Magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body as a ‘helper molecule’ for the body’s enzymes. Being such an important mineral you would hope there is an abundance in our food. But there isn’t.
The modern diet is woefully deficient in this vital mineral. We may be eating huge amounts of calories, but malnutrition, or bad nutrition, is common in affluent societies. Other causes for magnesium deficiency are alcoholism, chronic diarrhea, celiac disease, some medications, excessive sweating, high blood calcium, and excessive urination such as uncontrolled diabetes.
Assessing magnesium levels in the body is difficult because most of it is stored inside cells and bone. Blood, saliva and urine samples can be taken to measure levels but this doesn’t give a true indication of how much magnesium is in the body. However, these tests done in conjunction with assessment of symptoms can give a better picture of magnesium deficiency.
Diseases that can result from low levels of magnesium include hypertension, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, migraines, cardiovascular disease and ADHD. There is also strong evidence for the link between magnesium deficiency and depression Not only that, but there is strong evidence that magnesium supplements can be as effective as anti-depressant medication in some instances. They may even be effective as a treatment for major depression.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for magnesium in Australian adults is 350 mg/day. Excess intake can result in diarrhoea and unfortunately this is a common side effect of oral magnesium supplements. If supplements are having a laxative effect, magnesium can be applied onto the skin either as a spray on oil, a gel, a cream or by soaking in bath salts (magnesium chloride) or Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). The oil is actually just magnesium chloride mixed with water but usually feels greasy when applied to the skin. Soaking in bath salts or Epsom salts can cause stinging. The most soothing way to apply magnesium to the skin is in lotion or cream form.
Foods that contain magnesium include whole grains such as oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds. dark chocolate, avocado, bananas and leafy green vegetables. However, due to modern agricultural practices, our soils are depleted of nutrients compared to our grandparents time. The result is lowered amounts of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, in our foods. Supplementation may be the only answer.