loss can be caused by:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine consumption
  • Sugar consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • High perspiration
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Excessive physical exertion
  • Certain medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Breast-feeding
  • Frequent infections

Magnesium is particularly sensitive to stress. When some individuals are placed under mental or physical duress, their bodies increase magnesium excretion. This can make problems worse because magnesium is a natural sedative that would help them naturally cope with stress.

Okay, we are deficient in magnesium, but why do we need magnesium?

Here is a list of some of the bodily processes that require magnesium:

  • Digestion
  • Energy production
  • Bone formation
  • Creation of new cells
  • Activation of B vitamins
  • Growth
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep (huge benefits here)
  • Wound healing
  • Heart function (high blood pressure especially)
  • Muscle function and relaxation (cramp much?)
  • Nerve function
  • Healthy thyroid function
  • Adrenal Health

Pretty incredible that magnesium plays a role in all those processes! So getting your magnesium intake to adequate levels will have feed a lot of starving systems in your body.

How do you know if you need magnesium?

Above I mentioned that 90-95% of people are deficient, but if that didn’t convince you then check this list of symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps, spasms and twitches
  • Muscle soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Constipation
  • Asthma
  • Blood clots
  • Bowel disease
  • Diabetes, Syndrome X and Metabolic Syndrome
  • Headaches and migraines

I won’t ask for a show of hands, but personally I have struggled with a good number of those conditions which is why magnesium is a supplement I simply can’t do without.

How much should you add to your daily regimen?

The following are some generally recommended doses:

  • Infants 40-70mg
  • Children 50-250mg
  • Adults 300-400mg
  • Pregnant 450mg
  • Lactating 450mg

These dosages are a good rule of thumb, but should be achieved by starting with about 50-100 mg a day for one week then adding 50-100 mg until tolerance levels are reached. The main side effect of excessive consumption may include diarrhea or loose stools. Because magnesium is a natural sedative, drowsiness and lethargy/relaxation could be considered a benefit or a “side effect” (timing of consumption is key here). Generally, I take my magnesium before bed as it helps me stay asleep better. There are numerous forms of magnesium, but for general, daily use magnesium glycinate is your best choice! Pure Encapsulations makes a very cost effective magnesium glycinate. If you are using magnesium mainly to help you fall asleep then use Calm (the brand name) Magnesium, which can be found at Whole Foods. This form is easier to assimilate in your body and makes a lovely “tea” when mixed with warm water, but be careful with the dosage or you might spend the night on the potty instead of in your bed… -Whitney Bateman