The many roles of Magnesium

Woman sitting on beach – The many roles of magnesium article

The many roles of magnesium

We should never underestimate the importance of magnesium, and the roles it plays in our general wellbeing. It is one of the more well-known and most available minerals available in supplement form, but there are still widespread defiencies across the population, particularly among older adults.

Although there a no comprehensive studies monitoring the New Zealand population and its magnesium status, we know that our soils are low in magnesium. In the USA it’s estimated that two-thirds of all adults, and up to 90% of the elderly are not getting their Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of this essential mineral.

There are a number of reasons for this. These include the depletion of minerals in the soils through intensive farming, the prevalence of processed foods which further strip away the mineral content, inadequate diet and lack of exercise, and increases in stress and anxiety. The increased use of antibiotics, antacids and prescription medication can also have a detrimental effect in terms of magnesium absorption.

✔️ Calm nerves and anxiety

✔️ Reduces inflammation

✔️ Helps regulate blood sugar levels

✔️ Supports deep sleep patterns

✔️ Relieves muscle aches

✔️ Heart regulation

Magnesium is required for many biological functions within the body, including more than 300 enzyme reactions. Below are some of the benefits of magnesium and the crucial roles it plays in the health of our heart, our muscles and our brain. There are reasons why we need more magnesium when pregnant or when placing significant demands on our bodies in terms of physcial activity. It also explains how we can get more magnesium into our diet through the foods we eat and what we should consider when looking to supplement.

Magnesium for your heart

Adequate levels of magnesium are required for maintaining the function of the nervous system and neuromuscular transmission and activity. It helps with heart muscle contraction-relaxation and regulating the heartbeat. Along with other macro minerals such as calcium, sodium and potassium, magnesium affects the muscle tone in the blood vessels, which enables optimal blood pressure control, with a decreased risk of erratic heartbeat and coronary artery disease.

Man looking out at ocean
Populations with high intakes of magnesium have a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease.

Our nerves depend on magnesium to help keep our arteries relaxed, and free from inflammation, which is the main cause of cardiovascular disease. This allows for good circulation, healthy arteries, and to ensure sufficient blood flow to all parts of the body, including our brain.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in three deaths are attributed to cardiovascular disease. Populations with high intakes of magnesium have a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arrhythmia and hypertension compared to those with insufficient levels. Magnesium supplementation programmes have shown to have a significantly postive effect on the treatment of patients with cardiovascular disease, and researchers have advocated for a higher RDI of this essential nutrient for many years.   

Magnesium for muscles and sleep

Magnesium can relax the muscles, our nerves and the mind. It also helps to avoid muscle cramps, headaches and can lessen the effects of stress, leading to a better quality of sleep. 

People with low magnesium status can be tense and irritable, and suffer from cold hands and feet due to poor circulation. They can find it hard to calm the mind and relax, and get a proper night’s sleep.

Woman sleeping in a bed. Magnesium can assist with alleviating muscle cramps at night.
Magnesium is best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation.

The best I’ve had. I feel the difference almost immediately. No digestive problems with this. Helps me sleep and relax in general.”

Lauren

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, especially at night, as well as fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure and heart disturbances.

Magnesium is best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation, lessens the effects of stress, and when paired with a consistent night-time routine it can greatly assist with getting a restful night’s sleep.

Magnesium for your brain

Along with metabolic health and muscular function, magnesium is critical for brain health. It can help support cognitive function, especially among older adults who are at greater risk of deficiency.  

It is also essential for both short and long term memory, enables concentration and learning, and helps with mood, behaviour and healthy aging.

Our brains require an enormous amount of energy – up to 20 percent of all the body’s energy. This requires a constant supply of magnesium, and the trillions of neural networks and synapses within the brain need magnesium to process information. 

Magnesium is essential for brain function.
Magnesium is essential for brain function and acts on receptors which help brain development.

Magnesium has been shown to regulate the receptors in the brain associated with learning, memory, mood regulation. Abnormal NMDA receptor activity has been present in patients presenting with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease as well as depression and anxiety.

“Brilliant product. Sleeping much better compared to other magnesium products that I’ve tried. And my few muscle cramps have disappeared. Though the taste isn’t great, I choose to swallow it straight as the taste soon disappears, so it’s no problem.”

Miranda

Low magnesium status has been linked to anxiety, fibromyalgia, age-related memory loss and depression. In addition, the various medications used to treat depression can further contribute to decreased magnesium levels.

In 2017, to assess the effects of magnesium supplementation, an open-label, randomized, cross-over trial was done with 126 adults who had been diagnosed with mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression. (6) Supplementation was undertaken with 248mg of magnesium chloride per day for 6 weeks, compared to 6 weeks of no supplementation. It led to a clinically significant improvement in mood and anxiety scores, and positive effects were observed within two weeks. The magnesium chloride was also well tolerated, and 61% of participants reported they would use magnesium in the future.

