A Nutritionist’s Guide To Magnesium

It’s estimated that close to three-quarters of adults in the UK suffer from low magnesium levels, making it one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in Britain, second only to vitamin D. But what makes this mineral so vital to begin with? What role does it play in our bodies, and how can we make sure we’re getting enough of it? Here, two nutritional therapists explain all.
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First, why is magnesium such a vital mineral? 

From healthy bone development to helping our bodily functions tick over as they should, magnesium is essential to our wellbeing. Izzy Falcon, a registered nutritional therapist, says: “Magnesium is used in hundreds of processes in the body, which is why it’s so essential to help us function. It helps to regulate biochemical reactions in the body, including muscle and nerve function, and it’s also required for energy production. It contributes to the structural development of our bones and helps in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione.”

Can you tell us more about the role magnesium plays in the body?

It turns out, this incredibly versatile mineral serves a wide and diverse variety of functions. As Izzy explains: “Magnesium is used for multiple processes in your body, from supporting a deeper night’s sleep and mental wellbeing, to muscle recovery, stiff joints and energy production. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.” 

In fact, it’s magnesium’s role in calcium production which is one of its most vital functions – particularly for women who have gone through the menopause. Nutritionist Gabriela Peacock explains: “Magnesium helps to assimilate calcium in the bone. This is particularly important for post-menopausal women, who might be at risk of osteoporosis (oestrogen protects bones but decreases sharply during the menopause). Without this vital ingredient, calcium absorption is impaired. You also need a sufficient amount to be able to absorb any vitamin D into your system – the two go hand in hand.

Why are so many people deficient?

Lifestyle factors like excess drinking are a key element, as is a surprising lack of information surrounding the importance of this mineral. “Alcohol and the increase of consumption during lockdown could be a factor,” says Izzy. “Heavy drinking can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies generally; it increases loss of magnesium in urine, for example. I’d say that generally people aren’t getting their key nutrients through food and mineral water intake – but there’s also a lack of information out there.”

For Gabriela, the link between magnesium deficiency and anxiety is also inextricable. “It’s proven that those deficient in this mineral are also associated with heightened stress and anxiety. A great way to combat this is by taking magnesium supplements for the stabilising effect they have on our moods. They’re also natural muscle relaxers, which instantly help to alleviate angst, fear, irritability and restlessness, while promoting feelings of calm and well-being. It’s little wonder magnesium has been dubbed the ‘chill pill’ before.” 

What are the tell-tale signs that our body could do with a magnesium boost?

Izzy advises to watch out for some of the following red flags: “Low immunity, poor quality of sleep, deteriorating muscle function, muscle weakness and muscular pain, low energy production, low mood, brain fog and fatigue – these can all be signs our bodies have deficiencies in magnesium.”

In Gabriela’s view, it’s lack of sleep which is the crucial indicator. “Some reports suggest insomnia is a common side effect of those who are lacking in magnesium. Try some salts laced with the mineral and chuck a handful into your bath. The salts have been anecdotally reported to improve muscle relaxation as well as helping the body to unwind ready for bed.”

What different kinds of magnesium supplements are available? 

Whether you prefer to take all-natural supplements or run a relaxing bath filled with magnesium flakes, there’s a whole range of ways to ensure you’re getting your magnesium intake. “Personally, I love the Wild Nutrition (food-grown) Magnesium supplements, which cost £16.50 per refillable jar, are easy to take and all completely natural,” says Izzy. 

“Some synthetic Mg supplements can affect stomachs, so just make sure that what you take is clean, as then it should be gentle on your digestion. Also, a great way to absorb magnesium is through the skin, so a gorgeous warm bath with magnesium flakes can do wonders. Try BetterYou Magnesium Flakes, priced £9.99 for 1kg at Boots. Always do a little test first just to check you don’t get a reaction and make sure you don’t have the bath too hot, as otherwise you can feel lightheaded!”

Which foods contain magnesium and when should we think about supplementing in this way? 

Izzy advises: “I would always suggest a blood test to check for deficiencies rather than just jumping into lots of supplements. The best way to increase your levels are through leafy greens (kale, chard, etc), almonds and cashews (always unsalted and remember a small handful for portion control), or perhaps some raw cacao nibs, these are delicious and can be sprinkled on some porridge or in full fat natural yoghurt with blueberries in the morning.”

Gabriela agrees: “You may already be getting more magnesium than you think. Not only do you find it in dark, leafy greens, it’s also found in seeds and nuts (including sunflower and sesame seeds) squash, broccoli and other veg, legumes, some dairy product, unprocessed whole grains, chocolate, some fruits (figs, avocadoes, bananas and raspberries) – and even baked beans!”

By incorporating these foods into your diet, you may also notice for unforeseen benefits, adds Gabriela. “Another big boon of magnesium is its powers in reducing premenstrual syndrome in women. This is again thanks to its muscle soothing benefits that alleviate headaches, tension, and pain, so you can expect your period cramps to be that bit more bearable too. But be patient, unlike pain relievers, magnesium needs to be soaked up by the body over time to see full results.

Izzy is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, DipNT, mANP, rGNC and is available for consultations via Skype or Zoom. For more information, visit her website. For more nutritional advice and tips, head to Gabriela’s site at GPNutrition.com.

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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