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This essential to good health rarely gets a mention


Leg cramps and a poor night’s sleep can be just two of many signs indicating a lack of magnesium. But while there is a mass of information of vitamin D, the B group of vitamins, calcium and a host of other key elements in our diet, magnesium rarely gets a mention.

Yet magnesium plays a key role in our every day health and it may be because of its complex involvement in so many areas of our well being that it is not talked about a lot. It isn’t really easy to translate into easy readable English the fact that magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems, but this doesn’t make this mineral any less important. It is involved in protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, energy production….the list of why magnesium is so essential just goes on. One study from Harvard University in the US found that ensuring good daily magnesium levels can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 33 per cent.

Magnesium is abundant in a healthy body; we usually carry around with us around 25g of magnesium. Around 50% to 50% of this is in our bones and the rest in soft tissue and very small amounts in blood and blood serum. Our kidneys help to control our magnesium levels, excreting excess into our urine every day.

One problem with magnesium is that it can be difficult to correctly work out whether you have enough. If you are suffering from symptoms such as muscle cramps, weakness, irritability, sleeplessness, nausea or diarrhea, a magnesium test may be included in your medical assessment.

Magnesium levels are often tested through blood serum tests, but as only around 1% of our magnesium is found in blood and only 3% in blood serum, testing doesn’t always bring out reliable results.

Generally if we are eating a health diet, then we should have an adequate intake of magnesium. The NHS says the recommended levels are 300 mg of magnesium a day for men and 270 mg for women.

Good sources of magnesium can be found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, brown rice, wholegrain bread, fish, meat, dairy foods and nuts. Just a half cup of pumpkin seeds can provide nearly 100% of the daily requirements for magnesium. Other nuts and seeds high in magnesium include Brazil nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pine nuts and pecans.

While foods that contain magnesium can help keep our levels up, other foods can prevent magnesium working properly. For instance, carbonated drinks often contain phosphates; this can actually bind with magnesium inside the digestive tract, making the magnesium unavailable to the body.  Another drink that has bad affect is tea and coffee that contains caffeine.  Caffeine can cause the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of how much is in your body.

Refined sugar is another bad idea for magnesium levels…it can also cause the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys. Stress too can cause magnesium deficiency.

And so it goes on.  In many ways it is best not to know about magnesium but if you do suffer from anxiety, difficulty getting to sleep, painful muscle cramps including those really annoying leg cramps at night or even eye twitches, then these could be signs of magnesium deficiency. Without magnesium, our muscles would be in a constant state of contraction.

Magnesium supplements can make a difference and may be worth trying if you are suffering from the above. They are available at most high street chemists, but there is a serious down side to taking too much magnesium; so first definitely check with your doctor.

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