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Magnesium: mineral magic

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Stress is often disregarded as being a part of everyday life; a bi-product of relationships, work and money problems that is simply unavoidable.

Magnesium: mineral magic

Stress is often disregarded as being a part of everyday life; a bi-product of relationships, work and money problems that is simply unavoidable.

In this day and age many people are becoming stressed to the extent that it effects how they think, feel and behave. This is not something that should be endured and is certainly not an unavoidable part of everyday life. There are certain methods of stress prevention that everyone should be aware of, one of which is magnesium.

Why is magnesium so important?

This mineral’s contribution to the maintenance of normal bones and muscle function is relatively well known, along with its importance in terms of energy yielding metabolism, tiredness and fatigue and a healthily functioning nervous system. But did you know that Magnesium is needed for more than 325 biochemical reactions in the body[i] and that it has a relationship with psychological function, or, in other words, the brain.

How could magnesium possibly be related to the brain?

For those wondering how magnesium could possibly be related to the brain, psychologist Dr Meg Arroll has all the scientific details:-

‘In order to function, your brain requires optimum levels of nutrients. When we become stressed, our brain responds with the ‘stress response’ otherwise known as the ‘fight-flight-or-freeze-response’. A number of bodily responses are triggered as a result of this, such as increased heart rate and respiration.

These physiological responses are in fact vital for our survival. What is particularly interesting, though, is that hormones such as adrenaline control these responses, and these hormones can only be released if we consume a sufficient amount of magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin C and zinc. In other words, magnesium, along with B-vitamins, vitamin c and zinc, plays a vital role in our brain’s response to stress.

The stress response is key to our survival. For this reason, the brain tends to prioritize it for the use of hormones or ‘neurotransmitters’.

Because the stress response is the brain’s priority, hormones and neurotransmitters are less likely to be used for functions such as sleep and mood regulation. This is not a problem if a stressful situation doesn’t last too long, but too much stress, something that is becoming increasingly problematic in this day and age, can lead to what is known as ‘state chronic stress’.

Magnesium is used to implement the stress response. High levels of stress uses up a lot of magnesium, which can in turn lead to a depletion of this macronutrient. Ensuring sufficient magnesium levels can help our bodies’ better respond to stress.

 Also worth bearing in mind, is that the same nutrients used in the stress response contribute to the normal functioning of the ‘calming chemical’, or the ‘happiness molecule’. So in fact, long term stress can lead to a double whammy in terms of its effects on the brain.’  

What else is magnesium good for?

When it comes to magnesium, its health benefits go far beyond that of the brain. Here are eight more factors that may be influenced by your daily intake of this important mineral.

Sleep - The sleep regulating hormone melatonin is disturbed when Magnesium is deficient.

 

Hydrates - Magnesium is a necessary electrolyte essential for proper hydration.

 

Flexibility – Magnesium is important for muscle flexibility because low Magnesium results in a buildup of lactic acid, causing pain and tightness.

 

Relaxation and anxiety - Serotonin, which relaxes the nervous system and elevates mood, is dependent on Magnesium.

 

Stronger muscles - Magnesium is involved in muscle relaxation and is required to maintain a steady heartbeat as well as a healthy nervous system.

 

Constipation - Magnesium can be used to cleanse the bowels of toxins.

 

Strong bones and teeth - Magnesium deficiency causes an unhealthy balance of phosphorous and calcium in saliva, which damages teeth.

Boosts fatigue and energy - Magnesium is required by the body to convert the food you eat into energy, which is important for preventing tiredness and fatigue.

Despite the ideal daily intake of magnesium being 375mg, The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2016) has shown that 37% of teenagers and 12% of adults have very low levels.

You’ll be pleased to find out that cocoa is a very good source of this mineral, closely followed by bran breakfast cereal, almonds, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, whole wheat bread, and spinach. But the increasing awareness of the benefits of magnesium has also led to the introduction of new methods of obtaining it, take for example bath flakes, ‘opti’ supplements and topical gels. There’s never been more choice and it’s the perfect time to work out which method, be it diet or other, is for you. 

 

The Nutrition Expert editorial team compiles articles with the help of Healthspan's experts to answer key questions from our community as well as researching common health topics and news.

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