More than 70% of people in the modern world are magnesium deficient – and a major cause is stress. These are the tell-tale signs that you're not getting enough and how to boost your daily intake
Could you be magnesium deficient and if so, does it really matter? In a nutshell, yes. Not getting enough of this multi-tasking mineral which is crucial for energy production, nerve relaxation and bone health, can leave a range of unpleasant ailments that you might just attribute to 'life'. Fatigue and headaches, low energy and poor sleep, we're looking at you.
Ever get twitchy eyelid, or grind your teeth? It's probably time to take a magnesium supplement , says as neuroscientist and medical doctor Tara Swart explains in her three-minute explainer below.
Having a diet high in magnesium has preventative benefits vitally important for women; a study in April 2017 showed it could ward off bone fractures and osteoporosis in later life.
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Why are so many of us low in magnesium?
Modern life presents a double threat to our magnesium levels. Stress, both emotional and physical, chews through our body's supplies, says, nutritional therapist and GTG expert Zoe Stirling . This includes internal stress from what we eat, she adds. "Foods or stimulants (e.g. sugar, coffee and alcohol) can put our adrenal glands in ‘fight or flight’ mode, producing cortisol and adrenalin, our primary stress hormones. When levels of stress hormones are high, magnesium is depleted and over time this can cause a deficiency in some people.”
Secondly, the food we eat is lower in magnesium than our ancestors' diets. “A typical Western diet is often made up of a good proportion of refined and processed foods which are lacking in magnesium. Modern farming methods further deplete this mineral,” she explains. “The need for high magnesium during stressful times coupled with dietary shortfalls often lead to deficiencies.”
“I believe that the reason for this deficiency is that magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions within the body and our dietary intake simply cannot match the body’s requirements,” says Shabir Daya , natural health specialist, GTG Expert and co-founder of Victoria Health .
What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Early warning signs include:
• Teeth grinding
• Jaw clenching
• Shallow breathing
• Twitching eyelid
• Loss of appetite
• Muscle cramps
• Low energy or fatigue
• Restless legs
• Blood sugar imbalance
• Sleep problems
How can you treat magnesium deficiency?
Eat more magnesium-rich foods - and don't overcook them
“First and foremost, diet must always be addressed,” says Zoe. “Increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables (green juices are great!), nuts and seeds, as well as wholemeal rice – these should become a mainstay in the diet.”
Go easy on the cooking. “Cooking can deplete magnesium levels in foods, so eat dark green leafy vegetables raw or just lightly steamed,” recommends Zoe.
Look after your gut and cut out fizzy drinks
“Magnesium is often poorly absorbed by the body so maintaining good gut health is also incredibly important,” she adds.
Cut out or reduce fizzy drinks. “Fizzy drinks can also interfere with the body’s absorption of magnesium,” explains Zoe.
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What's the best way to take magnesium? Supplements, oils, sprays and bath salts explained
“Depending on a client’s symptoms, I may suggest magnesium in a number of different forms,” says Zoe.
1. A magnesium bath soak with Dead Sea Salts or Epsom salts - for good skin an stress relief
The best way to absorb magnesium is through the skin, and Dr Tara is a big believer in bath salts. "I'm a big fan of De Mamiel Altitude Bath Soak, £42 ," however she adds that cheaper Epsom Salts or Dead Sea Salts are highly effective too.
An Epsom Salts bath is a good option if you are stressed, says Zoe.
“For those who suffer from moderate stress levels or occasional sleeping issues, magnesium or Epsom salts in the bath are a wonderful way of supplementing magnesium as it can be absorbed through the skin. Baths are also a wonderful form of relaxation to help chill out and wind down after a busy day, therefore encouraging better lifestyle habits in dealing with stress and sleep. Make bathing into a delicious self-indulgent ritual!” she recommends.
Magnesium salts or flakes can also help soothe a number of skin ailments too. “most people do not realise that magnesium oil flakes are excellent for inflamed skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis,” explains pharmacist Shabir Daya. His top pick? Better You Magnesium Oil Original Flakes , £9.95. We’re also huge fans of Westlab Pure Dead Sea Salts. a blissful budget beauty buy of the highest order.
Dr Tara recommends Neom Organics Perfect Night's Sleep Magnesium Body Butter, £36 as a lovely way to destress and top up magnesium at the same time. You can even get your dose in deodorant spray form, Indeora Healthy Magnesium Deodorant, £16.99
2. Magnesium oil or cream: for constipation and muscle cramps
Magnesium can help kick-start a sluggish digestive system too. “For clients who suffer from constipation, I recommend buying magnesium oil and rub it onto their stomachs in a clockwise direction when looking down at their stomach,” says Zoe.
“The combination of massage along with the magnesium often helps to get things moving in the right direction.” BetterYou Original Magnesium Oil , £12.69, is one of our personal favourites for fast and effective absorption (and relief).
A topical magnesium spray can also help with pain relief of muscle cramps, arthritis and fibromyalgia .
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3. Magnesium supplements, for chronic stress and times when you're really magnesium deficient
The recommended daily dose 270mg for women and 300mg for men, "but I often take two or three times that amount when I really need it,' says Dr Tara. She advises taking magnesium malate (avoid magnesium citrate) such as Biocare Magnesium Malate , which comes in tablet and powder form.
“For those suffering from chronic stress or are highly magnesium deficient - I may suggest a supplement such as Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown® Magnesium , £19.99,” adds Zoe. “Like all the Wild Nutrition supplements, they are made from whole food ingredients, which means they’re in a form that the body understands, resulting in better absorption.” The range is counted as a favourite among nutrition experts .
Shabir recommends Neuro-Mag capsules by Life Extension , £32, or for those who cannot swallow capsules or tablets, Pure Magnesium Oil Spray by Life Flo , £16.50.
Can you take too much magnesium?
As with most things, magnesium is best taken in moderation. “Doses less than 350mg per day are generally considered as safe,” advises Shabir. “Excess magnesium can cause diarrhoea since it is a hard mineral to metabolise and other side-effects can be irregular heartbeat, slow breathing and it may affect kidney function.” If you are unsure about what your best dosage might be, do seek the help of an expert to ensure you manage your magnesium effectively.
NB:Certain supplements are used for different reasons and a one-size-fits-all approach should never be adopted. In addition, pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a supplements programme.