The Magic of the Mineral Magnesium
The magic of the mineral magnesium is partly in the role it plays in the relaxation of muscles of the body, as well as the smooth muscles of the blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract.
Magnesium is an essential mineral and is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions, especially those related to energy production and cardiovascular function. It is also necessary for DNA synthesis and the production of glutathione which is the body’s most potent anti-oxidant.
Relaxing the Body
Around 50-60% of magnesium in the body is found in the skeleton and teeth, and the rest in blood, fluids and the soft tissue, especially the muscles.
Magnesium affects the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contraction. It works in tandem with calcium. Calcium generates a muscle contraction and magnesium helps the muscles to relax. Which is why when magnesium levels are low, we may experience cramps or muscle spasms.
Magnesium can help with constipation as it increases stool frequency by exerting an osmotic effect which pulls water into the intestine, softening the stool and making it easier to pass.
A Healthy Heart
Just as the interplay between calcium and magnesium is necessary for skeletal muscle function, it is required for a healthy heart beat. Calcium enters your heart muscle cells and stimulates muscles fibres to contract, and then magnesium relaxes them. By helping the blood vessels to relax and dilate, magnesium has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Magnesium is also anti-inflammatory and may prevent blood clotting contributing to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Relaxing the Nervous System and the Brain
Magnesium is often referred to as the ‘anti-stress’ mineral due to its natural tranquilising effect. It has important role to play in relaying signals between the brain and body. On a chemical level, magnesium aids in the relaxation of the nervous system and the brain.
It can alleviate anxiety by increasing levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA leading to a reduction in nerve activity. Lower levels of magnesium have been associated with symptoms of depression.
This action of calming the nervous system may improve sleep quality and reduce the incidence of insomnia. It also regulates the hormone melatonin which affects the sleep-wake cycles of the body. So, as well as helping you to fall asleep, an optimum magnesium level can contribute to deep and restful sleep.
Possible Signs of Low Magnesium:
- Muscle cramps
- Nervous tension
- Tension headaches
- Rapid/irregular heart beat
Inadequate intake of magnesium from the diet as well as low serum levels are associated with an increase in chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and hypertension. Magnesium deficiency is also linked with chronic fatigue, chronic pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones and pulmonary disorders such as asthma.
Dietary Sources of Magnesium
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, romaine lettuce and rocket
- Nuts including almonds, pecans, cashews, and Brazil nuts
- Seeds such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds
- Legumes including lentils, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, mung beans, adzuki beans, peas and alfalfa sprouts
- Tofu and tempeh (fermented soybeans)
- Whole grains, especially wheat, millet, quinoa and brown rice
- Avocado, bananas, apples, grapefruit, cantaloupe melon, pineapple, okra
- Dried apricots
- Dark chocolate
- Fish including mackerel, halibut, salmon and crab
Alcohol, caffeine and sugar all increase magnesium loss.
Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt is magnesium sulphate, a mineral compound that has long been considered to have health benefits.
As well as the benefit of warm water as a relaxant, a good soak in an Epsom salts bath allows for some absorption of magnesium through the skin.
An Epsom salt bath can help relax tired, aching muscles, and help with getting a good night’s sleep. It is also a natural exfoliant so you can have the added bonus of soft silky skin!
How to Take an Epsom Salt Bath
- Water should be warm but not too hot.
- Add the Epsom salts while the water is running to help it dissolve.
- To help relax tired aching muscles add 2-4 cups (500g-1kg) to your bath.
- For general skin health and wellbeing add 1/2-1 cup (100g-250g) to your bath.
- When the salts are dissolved, relax and soak for 20 minutes.
Epsom Salt Foot Bath
- Dissolve 1/2-2 cup (100g-500g) in warm water.
- Relax and soak feet for up to 20 minutes, refreshing with additional warm water if needed.