nutritional medicine

Spotlight On: Magnesium

Photo by  Radu Florin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Magnesium is one of my favourite essential minerals because it does SO much in the body, and is helpful for mental, emotional and physical conditions.  Along with zinc, it is also one of the nutrients that I tend to see signs of deficiency in many of my clients who come to see me both for Naturopathic and remedial massage treatments.

Every cell in your body requires magnesium to function, and it plays many roles in the body including converting food into energy, creating proteins and amino acids and repairing DNA.  It can also help with reducing insulin resistance, improving PMS symptoms, reducing inflammation and improving exercise performance. But some of the more commonly known roles (and the ones people tend to come and see me for) are muscle contraction and relaxation, and the regulation of neurotransmitters. (1)

Not getting enough magnesium can lead to many common symptoms including low mood, higher than normal stress levels, restless sleep, fatigue and muscle twitches and spasms.  Other symptoms that low magnesium may contribute to include high blood pressure, heart palpitations, migraines, osteoporosis and asthma. (2) Let’s have a look at some of the more common conditions and symptoms that low magnesium may contribute to:

Stress & Mood
The relationship between magnesium and stress is a two way street – stress depletes magnesium, and magnesium counteracts stress.  So when you are going through times of high stress, you need more magnesium!  Magnesium helps to reduce stress by balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the body’s main stress response system.  Without enough, your cortisol and adrenaline is left unchecked which exacerbates your body’s fight or flight response.  Stress can be physical or mental, however the results are very similar.  When in this fight or flight state, your muscles become tense, which can further exacerbate stress.  Magnesium is muscle relaxant, and so can help calm both the nervous system and your muscles, reducing your overall stress levels. (3)  Magnesium also plays a role in neurotransmitter function, including those responsible for regulating mood such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine.  It is required for the body to both create these neurotransmitters and allow them to transmit, and so can be a factor in mental health and mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. (4)

Sleep & Fatigue
If a client has troubles with getting to and staying asleep, one of the first things I recommend is magnesium, especially if they’re showing any other signs or symptoms of deficiency.  Not only can magnesium help you get to sleep, it can help you get a better quality and deeper rest.  As mentioned in the previous section, magnesium can help calm the nervous system down which in turn can help promote sleep. It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for helping you relax, and it plays a role in regulating melatonin, which is the chemical responsible for managing your sleep/wake cycle. (5) Poor quality sleep can also contribute to fatigue, and so one thing to really look at is if you are fatigued, are you sleeping poorly?  In some cases, addressing the sleep issue can help to improve fatigue.  The other way magnesium helps with fatigue is that its involved in formation and storage of the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  Low magnesium can also contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which has been shown to contribute to conditions such as chronic fatigue and depression. (6)

Muscle Tension & Exercise Performance
Magnesium can help reduce muscle tension and improve recovery from exercise due to its role in relaxing muscles.  Its opposing mineral is calcium, which contributes to muscle contraction – and so the balance of these two minerals in the body is important.  This also relates to how magnesium status can impact on heart palpitations and increases in blood pressure – due to increase contraction in the cardiovascular muscles. Low levels of magnesium can also increase lactic acid build up which is well known to cause post workout tension and cramping.  For those who exercise frequently, and especially endurance athletes, the need for magnesium increases due to increased sweat and overall nutrients required for the body to function. (7)

Now that you know how important magnesium is, how do you get it?  The food sources highest in magnesium include seeds, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate (yay!), whole grains, bananas, legumes, nuts, avocado and some fish. (8) However some people have a higher demand that exceeds what they may get from dietary sources alone, and may require supplementation.  I generally recommend a powder form of magnesium over tablets, because it is better absorbed.  I don’t recommend buying a cheap product from the supermarket, if you are looking for a retail product go for brands like BioCeuticals, ATP Science, Ethical Nutrients or Herbs of Gold. 

And if you’re ever unsure about whether you need magnesium or something else to help with your stress, sleep or fatigue, then please be sure to visit the Holistia Naturopathy page so that you can start your own personal healing journey!

 References:

1.         Spritzler F. 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Magnesium2018 23 April 2019. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-magnesium-benefits.
2.         Arnarson A. 7 Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency2017 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-deficiency-symptoms.
3.         Smith MD. Can Magnesium Help You Cope with Stress?2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.betternutrition.com/supplements/more-magnesium-less-stress.
4.         Greenblatt J. MAGNESIUM: THE MISSING LINK IN MENTAL HEALTH?2016 23 April 2019. Available from:
http://www.immh.org/article-source/2016/11/17/magnesium-the-missing-link-in-mental-health.
5.         Jennings K-A. How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep2017 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep.
6.         STAFF U. Low Energy Causes May Be Rooted in These 3 Nutritional Deficiencies2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/energy/3-top-nutritional-deficiencies-as-fatigue-causes/.
7.         PHARMA W. This is how to protect your muscles from magnesium deficiencyN.D. 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.woerwagpharma.de/en/health-topics/bone-muscle-joint-health/this-is-how-to-protect-your-muscles-from-magnesium-deficiency/.
8.         Blackmores. 10 magnesium foods for your health2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.blackmores.com.au/energy/10-magnesium-foods-for-your-health.

