Magnesium, Key Nutrient

Magnesium is one of the most important electrolytes as well as it plays a major role in our muscles. It works in the opposite of calcium allowing the muscles to relax while calcium signals contraction. This is why one of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency is muscle cramps especially in our toes and sometimes our calf.  It is one of the major causes of night time cramps.

Along with this major function, magnesium is also involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies. Even though this mineral is plentiful in our diet, deficiencies are becoming more common as the conditions for absorption and retention needs to be just right for magnesium to perform.

Perhaps this is why this nutrient is often referred to as the consummate Diva of Nutrients – just like an opera singer, when the conditions are just right, she performs beautifully.

If the host of conditions for absorption or retention are not met, magnesium from the diet will not be absorbed or magnesium will quickly “leave the stage” and be eliminated from the body.
The absorption of magnesium is greatly affected by other nutrients as well as the parathyroid hormone.

How to Entice the Diva

In order to entice the diva, magnesium needs both the parathyroid hormone and vitamin D to be absorbed and with widespread deficiencies in vitamin D, it is no wonder magnesium deficiencies are showing up. In addition a diet high in saturated fats or unhealthy fats,  low in vitamin B6 can also hinder its absorption along with long term use of stomach acid-lowering medications like Prilosec will also greatly hinder absorption. It is now recommended by the FDA that if you take a proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec or Nexium for over 1 year to have your magnesium levels tested.

Keeping the diva on stage can also be challenging as some dietary, as well as lifestyle habits, can lead to increased elimination of magnesium. Excessive supplementation of calcium which is often seen with postmenopausal women, excessive vitamin K, and D as well as certain medications can increase elimination.  Most high blood pressure medication can reduce absorption.

Dietary and lifestyle habits including lack of water or chronic dehydration, excessive sugar, alcohol, coffee, tea, salt, sodas as well as chronic stress can also greatly increase elimination.

What Foods Are High in Magnesium?

Dietary sources of magnesium are widely available and are found in dark leafy vegetables (cooked), nuts especially almonds, Edamame (cooked), avocado, potatoes, chicken, fish especially halibut and in beef. So a diet high in cooked green leafy vegetables and raw nuts would provide most of your needs however, it is our lifestyle habits as well as most of don’t get our 5-6 servings of vegetables per day that can lead to deficiencies.

Therefore supplementation with magnesium would not be out of line and in some cases recommended.
If you choose to supplement with magnesium, check with a nutritionist to determine the correct dosage as too much magnesium can have adverse effects. And, too little will not adequately correct an imbalance. As with all minerals, the form used in a supplement can have a large difference in bioavailability or absorption.