There are many nutrients essential to proper functioning of the human body, including Magnesium, which is responsible for cell signaling, blood pressure regulation and blood glucose control. It also contributes to the structural development of bones and synthesizes nucleic acid (DNA, RNA), yet it gets taken for granted. While much attention is placed on vitamins– even fatty acids and antioxidants seem to be mentioned in every ad– minerals such as this affect multiple bodily functions and should be regarded as equally important. 50% – 60% of a body’s Magnesium is in its bones but the rest is in its soft tissue; regulation is mainly the responsibility of the kidneys, which excrete excess Magnesium into the urine. (Recall water soluble vitamins are constantly flushed out.)
How can you tell if you might be low on Magnesium? Initial symptoms are similar to those of other deficiencies: appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and most notably hyperexcitability, muscle weakness and sleepiness. If unaddressed, additional symptoms will include: numbness and/or tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes and abnormal heart rhythms. If left untreated, a severe imbalance will lead to hypokalemia (low blood calcium level) or hyperkalemia (low blood patassium level). These can alter parathyroid hormone, vitamin D and/or calcium levels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and a variety of metabolic disorders, such as hypertension and Diabetes.
A variety of dietary sources can provide sufficient intake of minerals but the most Magnesium-rich foods are unrefined grains (especially brown rice, millet and wheat), legumes/ beans/ nuts (especially black beans, soy, almonds, cashews, peanuts), leafy greens (especially spinach), avocado, banana, dried apricot and potato with the skin. Seems simple enough, right? Unfortunately, gastrointestinal disorders– now disturbingly commonplace– are a significant hindrance to the absorption of nutrients.