magnesiumSo there you are peacefully asleep, happily in the land of dreams, when…. Whammo!!!! You’re viciously woken by extreme pain in your calf and your foot is pointed in a position that would be the envy of a ballerina.  You silently scream and try not to thrash about too much so you don’t wake your partner. You sit up a knead away at your calf and then stand and try limping around to get the calf to release the cramp….

I know many of you will be familiar with the scenario above and will already be taking a magnesium supplement to try to reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps. But do you know how magnesium works to alleviate cramping?  And, did you know there are many other benefits of ensuring you have adequate levels of magnesium in your system?

Magnesium relaxes both skeletal muscles and smooth muscles of blood vessels and gastrointestinal tract.  Magnesium is known as modulator of calcium by competing with calcium for entrance into cells and keeping many cellular processes in balance.  For example the effect of magnesium on blood vessels is dilation, whereas calcium promotes contraction.  Spasms of blood vessels lead to insufficient oxygen supply through them, causing pain, injury or the death of the tissue that they nourish.   By helping to relax and dilate coronary arteries it is important in preventing coronary artery spasm.

Magnesium also aids in the prevention of kidney stones by increasing calcium solubility.stress

Stress and Anxiety

Magnesium is your “anti-stress” mineral, you deplete your magnesium stores when you’re stressed or anxious then contributes more to your stress and anxiety.  While magnesium may not cure your anxiety you may be experiencing more anxiety symptoms because of your magnesium deficiency, so increasing your body’s stores may be a step in the right direction.
If taken before bedtime magnesium can alleviate insomnia and promote a more restful night sleep.


Enzymes are responsible for many of the chemical reactions in your body and are the basis for your body to function and support life.  Enzymes do not function alone; they need what is known as co-factors to moderate their function.  Magnesium is a common co-factor in many enzymatic reactions that contribute to the production of energy and cardiovascular function. Its presence is also needed for: for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, production of DNA and RNA, and production of antioxidants such as glutathione.

Magnesium is required for the production of ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) which is the fuel used in human cells.  ATP is important for the cells to perform their functions such as; muscle fibre contraction, protein synthesis, cell reproduction and transport of substances across the cell wall. Without the presence of magnesium, the nutrients we take in could not be metabolised into energy.


The idea of using magnesium to help asthma comes from the fact that asthmatics are often found to have low levels.  Some studies have shown that magnesium given intravenously can help alleviate severe asthma attacks and many believe that supplementation could be useful as a preventative. It is thought that magnesium may help by relaxing the muscles around the bronchial tubes.tired-lady


Early symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, irritability, insomnia and muscle tremors or twitching.  Psychological changes such as apathy, apprehension, decreased learning ability, confusion and poor memory can also be signs of a mild deficiency.  Moderate deficiency can show up as tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and other cardiovascular changes.  A severe deficiency can cause numbness, tingling, intermittent involuntary muscle contractions, even delirium and hallucinations.


Toxicity of magnesium is virtually unheard of because the kidneys excrete or conserve levels as needed and the intestine eliminate excess through the faeces.

What depletes Magnesium

Consumption and use of diuretic drugs, alcohol, caffeine and sugar depletes magnesium. Stress increases excretion.  Eating meals high in protein or fat, a diet high in calcium and phosphorus decreases your absorption.  Low stomach acid levels and vitamin D deficiency are also factors.


Magnesium is deficient in the modern diet due to processing of food and the fact that it has largely been farmed out of our soil.  So getting enough magnesium from diet alone is difficult.  Magnesium is a component of chlorophyll so dark green vegetables are good sources.  Most nuts, seeds and legumes contain high levels of magnesium, especially almonds, pecans, cashew, brazil nuts.  Whole grains especially heat, millet and brown rice are also good sources.


If you are looking for a high quality supplement, avoid supplements containing Magnesium oxide or sulphate because they are poorly absorbed.  The best absorbed supplements are those containing magnesium glycinate, aspartate, citrate, fumarate, gluconate, lactate or carbonate.
Epsom salt baths (or foot baths) are an excellent and relaxing way to get your magnesium because magnesium is well absorbed through the skin. Liquid magnesium is also a great convenient way to supplement your levels, you can rub a few drops directly on the area needing treatment, without having to wait for it to be processed through your digestive system.  It can also be added to you bath water similar to Epsom salts.
To function properly magnesium must be balanced with calcium. Phosphorous, potassium and sodium chloride.

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