A Mineral Called Magnesium

By Michela DiTocco

Magnesium is an important mineral that our body requires to survive. Our body requires magnesium for many functions including the formation of bones and teeth, and in conjunction with other minerals (calcium, potassium and sodium), assists in nerve impulses and muscle contractions. It not only performs these functions but it also helps the body to process fat and proteins, release hormones to control calcium levels, reduce irregular heartbeats and reduce contractions in pregnant women. The RDI of magnesium is 420mg daily for men and 310mg daily for women; however, this increases to 520mg daily for women aged 31-70 years.
There are many natural sources of magnesium which we can obtain through foods in our diet. Such foods include spices, nuts (almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts), red meat, tofu, tea, coffee, beans and legumes and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables, like spinach, due to the large amount of chlorophyll). In addition, a wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and grains will ensure an adequate intake of the mineral.
Magnesium levels can become low if you do not consume enough through your everyday diet. Other causes of magnesium deficiency may include alcohol abuse, poorly controlled diabetes, excessive diarrhoea or vomiting, long-term diuretic medication and hyperparathyroidism. This is prevalent in many people; more than 50% may be deficient and not necessarily be aware. The most common symptoms of this are muscle weakness, tiredness, hyper-excitability, poor appetite, anaemia, and irregular heart rhythms. Low magnesium levels can also lead to low calcium and potassium levels in the blood, as well as changes in the digestive system, nervous system and muscular system and heart and circulatory systems. The most common treatment is magnesium supplements such as magnesium chloride or citrate, taken daily under supervision of a medical practitioner.
Muscle cramps are the main indicator of magnesium deficiency. The normally occur in the lower limbs (calves or soles and arches of the feet). They may be painful and occur during the day (but more so at night). The occurrence of cramps indicates dehydration and low mineral levels (magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium). Other symptoms which may arise include chronic constipation, pregnant women at risk of premature labour, people with frequent migraines, people with diabetes, people with high blood pressure or an irregular heart rhythm. If you experience any of the above symptoms it is best to consult your doctor and accurately determine what supplement is right for you.
Overall you can see how important a mineral such as magnesium is to our bodies’ everyday functioning. It controls many different systems and also is relied on by other minerals for them to function. The best way to ensure you are meeting your daily requirements is to include foods rich in magnesium, and this is done via a fresh, wholesome diet full of variety.

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