A widespread addiction to coffee, a poor diet, large amounts of stress, and small amounts of sleep can all add up to a magnesium deficiency. The signs and symptoms of this deficiency can be unpleasant, but luckily, fixing this condition is very easy. The single best thing to do is to eat a magnesium-rich diet. The second best route is to supplement.
Our Paleolithic ancestors had much more available to them as far as natural sources of magnesium. Whether it was from diet, water, or soil, they never experienced the current depletion of magnesium from which we currently suffer. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning and think about exactly what magnesium is and why exactly we need it.
What Is Magnesium?
You’d probably be surprised to learn that only three elements on Earth are more abundant than magnesium! As far as our health is concerned, there are only 10 other elements that are found in higher concentrations inside our own body. Magnesium is also essential to all cells, and it plays a major role in DNA and RNA. This makes magnesium deficiency pretty darn bad, right?
Also, about half of your magnesium is stored in bone, which means that bone health rests just as much on magnesium as it does other elements. Some studies have even induced osteoporosis by mimicking our current low magnesium diet.
Why Do I Need Magnesium?
For starters, magnesium is needed for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. This includes neurotransmission and energy for your very cells. Sound important? It is.
It’s even more important for women to have enough of this nutrient, as a magnesium deficiency can make your period much more painful. Magnesium can also help to reduce headaches, nausea and cramps associated with that time of the month.
A magnesium deficiency affects your fitness level, too. Studies have shown that even a marginal magnesium deficiency impairs athletic performance and amplifies the negative effects of exercise, like soreness, making it harder for you to effectively work out (1).
Besides impairing performance, acute exercise can cause the body to redistribute magnesium throughout the body and to lose more magnesium, resultant from the exercise (2). Magnesium goes into the red blood cells, presumably to deal with the stress of exercise (3).
As a muscle relaxant, magnesium can help with sleep, as well as constipation. Sleep and magnesium are so interrelated, that one study shows that not getting enough magnesium can disrupt your sleep, and even alter your mood (4). This is why it is important to take magnesium strategically – at the right time, with the right intention.
How To Get More Magnesium
The easiest way is to supplement. But, the best way, and the cheaper way, is to eat a diet which contains much more magnesium. This means lots of: halibut, spinach, Swiss chard, nuts and (with moderation) dark chocolate. Eating these foods adds other much-needed minerals and vitamins as well.
Since everyone in the Paleo world loves nuts, it is important to note that Brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews all contain decent amounts of magnesium. Squash and pumpkin seeds also contain a large amount. Wild-caught mackerel and tuna are also excellent sources of magnesium.
Drinking mineral water can also help bring some magnesium into your body. While our Paleolithic ancestors consumed water that was rich with minerals, our tap water has been stripped of magnesium. Making a conscious effort to drink mineralized water can help bridge that gap.
Of course, especially in this day and age, people always want to be able to take a pill. This means that, of course, you can supplement with magnesium. It is wise to choose a small amount to start with and then slowly progress from there. That is due to the laxative effect that magnesium has. In the Paleo community, and in my work with clients, it seems that Natural Calm is the best source of magnesium supplementation.
The only form of magnesium supplement worth avoiding is magnesium oxide. as your body can’t absorb this form very well. Magnesium citrate seems to have the most risk as a potential laxative, so choosing another from in those susceptible, may be a good option.
The Bottom Line
Magnesium deficiency is not a pretty thing, but fortunately, it’s both easy and delicious to fix. And also, if you’re a coffee drinker, perhaps I’ve given you motivation to cut back on the bean and step up your meditation and sleeping routines. Remember, your body does not need caffeine, but your cells do require magnesium!
Did you learn anything about magnesium? Were you surprised at how much we need it? And how easy it is to be deficient? Let us know in the comments!