 

Winter Blues Getting You Down?

I’m not sure how it is at your place, but where we are (and hearing from clients and friends) there are some NASTY bugs going around at the moment!  And winter has barely begun! 

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I’ve written before about some general tips on winter wellness but this month I’m going to delve a little more into specific remedies that I usually have at home for my own family (and like to use this time of the year).

Some of these are available over the counter as retail products, but some may require a consultation and prescription. 

The good news is that I do offer Express Consultations (15 mins) for acute issues like colds and bugs – so if you or your family get sick then please do call the clinic and book one in.  It’s only $35 for the consultation and will allow me to prescribe you what you require to help you get over these awful bugs a little quicker (we hope!).  If you can’t get in, then you can always ask at your local health food store or pharmacy about what they might have that is similar/equivalent.

1. Zinc & C
Zinc is always my number one go to for winter colds, and I use/prescribe a product that contains vitamin C in it as well.  The one I prefer is a practitioner product, meaning it does require a consult to prescribe it, however there are many retail brands that offer something similar.  BioCeuticals have a range that you can get by asking at a chemist/health food store, and Ethical Nutrients also do a product with Zinc & C in it.  If your family is prone to catching all the bugs, then it’s a good idea to take it at the recommended maintenance dose throughout winter as a preventative.

2. Vitamin D
If you get sick a lot, then speak to your GP about it and ask them to check your Vitamin D levels!  Vitamin D is ESSENTIAL for good immune function, and if it turns out you’re low it’s a simple fix to get it sorted.  Be mindful that there are “normal” levels (which are usually defined as within the reference range of the tests) and optimal levels.  It’s a good idea to chat with the GP about this, because the results might say your levels are normal, but they might be on the lower end of the scale, meaning you could still do with having them bumped up a bit more.

3. Probiotics
Yep, another one which keeps coming up.  There are a number of different types of probiotics that are specific for different conditions, and immune health is a key one.  As above, if you are someone who is prone to getting sick then I would suggest taking a probiotic which is specific for immune health all winter.  Retail brands that would be worth looking at are again BioCeuticals & Ethical Nutrients, though I prefer the practitioner brand that I use both at home and in clinic.

4. Tissue Salts/Celloids
Tissue salts & celloids can be really helpful to use as soon as you start to get a sniffle, cough or fever.  Tissue salts can be purchased at health food stores – the brand to grab is Scheussler’s.  The ones you will want to look for specific for winter colds are ferr phos (fever or inflammation), kali mur (for congestion or clear mucus) and kali sulph (for mucus that is yellow or greeny in colour).

Celloids are a practitioner only product but work in a similar way – I tend to use celloids more at home as I find they work brilliantly for the whole family.  I do also make up custom liquid tissue salts formulas for my kids and my clients.   These can be helpful for younger kids as liquids in a dropper are easier to just add to water or squirt in the mouth with a dropper.

5. Homeopathics
These are also generally available from health food stores, and the brand I stock/recommend are the Owen Homeopathics brand.  I always have these on hand in the home too to help try and kick the body into healing!  The remedies most commonly used through winter are as follows:

Aconite – This is a great remedy to always have in the home as it’s useful for pretty much any symptom that comes on very suddenly and seemingly out of the blue.  This could include a sudden fever, croup colds or coughs that come on suddenly after exposure to dry cold wind, exposure to temperature extremes.

Ant tart – Coarse, loose & rattling cough that feels suffocating with shortness of breath.  The chest feels like it is full of mucous that doesn’t seem to come up.  Worse early morning (3-4am).

Belladonnna – For use during the first stage of the inflammatory process, when the skin feels hot and red and the face is flushed.  Usually the symptoms come up suddenly.  Also can be used for intense tearing pain in the middle/external ear, a dry tickling cough or inflamed tonsils.

Bryonia – For a dry, hacking, painful coughs.  Tough mucous in the throat that only loosens after much hacking.

Euphrasia – Nose blocked up in the evening but can be watery during the day.  Sinus headache due to congestion, and a hacking cough that usually only occurs during the day and hoarseness of the voice.

Nux Vomica – Runny nose during the day which gets blocked up at night.  Cold weather causes the nose to get stuffed up and possibly alternating between nostrils.  Itching in the ears and tickly nose which triggers sneezing.  Dry, tight, hacking cough with gagging.  Tendency to feel chilly/shivers if uncovered, wants to stay wrapped up & warm.

6. Herbal Medicines
I like to prescribe custom herbal liquid formulas, so that I can ensure that the herbs chosen are specific to your symptoms or health complaint.  Herbal medicine is one of my major tools at home for my family! However if you are after an of-the-shelf brand, you really can’t go past the Kiwiherb range.  I always have their De-Stuff for Kids in the home, and use it regularly throughout the winter for both my kids.  They also do an immune range for adults which you can buy online.  Another great product is the BioCeuticals Armaforce - and they have recently created products for pregnancy and children as well.

Now it goes without saying that this information is not medical advice and does not replace the advice of your GP.  However they are very handy to have in the home at the onset of cold & cough symptoms, and they are a great complement to support your healing in conjunction with your health care professional’s advice.