The body needs many different minerals to be considered truly healthy, and magnesium is definitely on the list.
According to Harvard Health, this one nutrient alone is an important component of many bodily functions, such as those which involve “muscle contraction, blood clotting, and regulation of blood pressure.” It also helps with the formation of healthy bones and teeth.
But magnesium has another important function within the body as well. It assists with relaxation, which can be invaluable to a DC intent on helping patients achieve higher levels of health.
How magnesium relaxes the body
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND. is on the Medical Advisory Board of the Nutritional Magnesium Association and the author of more than 30 different health-based books such as The Magnesium Miracle and The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. Being an expert in nutrients and health, she explains exactly how magnesium promotes a relaxation response.
“When there is too much calcium and insufficient magnesium inside a cell,” says Dean, “you can get sustained muscle contraction.” This means more “twitches, spasms, and even convulsions,” she adds, citing other possible physical responses that can lower quality of life.
For instance, “Smooth muscles directed by too much calcium and insufficient magnesium can tighten the bronchial tract, causing asthma,” says Dean. Insufficient amounts of magnesium in the diet can also lead to more painful periods thanks to uterine cramping or hypertension as a result of spasms within the blood vessels, she says.
This is important to a large portion of the population as Dean says that “over 75 percent of Americans do not get their recommended daily allowance of this mineral, which is a co-factor in 7-800 enzyme reactions in the body.”
But how do you know if you’re getting enough?
Signs of a potential magnesium deficiency
Dean shares that there are many physical signs of a diet that is deficient in magnesium. These include experiencing chest pains, having heart palpitations, issues with constipation or kidney stones, and muscle soreness or cramps. This deficiency can also appear via feelings of numbness, insomnia, and ringing in the ears.
A few of the mental consequences that may be noticed when there’s not enough magnesium in the diet, according to Dean, are anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and irritability. Thus, getting enough of this nutrient daily is important not only for its relaxing qualities, but also for maximum physical and mental health.
How to increase magnesium intake
“Magnesium is found naturally in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains,” says Kristen Accardo, DC at Balanced Body Chiropractic in Oswego, Illinois. However, she also adds that, “with as much processed food as many Americans consume, many people don’t get enough in the everyday diet, and only about 30 to 40 percent of what you consume is actually absorbed and utilized by the body.”
That’s why Accordo often promotes increased magnesium intake for patients who experience muscle tension and migraines. Supplements are an easier way to get the recommended daily dose of magnesium for many patients. In most cases, she suggests that they start out taking 200 to 250 milligrams per day as “too much magnesium taken too quickly can cause digestive upset,” says Accardo.
If the initial dose doesn’t provide any relief, Accordo recommends that her patients “bump it up to twice per day (morning and evening) or just a 4-500 mg dose at bedtime as long as that doesn’t upset the GI system,” says Accoardo. She further advises patients to “reduce intake if they experience any discomfort or diarrhea.”
Special magnesium indications for pregnant women
K.J. Sauer, LAc, MSOM, Dipl, OM.(NCCAOM), is an acupuncturist at Metapoint Acupuncture & Wellness in San Antonio, who works with a lot of pregnant women and advises that they “need slightly more magnesium in their diets than non-pregnant folks.” That’s why Sauer recommends that patients take powdered magnesium before bedtime as this “helps with the aches and pains that seem to affect pregnant women at night.”
However, as too much of this nutrient can result in loose stools, Sauer also recommends that pregnant women also “start with about 200 mg per night to see how they tolerate it, then work their way up to 400 mg if necessary.”