Back in 1990, when I first started out in the world of naturopathy and was doing my clinic hours with a G.P/Naturopath in Sydney, the main observation that I noted was in his use of Magnesium. He prescribed it to nearly every client who came in, so I thought there must be a good reason for this.
Of course in my general studies in Naturopathy we are taught about so many different things, all seeming important, but this magnesium (Mg) thing really stood out in clinic practice back then as it does still for me today.
Mg has many uses, but the reason it is prescribed so frequently is that Mg is used up heavily in times of stress. This can be any type of stress, whether it is stress on the body from allergy or illness, mental or emotional stress or even the general life stress of say having a job, relationship or kids.
So as you can see, we all have some stress in our lives. Its part of being alive, but unfortunately this stress can deplete our reserves of Mg. and when we are low in Mg. stress tends to affect us more easily, thus further depleting our levels creating a vicious circle of further depletion.
The most common symptoms of sub-clinical Mg. deficiency are restlessness, mood disturbances, personality changes, anorexia, nausea, anxiety, depression, headaches, restless legs syndrome, muscle aches and twitches and the list goes on, or can be asymptomatic, at least to the individual.
Where is Mg. located in the body?
Mg. in the body is represented as either extracellular 1 %( that is – outside the cell) or intracellular 99% (inside the cells). Approx. half the Mg. is in the bones and most of the rest is in the muscles and soft tissues. Because most of the Mg is in the cells instead of in the blood, a blood test to determine Mg is an inaccurate estimate of levels in the body in general. However a live blood analysis may show the signs of the body’s needs.
An analogy I like to use to describe the Mg in and out the cells and how we can’t be sure if a blood test reflects our true levels in the body is one of an expressway and city parking. If the expressway into a city is our blood vessels, the cars are Mg. and the car parking spaces in the city our cells or storage spaces in our body then we can see that at times, say peak hour, we can have the expressway full of cars and nothing in the car park, but at say 10am the car spaces are all full up ,but the expressway is nearly empty. We can’t necessarily say that the car park is full by looking at how full or empty the expressway is, just as we can’t say if we have enough Mg by testing the levels in our blood.
What are some common sources of Mg?
Good sources include kelp, nuts, esp. almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and hazelnuts, seeds, esp sunflower and their sprouts, tofu, legumes (brown), whole grains, dark green vegetables, seafood and chocolate. Incidentally a chocolate craving is a sign of Mg. deficiency. Also rich sources are the concentrated super greens such as chlorella, barley and wheat grass. You may already consume a lot of these foods and this will certainly help to keep up your levels of Mg., but if you have any ongoing stress in you life of any description then it may pay well to supplement with extra Mg.
What are the best forms of Mg. Supplements?
There are over 20 different types of Mg. however, not all forms are available in Australia, nor are all forms equal in their bioavailability and absorptive qualities. Forms that offer good to excellent levels of oral absorption include Mg; aspartate, chelates (bound to amino acids), citrate, fumurate, glycinate (sometimes called bisglycinate or diglycinate), lactate, malate, orotate, phosphate, picolinate, and succinate, with my favorite being the diglycinate form as it appears to give the best repeatable results.
Mg sulfate and hydroxide are used primarily as laxatives, as they are rarely absorbed, but rather are hydrophilic (draws water to itself) in nature. Mg. Hydroxide is also used in antacid preparations. Mg acetate and chloride are both used in food preparation, particularly in non-alcoholic beverages and in some supplements as a filler/binder.
Some medical uses for Mg (prescribed):
ADD, ADHD, adrenal exhaustion, alcoholism, angina, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, autism, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, Celiac disease, Chronic fatigue syndrome, cholesterol (high LDL), colitis, coronary thrombosis, dental caries, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, environmental toxin poisoning, epilepsy, oedema, fractures, gastric reflux, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, immune system depletion, inflammatory bowel disease, insomnia, irritability, kidney stones, migraine, muscle weakness and excitability, multiple sclerosis, myocardial infarction, nephritis, nervousness, neuritis, obesity, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, PMS, psoriasis, radiation therapy, restless legs syndrome, serotonin synthesis, tremors and vomiting.
What things can deplete or antagonise Mg.
The conditions listed above will not only require supplemental Mg. but will often cause depletion in Mg. reserves. Other circumstances that deplete Mg. include: Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, saturated fat intake, excess sweating, stress, surgery, insomnia, ketoacidosis.
Excess calcium, copper, fluoride, iron, lead, mercury, phosphorus, zinc, oxalic acid (e.g. spinach), phytic acid, vit D. Ammonium chloride, thyroxin, pharmaceutical diuretics, oral contraceptives, beta-blockers. IBS, renal and hormonal diseases, parathyroid gland disorders, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, Paget’s disease, and malabsorption can all deplete or interfere with absorption of magnesium.
Magnesium is absolutely essential to good health in humans, not only as a structural component of the body, but as a functional agent in fueling hundreds of enzyme reactions and influences virtually all biological processes in the body, and is an absolute must for the control of stress of every day life. As I say to clients Mg. helps to bring the mountain back to the molehill. The stress may well still be there but how you handle it may differ if you have adequate levels of Mg. in your system. On a nutritional level this is how I like to assist clients with stress.
Here & Now Magazine July 2004