When we hear the word “Magnesium”, it usually takes us back to that chemistry class in school. But did you know that Magnesium is one of the most essential and vital macro-minerals that is responsible for more than 300 functions in your body? This means its deficiency can potentially throw your body out of whack.

So what can cause a magnesium deficiency, how do you know if you’re deficient and how can you raise its levels? Msc. Health Psychologist and Habit Expert, Pooja Naik, sheds some light on this.

Factors causing Magnesium deficiency

  • Diets low in vegetables, fruits, whole grains
  • Eating a high-protein diet
  • Refined foods
  • Birth control pills
  • Chronic stress
  • Supplementing with too much calcium, iron or sodium

What are symptoms of Magnesium deficiency?

Heart disease:

Research shows that low magnesium levels is one of the biggest indicators of heart disease.

Anxiety & Depression:

Chronic stress can decrease magnesium levels in the body and affect one’s stress response, recovery and repair. Magnesium deficiency disrupts production of serotonin (mood-enhancing hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone).

Hormonal problems:

Low magnesium levels can cause thyroid and diabetes. Magnesium deficiency can retain excess oestrogen in a woman’s body leading to weight gain, irregular periods and breast cancer amongst others.

Fatigue & Muscle Weakness:

Feeling fatigued from time to time is normal, but always feeling low on energy, muscle weakness or mental exhaustion could indicate magnesium deficiency.

Digestive Problems:

Magnesium helps move food through the intestines and its deficiency can result in irregular bowel movements.

Bone Health:

Calcium cannot do its job without sufficient magnesium in the body. A low level can cause frequent fractures or osteoporosis.

Here’s what you can eat to boost your Magnesium levels

  • Almonds & Brazil nuts
  • Avocados
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables (Spinach, Kale)
  • Seafood (Salmon, Tuna & Mackerel)
  • Dark chocolate

Some people may still be magnesium deficient in spite of eating foods rich in this mineral. In such situations, magnesium supplements may become necessary. But remember that anything in excess will always backfire; those who overdose on these supplements may experience diarrhoea, so avoid popping in too many pills.

Different forms of magnesium

Now, the absorption of this mineral depends on several factors like the amount of magnesium in one’s diet, gastrointestinal health as well as the overall magnesium status in the body. Here are some of the different forms of magnesium used for various purposes:

Magnesium citrate: One of the most commonly used supplements, it helps with digestive problems like constipation and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Magnesium chloride: Often used to treat heartburn and constipation, it is available as a topical that can relieve muscle aches and pains as well.

Magnesium malate: This may help prevent headaches, treat heartburn and has a milder laxative effect compared to the other types.

Magnesium sulphate: Also called epsom salt, it can help soothe sore muscles and reduce stress. Use this instead of bath bombs!

Magnesium glycinate: Due to its calming effect, it can help reduce stress, insomnia, depression and anxiety. However, more studies are needed, as the evidence is limited.

Magnesium taurate: This can help regulate blood sugar levels in the body to prevent or manage diabetes.

A word to the wise

When you take the right form and dosage, this mineral can be quite beneficial to your overall health. But be sure to check with your doctor before you take these supplements. And this is especially important if you have any kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease or intestinal disease.

This piece was first published on Medium. The information has been edited for length.

Aug 28, 2021
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