24 February 2014

Is magnesium cramping your style?

Many people I have helped over the years have suffered from muscle cramps. So many said they were attempting to treat them with common salt. However, in my experience salt does little, while magnesium often works wonders.

But then magnesium does much, much more. So this week, off we go, Out on a Limb to examine this hugely significant mineral, how it works, where it comes from, what it does and why it may well be one of the most useful supplements to consider taking.

But first

Thought for the day

The whole problem with the world 
Is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves, 
And the wiser full of doubts

              Bertrand Russell

Magnesium functions
Magnesium is one of the most common elements in the world and in our bodies. It has many functions, perhaps the most significant being to do with enzyme activity, energy production, muscle activity and nervousness.

Magnesium is essential for the healthy function of the enzymes and co-enzymes that are essential for energy production throughout the body. It is also plays a vital role in relaying nervous impulses across the synapses (gaps) between our nerve cells and is crucial for healthy bone development and on-going bone metabolism.

Healthy muscle function including contraction relies on adequate magnesium and it is important for exercise performance.

Magnesium plays an important role in the prevention of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  Magnesium supplementation is well known for its use in the prevention and treatment of atrial fibrillation.

To date studies have been inconclusive about the role of magnesium in lowering blood pressure, although a recent meta-analysis suggests magnesium supplements may have a small but significant effect in lowering blood pressure.

Stress burns up magnesium and in turn low magnesium aggravates the adverse consequences of stress. - both physically and psychologically. Anyone with irritability, anxiety or depression would be wise to consider their magnesium levels. The stress of surgery or chronic illness also warrants consideration of extra magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency
Fact is most Australian and New Zealand soils are naturally deficient in magnesium. This deficiency flows through into our food chain, meaning many people are low in this crucial element. Add to this another fact – a junk food diet, high in processed foods and short on vegetables is even lower in magnesium and it is no wonder so many people are magnesium deficient.

In the USA, it is claimed that the average adult obtains only 66% of the daily requirement for magnesium from their food intake, leaving their intake about 100-125 milligrams short each day.

Signs of deficiency

You may like to read a formal summary of magnesium deficiency symptoms, (LINK HERE) but in my experience, things that respond well to magnesium supplements are muscle cramps and twitches (including, almost especially, those that occur at night), nervousness, poor sleep and bone disorders (I was particularly aware of this in my veterinary days).

Also, not enough people know how important magnesium is for healthy uterine contractions and that deficiencies amongst woman giving birth (just as with animals) can lead to uterine fatigue and birthing difficulties. This is something every pregnant woman needs to discuss with a suitably trained doctor or nutritional authority. Magnesium is commonly used for uncontrollable hypertension in pregnancy.

Of course you also need to consult your doctor if any symptoms are severe, such as if cramps take longer than a few minutes to disappear, but magnesium is one of the supplements I have recommended most often and one that is often associated with rapid and significant positive changes.

Sources of magnesium in the diet 
There are no “stand out” sources of magnesium but the best dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, legumes and unrefined grains. Eat plenty of these, particularly well grown organic ones and you should be OK.

If you are a home gardener, be sure to add dolomite regularly to vegetables and fruits as this mineral powder contains magnesium as well as calcium.

Testing your magnesium levels
This is not as easy as you might hope or expect. Problem is that the body goes to great effort to keep blood levels of magnesium stable, and so if you are deficient, the deficiency will be in the tissues and it needs to be fairly extreme before it shows up in a blood test.

It may well be best to consider your intake and symptoms, maybe in collaboration with a trained professional, in order to assess your situation.

One common feature of fairly large magnesium deficiency is muscle ticks, particularly under the eye. If you have this symptom, a magnesium supplement is almost certainly required and it is likely to clear that tick in a few days.

Magnesium supplementation
For best results, it is recommended that magnesium be taken in an easily absorbed powdered form. It is often taken with other nutrients that are also involved in the maintenance and repair of muscle tissue, such as folic acid and vitamins C and B12.

Magnesium oxide is one of the most common forms of magnesium dietary supplements available because it has high magnesium content per weight, Unfortunately, however, the oxide has been reported to be the least bioavailable (that means it is poorly taken up by the body). Magnesium citrate has been reported as more bioavailable than the oxide or amino-acid chelate (glycinate) forms and so read labels and if you do need a supplement, choose one containing magnesium citrate.

Magnesium overdose 
Excess magnesium in the blood is filtered out by healthy kidneys. This makes it difficult for most people to overdose on magnesium from dietary sources alone. With supplements, however, overdose is possible, in particular in people with poor kidney function. I must say in all my years i have never seen or even heard of anyone having an overdose on magnesium.

While high doses of magnesium are most commonly associated with stomach upsets, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, too much magnesium can cause several serious health problems including nausea, vomiting, severely lowered blood pressure, confusion, slowed heart rate, respiratory paralysis, deficiencies of other minerals, coma, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and even death.

Obviously, avoid magnesium supplementation in renal failure due to risk of magnesium toxicity.

Medical caution
If you experience cramping pain in the chest that radiates to the shoulder, arm or neck, it is possible you are having a heart attack. Call for an ambulance immediately, as it is better to be safe than sorry.

Dickinson HO et al. Magnesium supplementation for the management of primary hypertension in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD004640. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004640.pub2

Kass L et al. Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.4.

Do supplements shorten life?



Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17, 2014

This is the regular Pre-Easter retreat Ruth and I present in the Yarra Valley each year.
This retreat is designed to meet the needs of a broad range of meditators. It is well suited to beginners as well as the more experienced, those who are interested in teaching meditation (we hold specific sessions through the retreat for these people), those on the healing path and anyone keen to rest, reflect and deepen their meditation.

For details CLICK HERE 

Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing - Auckland, New Zealand: May 16 - 23 , 2014

This 8 day cancer recovery program residential program is evidence based and will be highly experiential. We will cover the full range of Integrative Medicine options, with the emphasis on what people can do for themselves – therapeutic nutrition, exercise and meditation, emotional health, positive psychology, pain management, the search for meaning and so on.

I will personally present the majority of the content but along with Ruth, participants will have the additional support and experience of Liz Maluschnig and Stew Burt; two very experienced and committed New Zealanders.

For details on this and the other cancer related residential programs for 2014 CLICK HERE 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ian, this information on magnesium is really helpful. I was recommended it by my doctor for leg twitches at night and it has fixed them. It is good to know about all the other things it does.