Magnesium is one of the many nutrients the body needs, but it is often overlooked, unlike its counterparts.
One of seven vitamins and minerals is most often missing from our plates or medicine cabinets. Most people may not even be familiar with magnesium or its functions in the body.
Beyond its essential functions, magnesium has many benefits and uses that can help you improve your health through a daily application.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential nutrient. Like all nutrients, magnesium has unique properties that dictate its function in the body.
- A Mineral
As opposed to vitamins, minerals are inorganic elements that can be found in soil and water.
- A Macromineral
Macrominerals are the major minerals that are needed by the body in large amounts. Microminerals, or trace minerals, are needed in smaller amounts.
- Abundant in the Body
The adult body contains 25 grams of magnesium, 50 to 60 percent of which are present in the bones. The rest is present in our body cells.
- Stored in the Body
Minerals, including magnesium, are part of what makes up our bodies, so they are always stored in our cells. Despite this, they are not produced by our bodies and therefore need to be supplied by food.
Although magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals stored in our bodies, it is one of the most important ones.
Why Does the Body Need Magnesium?
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical processes in the body.
A few of these processes include:
Magnesium is one of the components that make up bones as well as keeps them strong. It regulates vitamin D and calcium in the body, which prevent bones from becoming weak and brittle, as is the case with osteoporosis.
Magnesium plays an essential role in nerve transmission and conduction. These are what allow signals to be sent through nerves.
Magnesium keeps rates of transmission and conduction balanced. It helps protect nerves from excess excitation, which occurs when nerves over-respond to minor stimuli.
Magnesium aids in several muscular functions, including flexibility. Without magnesium, lactic acid can build up in muscles, making them tight and prone to cramps.
Magnesium can also act as an electrolyte or a charged mineral. Electrolytes work with water to hydrate muscles and help them easily contract and relax.
Alongside calcium, magnesium works to keep your heartbeat normal and balanced. While calcium causes contractions in the heart, magnesium helps the organ relax.
Because magnesium has many essential roles, magnesium deficiency can throw the body off balance. In extreme cases, magnesium deficiency can result in seizures, convulsions, and nerve damage.
Here are some of the more common symptoms to look out for:
Chest Discomfort (Angina)
Low magnesium levels can cause chest discomfort because magnesium intake helps regulate heartbeat and heart relaxation. An influx of calcium can cause an increase in contractions. Low intake of magnesium may also lead to abnormal heart rhythms.
Because magnesium helps replenish and relax muscles, just like it does for the heart, low magnesium levels can result in weak and sore muscles.
Other symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include fatigue, nausea, poor insulin sensitivity, depression, migraines, and a loss of appetite. Often, however, magnesium deficiency can have no signs at all.
You must undergo regular testing to ensure you are not deficient in any nutrients, whether or not symptoms appear.
The Benefits of Magnesium
Alongside its primary responsibilities, magnesium can have many other benefits.
Magnesium can help…
Because magnesium prevents nerve excitability which can cause stress, it has been known to help promote feelings of calm. It can also be used as a sleep aid because of its muscle relaxing properties and support GABA production.
Boost Exercise Performance
Because of its effect on muscles, magnesium may help boost physical performance. Magnesium does not make you better at exercise, but it can support muscle function for more efficient use and boost protein formation.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is associated with a rapid heartbeat as well as stress. Magnesium helps relax the heart and the nervous system, which therefore helps lower blood pressure.
Magnesium relieves sore muscles by removing built-up lactic acid, but it can also alleviate headaches by calming the body’s nerves.
Magnesium has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar as well as alleviate symptoms of PMS. Benefits may vary based on individual and regular magnesium intake.
Sources of Magnesium
Although stored in the body, magnesium is not made in the body. It occurs naturally outside of the body in different types of food.
To increase your consumption of magnesium, incorporate these foods into your diet:
- Dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach, and arugula
- Specific fruits such as bananas and avocados
- Nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, almonds, and cashews
- Legumes, including peas and black beans
- Dairy products, including non-dairy milk such as soy milk
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
Adult males should consume a minimum of 400 mg or milligrams of magnesium a day, while adult females should aim for 310 milligrams.
If you are deficient in magnesium or cannot incorporate enough magnesium into your diet, you should consider taking a magnesium supplement. Because there are many different types of magnesium supplements, it is best to consult with a doctor before using one.
While most Americans do not get enough magnesium, consuming high doses of the mineral can be unsafe, especially for children.
Symptoms of magnesium build-up include:
- Irregular heartbeat and slowed breathing, caused by an imbalance in the heart
- Low blood pressure, caused by an over relaxed heart and nerves
- Bleeding or bruising, as magnesium can slow down blood clotting
- Calcium depletion, which magnesium counteracts in the body
- Vomiting or diarrhea due to laxative effects
- Kidney problems or failure, which occur when kidneys cannot get rid of excess magnesium.
- Coma and death in extreme cases
Diet alone is not likely to cause magnesium build-up in the body, so you probably do not need to track how much magnesium is in your food. Most people can consume magnesium-rich foods without issue.
However, you should be cautious when choosing magnesium supplements. Dosages 400 milligrams and below are considered generally safe for adult consumption. Magnesium supplements are not recommended for individuals with heart, kidney, or bleeding problems. They also should not be given to children without the permission of a doctor.
Vitamins and Minerals (for Teens) | Nemours Kids health
Minerals: Their Functions and Sources | University of Michigan Health
Magnesium - Health Professional Fact Sheet | National Institutes of Health
The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders | National Library of Medicine
What Is Excitation/Inhibition and How Is It Regulated? | National Library of Medicine