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Nutrition Essentials: Why You Need Magnesium


May 14, 2014 | Published by

sunflower seeds

It is almost impossible to find a part of the body that wouldn’t be affected by a magnesium deficiency. For example: your brain, cardiovascular and digestive systems, muscular and nervous systems, liver and kidneys, hormone secreting glands and even your blood all rely on magnesium for proper metabolic functioning. Like other macro minerals, your body doesn’t naturally produce magnesium. In this blog we’ll take a closer look at the roles magnesium plays in the body, what happens when you don’t get enough, and my recommended food sources.

Magnesium and Bone Health

Did you know nearly two-thirds of all magnesium in your body is found in your bones? Bone magnesium plays two quite different roles. Some of it aids in the physical structure of the bone, while some of it acts as a cache for the body to draw from if levels are low. Incorporating magnesium rich foods into your diet and supplementing when necessary can help support bone health now and in the future.

Magnesium, Nerves and Muscle Relaxation

Magnesium is commonly known as the anti-cramp mineral, but did you know that your nerves also depend upon magnesium to avoid becoming overexcited? Both magnesium and calcium work together to help regulate your body’s nerve and muscle tone. Here’s how: Magnesium serves as a chemical gate blocker in many of the body’s nerve cells. Magnesium helps oppose the activity of calcium, preventing it from moving too quickly and activating the nerve. This delicate balance helps to keep nerves (and therefore muscles) relaxed. Too little magnesium causes nerve cells to activate and become over-excited. This imbalance can trigger muscle fatigue and tension, cramps, spasms and muscle soreness.

Magnesium And Blood Pressure

Research has shown that diets high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and low in sodium and fat are associated with lower blood pressure. Practitioners often call magnesium “nature’s calcium channel blocker” because it mimics what calcium channel blocker heart drugs do to modulate vascular tone. Magnesium also stimulates nitric oxide, a process that happens when we exercise, which helps us to relax by dilating blood vessels. One of the first things I recommend to those struggling with high blood pressure is to check that they’re getting enough magnesium.

Magnesium, Adrenal Function and the Stress Response

Magnesium acts like a spark plug for the adrenal glands and for the energy system of every cell in the body. It is essential to the enzyme and energy generation necessary for the adrenal hormone cascade that produces hormones like cortisol to deal with stress. Several of the steps that create energy in every cell, and especially in the adrenal glands, are dependent on magnesium. When there is not enough magnesium, the stress response can be triggered with less provocation, leading to increased irritability and frustration.

Signs You May be Deficient in Magnesium

Because magnesium does so much, signs of deficiency can vary greatly. Many initial symptoms involve small muscle changes, including weakness, tremors, and spasms. Do you tire easy, or are your muscles often cramped and sore? Is premenstrual pain a regular part of your monthly cycle? These are also possible signs of a magnesium deficiency. Because of its role in bone structure, the softening and weakening of bone can also be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Other signs of magnesium deficiency include headaches, hypertension, anxiety, depression, nausea, lack of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. For restlessness at night, I recommend taking 400mg of magnesium citrate about a half an hour before bedtime.

How Magnesium Deficiency Happens

Did you know the health of your digestive system and kidneys have a lot to do with magnesium levels? Magnesium is absorbed primarily in the intestines and is then transported through the blood to cells and tissues. Your body only uses one-third to one-half of the magnesium you take in, the rest is passed through sweat and urination. For this reason, it pays to optimize digestive and kidney function to increase the uptake of magnesium. Certain digestive disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, can hamper mineral absorption. These conditions can deplete the body’s magnesium storage and can sometimes lead to deficiency. Poorly-controlled diabetes can also lead to mineral loss in the body.

If these signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency seem familiar to you, I urge you to speak with a practitioner. Getting your fill of magnesium daily is important, though many signs and symptoms of a deficiency can be caused by other issues as well. It’s always best to make sure of the cause before you start trying to fix yourself.

Food Sources of Magnesium

Here’s some of the foods on my “Magnesium V.I.P.” list. These foods have high yield per serving, and offer other essential nutrients as well.

  • Pumpkin seeds (raw): 184.58 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Spinach (boiled): 156.60 mg per 1 cup
  • Swiss chard: 150.50 mg per 1 cup
  • Soybeans (cooked): 147.92 mg per 1 cup
  • Salmon (baked): 138.34 mg per 100 gr
  • Sunflower seeds (raw): 127.44 mg per 100 gr
  • Sesame seeds (raw): 126.36 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Halibut (baked): 121.35 mg per 100 gr
  • Black beans: 120.40 mg per 1 cup
  • Navy beans: 107.38 mg per 1 cup
  • Almonds (roasted): 98.67 mg per 1/4 cup

dr eric bakkerAbout the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos:  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:

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