Updated: Aug 31
Magnesium Health: Why it is the Key to Optimal Wellness
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in our body, behind potassium, sodium and calcium. Magnesium’s presence helps activate many enzymes in our bodies that help perform hundreds of functions at the cellular level. Magnesium was always known to have some healing benefits in our body, but the extent of its role has gained much more insight. Magnesium has become such a popular supplement because the benefits are almost countless!
Magnesium, An Enzyme Assistant
Magnesium is technically a cofactor in our bodies. A cofactor is a substance that allows enzymes to perform chemical reactions faster and more efficiently. We can refer to a cofactor as an enzyme assistant.
Magnesium Deficiency In Our Diet
Nowadays, many of us lack Magnesium in our diets due to the number of processed and refined foods we consume and our low soil quality due to the chemicalization
of our agriculture. Magnesium-rich foods consist of:
Nuts & seeds
Magnesium becomes active in water, so anything that depletes water, such as the following, can drain us of our functional Magnesium:
Phosphoric acid in Colas
Functions of Magnesium
Some of Magnesium's most known functions consist of the following:
Promoting calmness and aiding in sleep
Magnesium's Role in Energy and Protein Synthesis
Magnesium activates enzymes to help break down, transfer, and store cells' energy. It also assists in activating cell's enzymes to carry out specific functions like protein synthesis, and it helps provide a stable environment to do it.
Magnesium’s Role with Vitamin D & Insulin
Bone health is essential for us to keep our bodies strong. It also stores many minerals, like calcium. Vitamin D is a hormone that builds and maintains our bone strength and structure. We obtain vitamin D through UV rays shining onto our skin
or from our diet, but it needs to be converted to an active vitamin D form to be functional in our body. Magnesium assists with activating the enzyme involved to convert the inactive form of vitamin D to the active, functional form, calcitriol.
How well our body regulates our blood sugar can affect our risk for diabetes and many other ailments and disease. If we consume too many carbohydrates or sugars, our insulin can become less effective in entering our cells, allowing more sugar to build up in our blood. Magnesium's presence allows the chemical role of insulin to be more sensitive to sugar in the blood, and it can help get more sugar out of the blood and into our tissues, where it is broken down and stored or used (for strength training and muscular functions).
Magnesium's Role in Muscle Relaxation
Our bodies consist of various voluntary and involuntary muscles to perform everyday functions. Voluntary actions are easy to think of as we tell our bodies to do them, examples being:
It can be easy for us to forget some of the involuntary actions our bodies do:
Blood vessels constrict and dilate, affecting our blood pressure
Airways in our lungs dilate to provide more oxygen
Our heart contracts and relaxes 60-100 times per minute
Intestines contract and relax when digesting our food
Our esophageal sphincters open and close in our stomach, letting food pass
When our muscles contract, signals are sent from our brain to tell our muscles to do so. Signalling happens in pathways that connect the brain and the muscle. The place where they connect is called a junction. Calcium tells our junctions to release transmitters that bind to our muscles and tell them to contract.
But wait, why are we talking about Calcium, not Magnesium?
Magnesium and Calcium have a competitive relationship. These minerals are similar as they have the same 2+ charge but are different in that Calcium makes cells excited, like telling them to contract, whereas Magnesium tells cells to chill and relax. Their same charge lets them compete for the same binding sites on cells. If Calcium binds, our cells stay active, whereas if magnesium binds, the cells rest.
How Magnesium Deficiency Can Affect Our Muscles:
If Calcium is more available than Magnesium, our tissues are contracting more than relaxing, and this can cause problems such as:
Over-contracted blood vessels, causing high blood pressure
Fast heart contractions, which put us at risk for irregular rhythms and decreased blood flow, which makes our heart work harder
Intestines contracting and not relaxing, creating cramping and constipation
Esophageal sphincters can spasm and remain open, increasing the risk of gastric reflux
Muscle cramping or twitching during or after our workouts
Magnesium's Role in Brain Health
Magnesium’s role within the brain involves supporting and healing cell communication. Our brain cells communicate by sending signals and releasing neurotransmitters to each other. The communication happens through pathways called synapses. As we get older, our synapses degrade. Magnesium repairs our synapses, allowing for better communication within our brain, and this can prevent memory loss and maintain cognition as we age.
Magnesium’s Role in Calming Our Body
When transmitters communicate, they relay a message to do a function in our body or brain. Magnesium activates a specific transmitter that blocks these messages, allowing our cells to relax and rest. This transmitter is called GABA. When we are deficient in Magnesium, our cells can be overexcited. Not only does GABA help decrease actions like muscle contractions, but it helps us mentally as it decreases the firing of neurons in our brains. GABA helps:
Decrease headaches and migraines from overstimulated neurons
Make us sleepy, as our cells are in a relaxed and restful state
Decrease anxiety disorders and depression by overstimulated neurons
What Magnesium Supplements Should You Take and Why
There is a wide variety of Magnesium supplements available to us, and it's important to choose one that will give you the results you are looking for. Magnesium binds to other minerals in a compound, so it is stable and safe to ingest into our bodies. Different combinations are absorbed better than others and can affect different body systems differently.
Magnesium Citrate is highly absorbed in our bodies at about 30 %. Citrate is absorbed very well into our digestive tract. Magnesium Citrate is so well absorbed in our digestive tract it lets our muscles relax, helps with better digestion rates, and can even act as a laxative. These effects can help if:
You are prone to constipation
*Magnesium Citrate has a great absorption rate but may cause diarrhea because it is SO well absorbed in the intestinal tract. If Magnesium Citrate gives you this side effect, a different Magnesium compound may work better for you:
Magnesium Malte is Magnesium and Malic Acid. Malic acid is found in fruits and gives them that tart taste. It also has a high absorption rate in our bodies, but Malate can be more gentle on our stomachs than Magnesium Citrate. Malic acid is also an assistant, like Magnesium, in helping our cells produce energy. Magnesium Malate can help with:
Help reduce nerve pain
And can be used as a Magnesium Citrate alternative
Magnesium 'glycinate' as commonly known has an absorption rate of about 24 %. Although slightly lower than Magnesium Citrate, glycine also couples with Magnesium’s effect of relaxing our cells. Magnesium activates the relaxing transmitter GABA but glycine also has a relationship with GABA. It, too, is an assistant to releasing GABA into our cells, allowing for even more relaxation. Glycine is also an amino acid, so it helps with protein synthesis and muscle repair. Coupled with Magnesium’s benefits, glycine can help further with:
Muscle performance and recovery
General body rest and relaxation
Help improve our sleep
PMS or period cramps
And can be used as a Magnesium Citrate alternative
Magnesium L Threonate
Magnesium L Threonate is primarily known for its significant absorption rate into our brains. This compound can cross the blood-brain barrier, which lets Magnesium into our brain and nervous tissue. Here, Magnesium heals and maintains our tissue and induces cell rest amongst our neurons. Magnesium L Threonate can have an optimal effect on:
Supporting our sleep
Magnesium Oxide is widely available as it is Magnesium and Oxygen. Magnesium Oxide does not absorb great into our bodies, but it binds well to acid in our stomach and can act as an antacid. Magnesium Oxides properties can benefit short-term issues like:
Magnesium helps with countless chemical reactions that help our body run more efficiently and give us the necessary rest and recovery it needs. Giving our body the rest it needs is so important for it to be able to run and perform like the machine that we need it to be. Magnesium deficiency could be hindering:
Athletic progression and recovery when training
Cognitive performance at work
Mind clarity and the ability to calm your mind
Anxiety, PMS or period cramps
Written By: Lauren O'Malley, RN Edited By: Bree Lowry
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