One of the first questions my patients often ask is, what’s the recipe for good health? Well, as with most recipes, it’s not just one ingredient, but several working together – starting with a clean, unprocessed, preferably organic diet, eating foods as close to nature as possible, regular exercise, meditation, restorative sleep and smart, strategic supplementation to help the body maintain optimal levels of key nutrients and minerals. One mineral that I frequently suggest for my patients is magnesium, a truly amazing substance that’s essential for maintaining good health. For the 411 on this hard-working mineral, here’s my magnesium-in-a-nutshell mini-primer:
So what is magnesium anyway?
It’s a virtually naturally-occurring mineral found in your blood, bones, tissues and organs.
What does magnesium do?
Magnesium helps to control hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. It also helps regulate blood pressure, strengthen muscles and bones, keeps the immune system strong and supports cardiac and brain function.
What if I don’t get enough magnesium?
While too much magnesium is rare, too little magnesium in the body can interfere and or decrease the functioning of the systems and organs we need to work smoothly –namely the heart, brain, musculoskeletal, digestive and circulatory systems. Low magnesium levels can manifest itself in any number of unexpected ways, contributing to muscle cramps, PMS, memory problems, heart irregularities, asthma, allergies and diabetes. It can even exacerbate SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) symptoms by inhibiting the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP, which can decrease the production of mood-stabilizing serotonin and melatonin. My advice? Don’t come up short on this vital mineral, particularly when it can be so easily managed.
Does everyone need a magnesium supplement?
Research has indicated that as many as 80% of us are magnesium deficient, so supplementing it is an excellent way to support good health. Even if you maintain a good, clean diet, stress, alcohol use and certain drugs can lead to magnesium depletion despite your best efforts, which is why I recommend magnesium supplementation so often. In general, I suggest taking 300-600mg magnesium glycinate at bedtime, which is easily tolerated and doesn’t loosen the stools like other magnesiums.
What are the best sources of magnesium?
In addition to the magnesium your body is already working with, you should top off your magnesium tank in two ways – through a healthy diet plus a magnesium supplement. Among my favorite dietary sources of magnesium: wild-caught Pacific Halibut, leafy greens, spinach, black beans, pumpkin and squash seeds, all of which are packed with magnesium and lots of other fantastic phyto-nutirents. Another way to stock up on magnesium is by incorporating green drinks into your daily routine, particularly if you’re not a seed or salad fan. When it comes to supplementation in pill form, try to buy the highest quality supplements possible.