Magnesium is an essential mineral (which means our body needs it to function). We get it from our diet or with supplements. Lack of magnesium may lead to irritability, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. Every organ in the body — especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys — needs the mineral magnesium. It also contributes to the makeup of teeth and bones. Most important, it activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, and helps regulate calcium levels as well as copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients in the body.
Certain medical conditions, however, can upset the body’s magnesium balance. For example, an intestinal virus that causes vomiting or diarrhea can cause temporary magnesium deficiencies. Some gastrointestinal diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and ulcerative colitis), diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease, and taking diuretics can lead to deficiencies. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol as well as heavy menstrual periods, excessive sweating, and prolonged stress can also lower magnesium levels.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include:
- agitation and anxiety
- restless leg syndrome (RLS)
- sleep disorders
- nausea and vomiting
- abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure
- muscle spasm and weakness
- poor nail growth
- relax nerve impulses and muscle contractions
- promote relaxation; aid in restful sleep
- help lower blood pressure
- keep your bones strong (especially when taken with calcium)
- keep your heart healthy by lowering cholesterol
- relieve symptoms of menopause and PMS
- help the body absorb calcium and potassium
DIET: The best dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, peas, beans, and cereal grains in which the germ or outer layers have not been removed. Hard water has been found to contain more magnesium than soft water.
A diet high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed. Cooking may decrease the magnesium content of food. Evidence suggests that magnesium may play an important role in regulating blood pressure.
Diets that provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of potassium and magnesium, are consistently associated with lower blood pressure. The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) suggested that high blood pressure could be significantly lowered by a diet high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and low in sodium and fat.
To supplement your diet with magnesium, there are various forms of magnesium.
TYPE OF MAGNESIUM – There are several forms of magnesium supplements. Magnesium citrate, oxide, glycinate, and sulfate. For constipation, people use magnesium citrate, but for a good supplement for bodily functions without diarrhea, we use magnesium glycinate.
The various forms of magnesium will affect the digestive tract differently. Below are some guidelines on how your body may react to types of magnesium:
- oxide: tends to firm stools
- glycinate: a very gentle form of magnesium that is easier on the system
- citrate: tends to loosen stools
- sulfate: tends to loosen stools
- chloride: tends to loosen stools
Magnesium sulfate – Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Be sure to buy USP (U.S.Pharmaceutical grade). You can get them at the Dollar store, grocery.drug store and Costco. Epsom salts will:
- ease stress and improve sleep
- reduce inflammation and relieve muscle pain/cramps
- flush out toxins
- help prevent or ease migraine headaches
When given an Epsom salt bath, the magnesium and sulfate in the salts are absorbed into the body through the skin. Sulfate is thought to circulate in the body up to about nine hours. Any Epsom salts left on the skin may continue to be absorbed as long as it is still on the skin, offering continuous ‘timed-released’ input into the bloodstream. I put 1.5 to 2 cups of Epsom salts in hot bath water to dissolve and then add the cold water to balance the temperature. Soak for about 15 minutes before using natural soaps or shampoos. Others add baking soda and lavender oil to enhance the relaxation effects. You can also do a foot bath of hot water and Epsom Salts for 15 minutes while watching TV/reading before bed.