By Jennifer Landis:
Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal and in its purest form very flammable — but unless you’re in a science lab, this isn’t the form of magnesium you usually come into contact with. Magnesium is also found in a variety of foods and is an essential part of a healthy diet. What are the health benefits most commonly associated with magnesium?
Essential for Healthy Bones
You already know calcium is important for bone health, but it isn’t the only element you need in order to make sure your bones stay strong. We actually absorb less than half the calcium we ingest. Calcium that is not absorbed into the bones becomes part of the body, staying in the bloodstream and soft tissue of the body.
Too much excess calcium can actually lead to the calcification of the soft tissues. That’s where magnesium comes in: it stimulates the production of a hormone called calcitonin, which works to draw calcium out of the blood and soft tissue and back into the bones, improving bone health.
Magnesium Deficiency and Anxiety
Unless you’re taking a supplement, magnesium can be hard to get from your diet, which can lead to magnesium deficiencies. Studies have found that a lack of magnesium in your diet can lead to subjective anxiety. The easiest way to avoid this is to ensure you have enough magnesium in your diet — but how do you do that?
Look for foods high in magnesium and other trace elements. One serving of almonds, for example, has 15 percent of your recommended daily dose of magnesium alone. Other magnesium-rich foods include spinach, Swiss chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, black beans and avocados.
Treatment Option for Migraine Headaches
Migraines are a painful and often debilitating form of headaches. Studies have found that they might also be related to your body’s magnesium levels. One study found that by increasing their participants’ daily magnesium intake, they could reduce the frequency of migraines by more than 40 percent. For some patients, especially those who can’t use traditional prescription migraine medication, magnesium can be a lifesaver.
It Helps with Constipation
If you’ve ever experienced constipation, you’re probably already familiar with magnesium as a health aid in the form of magnesium hydroxide, also known as Milk of Magnesia. If you can’t stomach the liquid version, magnesium supplements are also useful for the treatment of constipation. If you are on any prescriptions, make sure you check with your doctor first — magnesium can interfere with the absorption of some medications, including diuretics, chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics.
It Helps You Sleep
Insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep or obtain restful sleep, can be difficult to treat. Sleep aids might help you shut down, but they also leave you groggy in the morning and unable to get your day started. Magnesium helps your body fall asleep easily and stay asleep if you have enough in your body.
First, magnesium works on your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is required to calm your body down at the end of the day. Magnesium also plays a big role in regulating the neurotransmitters in your brain, as well as regulating your production of melatonin, the hormone that helps set your body’s circadian rhythm.
It Could Be Beneficial for Asthma Sufferers
For both adults and children who suffer from asthma, a daily regimen usually includes emergency inhalers and a variety of bronchodilators to make breathing easier for them. Asthma can have a variety of causes or triggers, and even a variety of symptoms; but one thing seems to remain the same — magnesium can be used as a tool to mitigate the symptoms of asthma and reduce the severity of symptoms should an attack occur.
Magnesium works on asthma symptoms in a variety of ways. It aids in the relaxation of bronchial cells, which helps facilitate breathing. It also blocks the entry of intracellular calcium, which prevents it from interacting with other cells in the lungs and contributes to cell relaxation.
They are a lot of fancy terms to all say the same thing — magnesium helps reduce the inflammation in the bronchial cells that leads to an asthma attack. It has been used as a prophylactic treatment in adults, and is being studied now as a treatment option for children as well. While it won’t replace fast-acting rescue inhalers in the event of an attack, it can help mitigate the symptoms.
It Helps You Absorb Other Minerals
There are several minerals in our food that are essential to a healthy body — but our bodies still have trouble absorbing them. Magnesium can help your body absorb necessary minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium and even sodium.
If you are worried you might have a magnesium deficiency, be sure to talk to your doctor before you start taking any new supplements or making dramatic changes to your diet. While it is a natural mineral and can be beneficial in many ways, it can also interfere with the absorption of some prescription medications. Make sure your new supplement isn’t going to interfere with any medications you’re already taking.
You can find magnesium in a variety of foods you probably already enjoy, like spinach, almonds and avocado. Its health benefits are still being studied at length, but one thing is clear: this mineral is an enormous part of our normal bodily functions, and not getting enough of it can cause a number of problems.
Jennifer Landis is a nutrition nut, fitness fanatic, mindful and millennial mom. She loves tea, peanut butter and red wine. Follow her blog – Mindfulness Mama – for more on mindfulness, parenting and healthy living.