“Drink more milk to strengthen your bones”, they say. All that milk you’re drinking for your bones and teeth? Not effective unless you have magnesium too. Magnesium is not present in milk enough to where it is beneficial. The benefits of magnesium are numerous, but the top one is to help calcium in the body.
We Americans eat so poorly that it is likely we are all a bit low. Apparently 80% of women and 70% of men are low. High sugar intake will deplete magnesium in the body quicker because it takes so much to metabolize a sugar. Older people, expectant mothers, gastrointestinal and diabetes condition sufferers are most at risk.
Please keep in mind to not take this as medical advice. All nutrients work together and we need all of them to function properly. This is simply one more piece in the body puzzle.
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The Benefits of Magnesium
Not to say that milk can’t help build strong bones. Milk has calcium and phosphorus which are both important. Though bones do not form well unless magnesium is present with those two. Vitamin D puts calcium into the bones. Without it, calcium accumulates elsewhere (think arteries). How do we get vitamin D ready to put calcium into bones? We need magnesium’s help. Magnesium helps Vitamin D activate calcium to work in the body. These two work together and often times, people are low in vitamin D as well. Read my post on Vitamin D to find out why it’s important.
Low magnesium = Low vitamin D = less calcium used = less bone health (rigid, breakable, slow-healing bones)
Magnesium is needed to make a particular enzyme (glutathione) that detoxifies our body of heavy metals (think of mercury). These heavy metals are able to get into the brain and cause neurological issues such as poor memory. If magnesium is present, it can beat out and take its place in the brain to actually help with processes rather than the metals ruining everything. Which brings me to the next point..
Helps Us Sleep & Improves Mood
Magnesium is needed for certain receptors in the brain that allow us a restful sleep (GABA). It also allows happy neurotransmitters to be released such as serotonin. Serotonin increase happens to be the goal of antidepressants, by the way. With all these special neurotransmitters being activated through magnesium, it can help with anxiety, insomnia, and attention disorders.
Prevents Muscle Spasms
Magnesium works with calcium channels and relaxation (mentioned above) in the cell so it is not quite so active and less nerve conduction and excitability occurs (spasm). Muscle spasms are not just the kind you get from leg day. Magnesium is used in every cell and muscle in the body. The brain and the heart have the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body, so you can gather that would not be ideal to be low. If it is continually low over time, it may result in “spasms” or irregular firing of muscle fibers. This includes high blood pressure, painful menstrual cramping, migraine headaches, and asthma symptoms.
Signs you may not be getting enough magnesium
The changes in our soil allow less magnesium to get into our produce and food products. The overabundance of calcium consumption without magnesium will also cause deficiency. The inability to absorb it due to other poor quality foods being consumed (sugar) may also contribute. In the case of grains, unless soaked the absorption rate of minerals is low. Here are common signs of magnesium deficiency (these can also be caused by other things):
- Tooth decay
- Muscle spasms
- Easily broken bones
- Slow healing bones
- Difficulty sleeping
- Depression symptoms
- Kidney stones
- Fatigue (tired all the time)
- Poor memory
How can you make sure you get enough magnesium?
Diet is always a good place to start. Are you eating enough foods that contain magnesium? I would not worry about counting the milligrams or anything like that. That is exhausting. Also, a lot of foods with labels that say they have a certain percentage of magnesium will not all be absorbed. Just eat healthy foods and include the ones listed (they also have numerous other vitamins and minerals!). See foods below for examples.
Sources of magnesium
- Dark leafy greens
- Dark Chocolate
- Black beans
- Bone broth – this is up for debate but there are minerals present that were in the bones – see my Crock Pot Bone Broth recipe here.
You can easily apply magnesium topically and safely. Magnesium oil or Epsom salt baths can be beneficial and you wouldn’t get too much this way. The body will only absorb what it needs. I make a homemade magnesium oil lotion (see below for recipe!) and put it on before I go to bed just on my calves. It also works well for sore muscles! *Take note to not get this into any cuts on your skin, it will burn. It’s safe but its like putting alcohol over a cut except less extreme.
Homemade Magnesium Oil Lotion
The recipe I use is from: Modest Mom Blog, click the link to find out more.
- 1/2 cup magnesium oil (made from 1 cup magnesium flakes mixed with 1/2 cup hot water)
- 1/2 cup avocado oil
- 1/3 cup shea butter
- 2 tbsp beeswax
- 5-10 drops lavendar essential oil (optional for extra sleepy scents)
This is all melted in a double boiler and then cooled. If it is too hard, a hand mixer can soften it into a butter. This does not need to be applied to whole body. I often do feet and calves.
Magnesium can also be taken in pill form. As my own opinion, I would not suggest taking it this way. Too much can cause bathroom issues and pill forms act differently in the body. The body will also not absorb it all unless taken in small amounts throughout the day. Using a topical application is the best way if you choose.
Fresh Idea: The benefits of magnesium are numerous to improve health. Ensure you get enough from food or safe supplementing.