The answer? VERY.
The human body contains approximately 25g of magnesium, with 50-60% of this being stored in the skeletal system. It contributes to the smooth running of bodily systems in a number of ways including being vital for the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes. With numerous benefits, it’s easy to see why we need to keep up our magnesium intake to keep our bodies seamlessly ticking over!
Benefits of magnesium
1. Bone health
Magnesium plays an important role in bone formation. It helps assimilate calcium into the bone and to activate vitamin D in the kidneys (which is also essential for healthy bones!).
Optimal intake of magnesium is also associated with greater bone density and a lower risk of osteoporosis in women following menopause.
2. Calcium absorption
A high intake of calcium can lead to calcification in the arteries, cardiovascular disease and kidney stones; magnesium helps the body to absorb calcium to prevent these things from occurring. Magnesium is great for general kidney health, as low serum magnesium levels can increase the risk of kidney disease.
Magnesium is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates and glucose, and so can impact the risk of diabetes. Research has shown that a higher intake of magnesium has been associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Low levels of magnesium were also linked to impaired insulin secretion and lower insulin sensitivity.
4. Heart health
Magnesium helps to maintain the health of muscles, including the heart and aids with the transmission of electrical signals in the body.
Insufficient magnesium intake has been linked to both atherosclerosis (fat build up on the walls of arteries) and high blood pressure. Higher magnesium levels may also lower the risk of stroke according to research findings.
Studies have found that magnesium therapy may help in the relief and prevention of headaches.
6. Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
Ensuring adequate magnesium intake, combined with vitamin B6 may help to relieve symptoms of PMS e.g. bloating, leg swelling, breast tenderness, weight gain and insomnia.
Reductions in magnesium levels have been linked to increased anxiety levels. Serotonin, a mood elevating hormone, is also dependent on magnesium, so without sufficient intake, it is possible that stress and anxiety levels could increase. It can also help you to increase REM sleep.
8. Skin health
Studies have shown magnesium to break apart different fats and oils which can reduce skin oiliness. It is also believed that magnesium can improve stress-related skin disorders such as acne and rosacea.
9. Thyroid health
The thyroid is one of the most important parts of the body, regulating bodily systems and helping the organs to run properly. Magnesium plays a key role in thyroid health as it converts the inactive T4 thyroid hormone into the active form of T3. T3 enhances the metabolism of body cells whereas inactive T4 does not. Magnesium also helps to produce more T4 in the thyroid gland. Without magnesium, many of the thyroid enzymes could not function properly.
10. Musculo-skeletal (MSK) system support
There are numerous MSK issues which may be caused by magnesium deficiency. These include: fibrositis, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, eye twitches, cramps, and chronic neck and back pain.
A major mechanism of pain is the excessive stimulation of the brain chemical “NMDA”, a pain-carrying neurotransmitter. There are a few medications which can help to decrease and balance NMDA however they can all cause significant side effects. Magnesium helps to settle NMDA without the associated toxicity of the medication.
Magnesium is also recommended to help the soreness of DOMS (delayed onset muscular soreness) and promote muscle recovery following exercise. Magnesium aids with the regulation of neuromuscular signals, muscle contractions and the active transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes. These qualities help to ease muscular aches, pains and cramps, especially when magnesium is applied topically to the skin.
Getting enough magnesium can also help to improve your physical performance. It lowers the body’s levels of lactic acid and boosts energy during prolonged exercise through the positive effect it has on the nervous system. If you are an endurance athlete, your body generally has a higher nutrient requirement as it is working for longer periods of time under stress; magnesium is one of these essential nutrients. As an electrolyte, it is important to replenish magnesium stores after you’ve been sweating for an extended period of time.
What does magnesium deficiency look like?
Magnesium deficiency is rare but can result from excessive alcohol consumption, some health conditions (e.g. gastrointestinal disorder), and the use of some medications. Deficiency is linked to insulin-resistance, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis and can lead to low calcium or potassium levels in the blood.
Deficiency symptoms include:
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Fatigue and weakness
(more advanced symptoms: numbness and tingling, personality changes, heart rhythm changes and spasms, seizures and muscle cramps.)
The recommended intake for individuals varies depending on age, gender, and other factors such as pregnancy, breast feeding, medications etc. Ask your physician how much magnesium you should be taking and if it is safe for you to introduce more into your diet or lifestyle. Some medications may interact with magnesium and so it is important to stay on the safe side and ask a professional for advice before you start taking any supplements.
Risks of too much magnesium
An overdose of magnesium through diet is unlikely because most excessive magnesium consumed will be eliminated through the urine. However. magnesium from supplements can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea, nausea and cramping.
Very large doses of magnesium can cause kidney problems, low blood pressure, urine retention, nausea and vomiting, depression and lethargy, cardiac arrest and possible death. Magnesium supplementation is not advised for those with kidney disorders unless specifically recommended by a doctor, and it may also give rise to some drug interactions.
*PLEASE ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE USING ANY FORM OF SUPPLEMENTS AND ENSURE YOU GET THEM FROM A RELIABLE SOURCE.
Where can I get magnesium?
Aside from magnesium supplements, you can add magnesium into your diet through foods such as:
• Pumpkin seeds
• Whole grain bread
• Beans or lentils
• Cashew nuts
• Sesame seeds
It can be tricky to get enough magnesium from diet alone however; topical application can be a solution to this. Magnesium spray can be bought in most pharmacies or health stores e.g. boots or Holland and Barrett.
Experts recommend using magnesium spray on larger body parts e.g. legs, arms, belly and back for a few weeks to see if it works for you. Many people will get relief from aches and pains and other magnesium deficiency related symptoms within hours or in some cases, even minutes.
You can use the spray all over or spray it directly on affected areas and rub it in as necessary. Using a spray form of magnesium can also ensure full absorption into the body.
Magnesium and massage
It goes without saying that massage is a great way to relax of any muscle tension, but you can couple this with magnesium spray. Following a massage, you can spray the most tender, tense areas and this will assist in the wonderful post-massage effects.