When it comes to optimizing your health with dietary supplements, magnesium is at the top of my list of things to take—right up there with fish oil, vitamin D, and probiotics. And while 70% of the American Public does not get enough magnesium in their diet, most of the population is unaware of its vital role in the body. Let’s take a look at what magnesium can do for you, how it’s depleted from our system, and what we can do to about it.
There are over 300 biochemical operations that depend on magnesium. One of the most important ones is it’s ability to lower blood sugar. If blood sugar rises too quickly or too frequently, your pancreas responds with a big shot of the sugar-wrangling hormone, insulin. Insulin is also known as the fat-storing hormone, and for good reason.. Over time, constantly elevated insulin usually leads to excess fat, inflammation, and even heart disease—all of this, tied to a single consequence of magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium also lowers blood pressure. Think about your heart working 24/7 to pump blood through your veins. The higher your blood pressure, the greater the pounding your artery walls must endure. Over time, injuries in the blood vessels results in inflammation. Oxidized cholesterol, calcium, and all kinds of cellular debris gets into these injuries, which in turn leads to the formation of plaque, making it even harder for your heart to do its job.
To add to the big picture, Magnesium also plays a pivotal role in the energy furnaces of our cells—the mitochondrion (plural: mitochondria). The mitochondria are responsible for creating most of cell’s supply of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which the cell uses as a source of chemical energy. Magnesium stabilizes the mitochondrial membrane, ensuring the integrity of every cell in our body.
Neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, depend upon magnesium. Bone density is partially dependent on magnesium. A healthy nervous system—a healthy cardiovascular system—the biochemical pathways—all require magnesium. And almost no one is getting enough. (But it’s easy to fix—stay tuned.)
While we have yet to be sure as to the exact amount required for optimal health, we do know what causes a deficiency in the body. Many prescription, and over-the-counter medicines do a number on your magnesium stores, depleting it from your cells. This includes antivirals, diuretics, hormone replacements, and even birth control pills. As long as you’re taking them, they can interfere with the absorption or transport of magnesium—even altering the way your body puts it to use.
So how can you ensure that you’re getting enough Magnesium in your diet? Dark and leafy greens– such as spinach or kale–, are an excellent source. Nuts, seeds, as well as avocados, will also provide some magnesium, as well as bananas, dark chocolate, and yogurt. And even if you’re eating these foods regularly, a supplement is still a good idea.
I recommend supplementing with 800mg of magnesium a day. If you get a little more from your meals, you’ll be fine. Magnesium is extremely non-toxic and in 25 years of practice I’ve never personally heard of anyone having problems from “too much” magnesium, yet a prolonged deficiency can be at the source of a lot of problems.