Also magnificent for migraines, blood pressure, asthma, and more.
If sometimes you feel like a nut, go for it! Nuts are high in magnesium, and this magnificent mineral helps maintain your maximum health. Magnesium makes your muscles relax—and that plays a big role in keeping your heartbeat healthy and holding down your blood pressure.
Today many doctors have realized that magnesium makes a big difference for some patients. Magnesium is getting to be a mainstream medication for people with migraines, asthma, and diabetes. Getting enough magnesium helps these people control their medical problems. Magnesium has one other major mission: Working with calcium, it helps keep your bones strong throughout your life.
Why You Need Magnesium
– Every single cell in your body needs magnesium to produce energy. You also need magnesium to make more than 300 different enzymes, to send messages along your nerves, to make your muscles relax, to maintain strong bones and teeth, help your heart beat, and to keep your blood pressure at normal levels. Magnesium seems to help some health problems, such as asthma and diabetes, and can be very valuable for treating heart rhythm problems.
You also need magnesium to use other vitamins and minerals properly. Vitamin C and calcium both work better, for example, when there’s plenty of magnesium around.
To do all that, you need a fair amount of magnesium. In fact, your body contains about 25 grams of magnesium. Most of it’s in your bones and teeth, but you also have a lot in your muscles and blood. The amount in your blood is very important for keeping your body’s functions in balance. Just as you need calcium to make your muscles contract—when your heart beats, for example—you need magnesium to make them relax again. That’s why the levels of calcium and magnesium in your blood have to be steady and why you need to be sure you’re getting enough of both. If you don’t have enough of them, your body will pull these minerals from your bones and put them into your blood—which can lead to weakened bones.
Are You Deficient?
– A lot of people don’t get enough magnesium from their food to meet even the lowered DRI. By some estimates, in fact, nearly three-quarters of all Americans don’t. Even so, very few healthy people are really deficient—you’d have to have very low amounts of magnesium for a long time to have any symptoms. If you’re not basically healthy, though, you could become deficient, especially if you have any of these health problems:
- You abuse alcohol. Most alcohol abusers have poor diets that are too low in magnesium and other nutrients.
- You have diabetes. You may be excreting a lot of your magnesium in your urine—we’ll talk about that some more later on in this chapter.
- You have kidney disease. Your kidneys may not be handling magnesium very well. Your doctor will prescribe medications that prevent magnesium deficiency. Do not take supplements!
- You’ve been vomiting a lot or having severe diarrhea. You lose a lot magnesium when this happens.
- You use diuretic drugs. Diuretics make you pass more urine, which lowers your magnesium level. This can become a real problem if you often use nonprescription diuretics (“water pills”) without telling your doctor.
A lot of people get some of their magnesium from the water they drink. In many areas, the water is “hard”—it has a lot of minerals such as calcium and magnesium in it. (A lot of bottled mineral waters also have magnesium, usually over 6 mg per quart.) People who live in areas where the water is “soft” and contains few minerals, or people who drink only distilled water, might be low on magnesium.
If you don’t get enough magnesium, all your tissues are affected, but you’ll feel it most in your heart, nerves, and kidneys. Generally, deficiency symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, muscle weakness or tremors, and irritability. You might also have a rapid heartbeat. Severe magnesium deficiency can cause your heart to beat irregularly. Many nutritionists and doctors feel that breathing problems such as asthma are caused in part by magnesium deficiency. Extra magnesium can sometimes be very helpful for people with asthma.
Magnesium Manages Blood Pressure
Magnesium helps your muscles relax. If you don’t have enough magnesium, the walls of your blood vessels could tighten up, which raises your blood pressure. As it turns out, many people with high blood pressure don’t eat enough magnesium. When they get more in their diet—up to 600 mg a day—their blood pressure drops. This doesn’t work for everybody, though, so we can’t say for sure
that magnesium will make your high blood pressure go down. Even so, many doctors suggest that you try eating more magnesium-rich foods if you have high blood pressure. You could also try taking 400 mg a day in supplements, but talk to your doctor first.
Pregnant women sometimes get dangerously high blood pressure, especially in the last few months of the pregnancy. Magnesium may help prevent this problem. If you’re pregnant, your doctor will probably prescribe a multi supplement that has magnesium in it. Don’t take additional magnesium supplements unless your doctor recommends them.\
Help for Asthma
When you have an asthma attack, the muscles lining the airways in your lungs contract. This makes the airways get too narrow, so you have trouble breathing. Magnesium helps the muscles relax, so the airways open up and you can breathe more easily. In emergency rooms, intravenous magnesium is used to treat severe asthma attacks. Don’t try to treat an attack on your own by swallowing magnesium supplements, though—it doesn’t work and could be dangerous. Take your medicine instead.
If you have asthma, it might be because your diet is low in magnesium. Getting more through supplements and magnesium-rich foods—up to 1,000 mg a day—could help prevent attacks and make your attacks less severe. For the best results, spread the dose out over the day.
Magnesium and Diabetes
High blood pressure is often a problem for people with diabetes—and people with diabetes often have low magnesium levels. Is there a connection? Some doctors think there is and recommend magnesium supplements for diabetic patients. Magnesium may also help diabetics control their blood sugar better and help prevent complications later on, like eye problems and heart disease. There’s also some evidence that older people who are at risk for diabetes can prevent it by taking extra magnesium. If you have diabetes or are at risk for it, try to get as much magnesium as you can from your diet and consider taking between 200 and 300 mg a day in supplements. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements before you try them, especially if you have kidney problems because of
Magnesium for Healthy Bones
We talked a lot about the importance of calcium for strong bones in the previous chapter. But calcium isn’t the only mineral you need to keep your bones healthy—you also need enough magnesium. The magnesium helps keep your calcium levels in balance and makes sure you produce enough Vitamin D.
The general rule of thumb is that you need twice as much calcium as magnesium to prevent osteoporosis (bones that are thin, brittle, and break easily). Because women need more calcium as they get older, they also need more magnesium. According to the NIH, women aged 25 to 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium a day, so they also need to get 500 mg of magnesium. If you’re a woman over age 50 and you’re not taking estrogen, you probably need 1,500 mg of calcium and 750 mg of magnesium every day. This amount is hard to get through your diet alone—consider taking magnesium and calcium supplements.
Magnesium and Migraines
People who get migraine headaches often have low magnesium levels. Does that mean that low magnesium causes migraines? Could be, although we’re still not sure why. If you get migraines, try to get 500 mg of magnesium a day through your diet and by taking a magnesium supplement. This daily amount could reduce the number of attacks you get. It seems to work particularly well as a preventive for women who get migraines as part of their menstrual cycle.
One very interesting recent study showed that in about half the cases, intravenous magnesium stopped migraine headaches in their tracks. Unfortunately, once you have a migraine just swallowing magnesium supplements doesn’t have the same effect.
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