Magnesium is a nutrient that plays a crucial role in supporting muscle and nerve function, along with energy production. But how much do we need and where do we get it, asks Aleney de Winter.
Ah, magnesium. Where have you been all my life? Cavorting with people a little less creaky than me. But you’re here now and, well, I think I might love you.
You see, this little arthritic duck was a bit late to the magnesium party, instead spending my sleepless nights with joint pain and anxiety for company. But those two outstayed their welcome, becoming more and more disruptive as perimenopause bounded in with its disruptive friends – hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings – to join the nocturnal frivolities.
But… then along came you, Magnesium, and like a mineral door bitch, you’ve turned the rowdy crowd away, meaning more sleep, less stress and joints that no longer feel like someone has been tapdancing on them in concrete heels, while I attempt to sleep.
What is magnesium?
An abundant mineral in the body, Magnesium a super mineral that’s essential for the body’s healthy function. Involved in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions in the body, it is as vital as calcium, vitamin C and vitamin D; it just needs better PR representation.
This mighty mineral helps to keep our blood pressure normal and build strong bones, assists in muscle and nerve function, protects bones and teeth, supports normal psychological function, contributes to energy metabolism and helps keep our immune system in check. While low Magnesium levels don’t cause symptoms in the short term, a sustained lack of magnesium in the diet can increase the risk of health problems such as osteoporosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
It is a vital nutrient at every stage of life. Even teenagers need a healthy dose of it to aid sleep, mood, concentration and energy levels, not to mention healthy teeth and bones, blood sugar, digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients. And it can be a game changer in later life.
But why is Magnesium so important in midlife?
The super mineral that is Magnesium continues to hold a hefty influence over our hormones, brain, heart and muscle function as every cell and organ in our body requires it to function properly. Certain stages of a woman’s life can trigger a deficiency of the magic mineral, and menopause is one of the biggest culprits, as this oestrogen-deprived writer discovered.
But I’m not alone with most peri- and post-menopausal women suffering from inadequate Magnesium levels. This is due, in part, to restrictive diets designed to help with associated weight gains –– not to mention the role caffeine and alcohol play in depleting Magnesium.
Fluctuating hormone levels can also cause an increase in the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, leading to hormonal mood swings, depression and anxiety. Magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and regulating neurotransmitters. Low levels of Magnesium have been linked to an increased risk of depression with one study finding a significant association between very low Magnesium intake and depression, and a 2017 review of 18 different studies suggesting that Magnesium can help to reduce subjective anxiety.
Hormonal fluctuations can also have a detrimental impact on sleep, with as many as 60 per cent of menopausal women suffering from insomnia brought about by hot flushes, night sweats and sleep disordered breathing due to a sharp and sudden decline in oestrogen. This can lead to diminished productivity, forgetfulness, and a general lack of energy. Studies show that Magnesium may help increase sleep efficiency and increased concentrations of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Magnesium also plays a part in the processing of glucose and insulin studies have shown strong links between Magnesium deficiency and inflammation, type 2 diabetes and its precursor, insulin resistance. Indeed, type 2 diabetes is often first diagnosed in women during the menopausal transition as the rise and fall of hormones can further affect blood glucose levels. But research has demonstrated significant improvements in blood sugar levels in people on high daily doses of Magnesium.
Almost 60 per cent of Magnesium is stored in our bones. A loss of bone density is closely related to estrogen deficiency, as levels decline post menopause, however the super mineral plays a big role in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis because getting more Magnesium from foods or dietary supplements can help improve bone density.
Another of estrogen’s jobs is to help regulating fluid levels in the body, lubricating cartilage, ligaments and tendons and reducing inflammation. This explains the achy, stiff and creaky joints that seem to be exacerbated by menopause.
Cue the trumpets, because you guessed it, mighty Magnesium is ready to rescue us from that too. Magnesium deficiency can contribute to inflammation and is needed for calcium to be properly absorbed into the bloodstream, but it is also a muscle relaxant and can assist with the cramping or crawling sensations of restless leg syndrome.
Disclaimer: this information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements or altering your diet.