Magnesium, as one is aware, is a highly important mineral. It contributes to fortifying human health, especially bones and muscles. It is known to be the fourth and most abundant mineral found in the human body, and is often referred to as the “master mineral” as it is crucial to the heart, musculo-skeletal system, and brain for producing anti-oxidants that combat multiple diseases. Furthermore, as one of the six essential macro-minerals that comprise 99% of the body’s mineral content, it enables the smooth functioning of thousands of enzymes that aid in the regulation of one’s system, and is considered extremely essential to the production of energy from food.
As a vital component of the immune system, magnesium aids in keeping a number of illnesses at bay such as asthma, diabetes, insomnia, high blood pressure, constipation, depression, migraines and more. Other important areas where magnesium helps are regulating calcium from bones and cardiac and skeletal muscles, cleaning the bowel, balancing blood-sugar levels, inducing optimal blood circulation and maintaining blood pressure, calming the nervous system, making joints and ligaments flexible, regulating the sleep pattern, combatting depression, and improving Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Unfortunately, however, one of the most commonly encountered problems, as per several medical experts and practitioners, is the deficiency of magnesium in the human body. Despite following an adequate diet, a large number of people across the globe tend to be magnesium-deficient. While not many short-term ill effects have been discovered, this could cause abundant damage to one’s health in the long run. With the absence of magnesium in the body, producing adequate energy in cells will become increasingly difficult, with muscles not being able to relax or contract, which will also hinder the synthesis of essential hormones. This, in turn, might hamper the control of vital functions within the system and make the body prone to common diseases.
Studies have found that magnesium deficiency is strongly connected to mineral bone density. Therefore, its deficiency adversely affects bones by decreasing their strength, volume, and causing poor bone development.
Moreover, the lack of magnesium in one’s daily diet has most frequently been associated with chronic depression, especially among today’s youth. Not enough magnesium has also been linked to an increased risk of type-2 diabetes, because insulin resistance can increase urination frequency, and thus urinary excretion of the mineral. It can also become a major contributor to severe hypertension and lead to a rise in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Digestive disorders such as chronic diarrhoea and celiac diseases are also a result of low magnesium intake.
There are no evident symptoms of magnesium deficiency that show up in any specific part of one’s body. However, certain mild and common symptoms include dizziness, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, constipation, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), heart palpations, irritability, muscle cramps, anxiety, and increased food cravings as well as a loss of appetite, headaches, mood swings, facial twitching, and excessive pain during menstruation. If these persist for a long period of time, it is advisable to have necessary check-ups done.
To steer away from its ill effects and in turn, reap its benefits, it is imperative to understand the value of magnesium as an extremely important mineral, and to thus, include it in one’s daily diet. Experts recommend a good amount of magnesium consumption to women, i.e. 310mg for ages 19-30, and a little more than that for women above the age of 31. In extreme cases of magnesium deficiency, it is also advised to opt for an Epsom salt bath, but only when prescribed by a medical practitioner.
In order to ensure the smooth functioning of one’s immune system and maintain good health, it is ideal to consume magnesium-rich foods such as dark chocolate, legumes (black beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans), nuts (almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts), seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds), grains (wheat, oats, and barley), bananas, leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli and mustard greens), fatty fish (salmon and mackerel), tofu and skim milk. These are known and healthy sources of magnesium and must be included in our daily diet.
Author is the Head of Advance Physiotherapy Department at Saifee Hospital.