Could you be deficient in magnesium? According to PharmacyTimes.com, up to half of the population may be low in this essential mineral. Magnesium is a trace mineral that the human body requires for proper functioning. It participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions related to muscle and nerve function, heart function, and bone health. Plus, you need magnesium to optimize the activity of vitamin D.
Magnesium also increases insulin sensitivity (for better blood sugar control). Research finds it may also improve blood vessel function and lower blood pressure. Plus, it plays a supportive role in energy metabolism, muscle and nervous system function, and protein synthesis. So, how do you know if you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet? Here are some signs you may not be getting enough.
You’re tired much of the time
Since magnesium participates in reactions that produce cellular energy., it’s not surprising that magnesium deficiency can cause fatigue. If you’re tired all day long and don’t feel like you have the energy to do the things you enjoy, it could be because your magnesium levels are low.
Fatigue can be caused by many factors including stress, lack of sleep, and even depression. Iron, vitamin D deficiency, or vitamin B12 deficiency are two other nutritional causes of excess tiredness. If you’ve ruled out these causes for the tiredness you’re experiencing and are still feeling exhausted all the time, take a closer look at your diet. Ensure you’re getting sufficient calories and macronutrients but also consuming enough magnesium-rich foods. If you’re a diet of mostly processed foods, you’re at higher risk of magnesium deficiency.
You’re irritable and stressed
Magnesium plays a key role in regulating the nervous system and relieving stress. Studies show low levels of this mineral may contribute to depression or anxiety — and even panic attacks. It’s unclear whether supplementing with magnesium relieves these conditions but some studies show benefits.
One way magnesium helps relieve stress is by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. It’s an area that needs more research but there are a few downsides to adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet for mental health.
You have trouble sleeping
Magnesium plays a role in regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin which help control your sleep cycle. If you have trouble falling asleep at night or wake up frequently, it could be due to low levels of magnesium in your body.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, so taking it before you go to sleep can help you get a good night’s rest. It may also help with restless leg syndrome (RLS), a widespread problem that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an urge to move them around while lying in bed or sitting still. In fact, one study found that taking 300 mg of magnesium per day for three months helped cut the symptoms of RLS by half.
You get muscle cramps for no reason
Although it’s unclear exactly what causes painful muscle cramps, there’s evidence that low magnesium could play a role. You need magnesium for muscle relaxation, so if your body doesn’t have enough of this mineral, it may cause abnormal muscle contractions or spasms.
However, studies looking at whether supplementing with magnesium prevents muscle cramps are inconclusive. But if you have nighttime muscle cramps, consider increasing the magnesium content of your diet or ask your doctor about starting a magnesium supplement. Anecdotally, some people experience fewer leg cramps when they boost their magnesium intake.
You have heart palpitations
If you have a history of heart palpitations or other heart conditions, check with your doctor. While heart palpitations can be caused by other factors –stress, caffeine or alcohol consumption, certain medications–low magnesium could also be a trigger.
Magnesium helps maintain a healthy heart rhythm, so a deficiency could increase the risk of rapid heart rate or rhythm irregularities. However, it’s unclear whether supplementing with magnesium prevents heart palpitations. Make sure you’re eating enough magnesium-rich foods but also check with your doctor if they persist.
You have worsening premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
According to research, magnesium deficiency is a common cause of PMS symptoms. In fact, one study found that women with severe PMS had lower levels of magnesium than those who didn’t have the condition.
The best test for magnesium isn’t a serum magnesium level, as it doesn’t measure tissue stores of magnesium. A better test is the red blood cells magnesium test. It measures the amount of magnesium inside cells, which is a more important indicator of magnesium status.
You experience headaches or migraines
Magnesium helps relax muscles and nerves and may help relieve the painful symptoms of migraine headaches. According to the American Migraine Foundation, taking 400 to 600 milligrams of magnesium daily may reduce the number of migraine headaches people with this widespread problem experience. Talk to your healthcare provider first before taking a magnesium supplement. Otherwise, add more magnesium-rich foods to your diet.
So, how can you get more magnesium in your diet? Magnesium is abundant in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, and collard greens. Other foods that contain magnesium include beans, lentils, whole grains, seeds, and dark chocolate. Also, eat more whole grains, and nuts to boost your body’s magnesium stores. Some top sources include quinoa, wheat germ, kelp, and almonds. But if you suspect you have a magnesium deficiency, see your doctor before taking a magnesium supplement.
Magnesium supplements are available in several forms: magnesium oxide (milk of magnesia), citrate, glycinate, chloride, and sulfate, and each form has its pros and cons. Talk to your physician about which is right for or whether you can meet your magnesium needs through diet alone.
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