Learn about the missing mineral impacting women's health: Magnesium
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the missing mineral

the missing mineral

I completely believe in looking at health from a holistic perspective. Personally, I get frustrated when information focuses on a single nutrient or food like it’s the “holy grail of optimal health.” The truth is there is always a bigger picture. It’s a lifestyle pattern that includes many things, not just one super food. However, sometimes you are doing many of the right things and still something is off. That’s why in this blog I want to discuss one of the missing links in my own personal healing (and many other women’s) – Magnesium.

the stress connection

Chronic stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. It throws off our hormones and it causes a constant state of “fight or flight” instead of “rest & repair” in our bodies. This is important to understand because it diverts certain nutrients and processes away from necessary maintenance, and towards “saving us from being eaten by a tiger.” Not exactly how you want your body to operate on a daily basis. This process also causes our bodies to utilize magnesium more rapidly. Magnesium is one of the most essential minerals to our body.

why is magnesium important?

First of all, it’s critical to optimal health. Magnesium is a co-enzyme, which means it’s a required helper in over 300 processes in the body. These processes include everything from muscle contractions in the heart and blood vessels (including blood pressure), building proteins in the body, nerve function, blood sugar sensitivity, detoxification, energy production, and bone formation. Also, it is involved in our cellular health and is needed to maintain a perfect acid base balance in our body. So, I think we can agree that it’s pretty important.

why it’s low for many women

If you do a quick search regarding magnesium, many health sites claim that it is easy to get the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) each day from food. However, please keep in mind:

  • RDAs are set at a value that will likely not result in deficiency, not set for optimal health.
  • Current magnesium intakes are below the recommended levels (400-420 mg/day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women), according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
  • It’s disappearing from our food supply. Due to current farming methods, mineral depleted soils, and frequent use of fertilizers many foods don’t have the same levels they once did.
  • Processed Foods. The process of refining grains and creating processed foods reduces magnesium even further.

 

PLUS:

  • Coffee & soda deplete magnesium from body
  • High sugar diets require the body to use extra magnesium to process the sugar and keep blood sugar stable.
  • A stressful daily lifestyle & constant “fight or flight” response utilizes excessive magnesium.
  • Birth control pills cause magnesium to be lost in the urine.
  • Reduced absorption due to poor digestion and/or low stomach acid.
  • Daily multivitamins contain little or no magnesium since it’s a large molecule. Therefore, it would no longer be a “one-a-day” if magnesium were included.

I would argue that for optimal health, you need to strive for above the recommended daily average – like 2x higher! That would be striving for 620 to 640 mg/day through food sources for women for optimal health.

how do you know if you’re low?

Unfortunately it is really hard to test for magnesium insufficiency (not getting enough daily). Most of your body’s magnesium is stored in your bones (~65%) or in your cells (~35%). Only 1% of your body’s supply is found in the blood. Since magnesium is very important in the blood and cells, when more magnesium is needed in the blood it will pull from the bones. Therefore, you would need to be significantly deficient to be able to tell in a blood test. Here are a few common symptoms that will help you determine if your body is likely low in magnesium:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns. Including difficultly falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Exaggerated stress response, such as getting upset very easily to mild stressors.
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Eye or other involuntary muscle twitches
  • Severe menstrual cramps
  • Dark chocolate cravings
  • Migraine headaches

 

the solution

It’s rarely just one thing. Here is a list of ways to adjust your lifestyle to support your body’s magnesium levels.

  • Food first, always. The richest sources of magnesium are dark leafy greens including sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and unrefined whole grains. I compiled a list later in this post.
  • Buy local. Buying fresh foods from local farmers who use regenerative soil practices will increase the amount of magnesium available in the foods you purchase. Click here for information about regenerative farming
  • Engage your rest & repair response. Humans were not meant to be going 1,000 miles per hour at all times! Breathe, pause, do something just for you each day. Try a meditation practice
  • Cut the sugar and processed foods. Not only are they void of magnesium (and most other nutrients), they are pulling even more from your body after you eat them!
  • Plan your day and choose to eat more natural sources of magnesium daily. Examples include:
    • Choose almond or sunflower butter instead of peanut butter.
    • Sauté greens as a side dish or add to a daily smoothie.
    • Add nuts and seeds as part of your daily snack routine.
    • Avocados are a great source of healthy fat and help balance blood sugar, so add them daily to salads, soups, or with breakfast scrambles.
  • Reduce or nix your coffee and soda intake. I know, I know. No one wants to give up their caffeine – I totally get it!
  • Pay extra attention when your period is approaching. Our bodies naturally dip in magnesium right before we start or period. This is why dark chocolate cravings happen around that time in your cycle. Load up rich magnesium foods before your start your period to reduce your cravings, and cramps!

 

still experiencing symptoms

Unfortunately, improving your body’s magnesium levels won’t happen over night. It takes time to naturally build up your body’s stores. Give it a few weeks to see if symptoms are improving. If not, supplements are available. Magnesium is a safe supplement that many can use, but there a few areas of caution to consider. I would recommend working with a nutritionist or health practitioner to help you determine the type of magnesium and dosing that’s best for you.

chart of top magnesium food sources

Source Canadian Nutrient Profile 2015 & USDA.gov

Pumpkin Seeds (no shell)

2 tbsp

158 mg

Quinoa

1 cup cooked

118 mg

Organic Tempeh (fermented soy)

¾ cup

116 mg

Sunflower seed butter

2 tbsp

110 mg

Almonds

¼ cup

109 mg

Dark chocolate (70%+ cacao)

1 square

95 mg

Wild Chinook Salmon

2 ½ oz

92 mg

Beans (black, lima, navy, adzuki, white kidney, pinto, chickpeas)

¾ cup cooked

60-89 mg

Spinach

½ cup cooked

83 mg

Swiss chard

½ cup cooked

80 mg

Brown rice

1 cup cooked

76 mg

Brazil nuts

2-3 nuts

67 mg

Quinoa

½ cup cooked

63 mg

Avocado 1 medium

58 mg

an image that says "with love, Jen" for nutritionbliss.com

Jen
jen@nutritionbliss.com