Are you suffering from a nutritional deficiency? Would you know if you were? Most of us are aware of the government's ‘5 a day’ fruit and vegetable guideline and know that we need to incorporate certain food groups in our diet and may even take regular supplements. But are we actually sure if our bodies are getting the nutrients they need to function properly and maintain good health?
I've compiled a guide to four of the moIst common nutritional deficiencies, why they are important and how you can solve them. This post is all about magnesium.
2) Magnesium - what is it and how does it affect our body?
Magnesium is a mineral that’s vital for nearly all systems in our body. It’s contained mostly in our bones, but also found in our muscle tissue where it carries out hundreds of functions. It is essential for our cardiovascular health, muscle relaxation, skeletal and neurological health. Magnesium also helps to promote the absorption of other minerals and vitamins in the body. It works particularly closely with calcium, whilst calcium contracts muscles, magnesium relaxes them.
Magnesium can help to regulate blood pressure and your heartbeat, by relaxing the muscles in our blood vessel walls they allow the vessels to widen, allowing blood to flow more easily and lowering blood pressure.
Magnesium is a mineral known as an electrolyte and influences the volume of water in your body and your pH levels. Sweating causes your body to lose these valuable electrolytes, which may lead to painful muscle cramps.
Another major influence magnesium has on the body is sleep. Magnesium helps to control our GABA receptors in the brain and nervous system. These are our calming neurotransmitters, so when we are stressed or anxious they tell our brain to relax and help regulate dopamine and serotonin production, which help to regulate our mood and our sleep patterns. Magnesium not only physically relaxes the actual muscle fibres but also relaxes the nervous system as a whole.
Magnesium is also important for energy production. Low levels in the muscles mean we use up more energy and get more tired and can lead to headaches and migraines.
Possible deficiency signs?
So if you’re having difficulty going to sleep or, find that you wake easily or if you are often tired, suffer from migraines or cramps regularly, or get twitches in small muscles (such as the eyelid), it could be you are deficient.
So what’s the answer?
All green plants contain chlorophyll which is what makes them green and in the centre of these molecules is magnesium. The greener the plant the more magnesium it contains, so get eating those leafy green vegetables! Unfortunately due to over farming however, not rotating crops or letting fields rest, most soils are deficient in magnesium, although organic vegetables may have higher levels.
Other good food sources are legumes, whole grains, seafood and tofu, spinach, nuts especially almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, apples and figs are all good too and make great snacks to take to work. Dark chocolate also has quite good levels (but still best eaten moderately due to its refined sugar content).
Epsom salt baths are also a good way to relax muscles, made from the mineral magnesium sulphate the salts are absorbed through the skin when taking a bath, relaxing the nervous system.
Magnesium is easily found in foods in varying moderations but certain factors can lead to a loss of magnesium in the urine. These include; a diet high in sugar, excessive alcohol or caffeine, if you take prescription diuretics or have a poor digestion due to leaky gut. If this is you then it might be worth trying to increase your magnesium rich foods or thinking about taking a magnesium supplement.