In another study of more than 1,000 older individuals who were followed for 17 years, those with higher intakes of electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium had a lower risk of developing dementia. (7)

Magnesium for performance

As magnesium helps with regulating the heart and muscle contraction and movements, it is crucial for physical performance, and should be a part of any sports nutrition progamme. 

Woman running on New Zealand beach. Iron for energy.
Supplementation can avoid muscle cramping and even migraines during exercise.

Along with potassium, sodium, chloride and calcium, magnesium is an electrolyte, and is able to hold an electrical charge to supply these macro minerals to our cells accordingly.

Magnesium is depleted in the body through excessive sweating, and supplementation can be required to avoid muscle cramping and even migraines during exercise. As good quality sleep is so important to performance, maintaining sufficient levels of magnesium in the cells is necessary for athletes to enable recovery of both mind and body.

Athlete stretching on running track. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found in muscles.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found in muscles, soft tissues and fluids. 

Magnesium when pregnant or breastfeeding

When pregnant or breastfeeding, your body requires even more vitamins and minerals, especially iodine and selenium, and also magnesium, all of which are in short supply in the New Zealand soils. Magnesium plays a big part in the baby’s development and growth, and the health of the mother during this important time.

Higher amounts of magnesium have been shown to relieve pre-eclampsia and hypertension in women during the latter stages of pregnancy, and pregnancy-induced leg cramps.

The RDI for Magnesium in women is 310mg per day, but increases to 360mg when pregnant or breastfeeding.

How to get more magnesium into your diet

Through eating a balanced, whole-food diet, you can obtain good levels of magnesium from food sources. The less processed foods you eat the better. For example, approximately 80% of magnesium is lost when wheat is refined into white flour, and all magnesium is lost in the refining of white sugar.

Green leafy vegetables and raw, unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts) and seeds (pumpkin/sunflower) sweetcorn, dates, beans and bananas are the best plant-based sources of magnesium. Other foods such as wheat bran, quinoa, dark chocolate and seafood such as shrimps and pipis contain good levels of the mineral.

How to get more magnesium into your diet with these foods. Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sweetcorn, bananas, dark chocolate and almonds are all good sources of magnesium.
Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sweetcorn, bananas, dark chocolate and almonds are all good sources of magnesium.

Gut health plays a significant part in the absorption of minerals and vitamins from our food, and so too with magnesium. If you experience digestive issues, your body may not be able to utilise the magnesium found in your foods.

“Couldn’t be without it. Have used this for years now. Great for headaches and deep sleep. Take it in a small amount of water just before bed and I always sleep peacefully.”

Lorna

Stress, excessive alcohol intake, excessive sweating, the use of prescription drugs, and advancing age are all factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency. If you’re unable to access sufficient levels from your diet, supplementation may be an option. Magnesium supplements can be found in many forms – capsules, tablets, epsom salts, and liquid mineral formulas.  

Supplementing with magnesium

When considering supplementation, you should look for highly bioavailable options. These inlude organic forms such as magnesium citrate, or ionic liquid mineral supplements, which are more easily absorbed and tolerated by the body.

To generate magnesium ions, the compound must dissolve in water, but common supplements such as magnesium oxide do not dissolve and therefore cannot deliver magnesium ions into the bloodstream, and then into your cells and bone where it needs it most. 

The RDI for magnesium is 310mg for females, increasing to 360mg when pregnant or breastfeeding. The RDI for adult males is 420mg.

When should I take it?
While it’s best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation, it can be taken at any time.

Individuals with kidney disease, severe heart disease or on prescription medication should consult their health practitioner before taking a magnesium supplement.  

Summary

Most of us could benefit from topping up our magnesium stores, and the health benefits it provides. Whether we’re taking it for our heart, our brain, to get more energy or improve the quality of our sleep, magnesium is responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, so there’s hardly any part of the body that doesn’t benefit.

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Iron: Get back your energy

Woman smiling at Man. Skybright Iron Liquid Mineral.

Iron: Get back your energy

Iron is essential for energy production. It is found in the haemoglobin of our red blood cells to transport oxygen from our lungs to every cell in our body. It’s also present in myoglobin, a protein found in skeletal muscles and the heart. At the cellular level, iron is used to fuel enzymes and make energy.

Iron is responsible for more than 200 processes in the body, and key to thyroid function, hair growth, mood regulation, cognitive function, building and maintaining strong bones and optimal immune system maintenance.

Iron is found in the haemoglobin of our red blood cells.
Iron is found in the haemoglobin of our red blood cells to transport oxygen to every cell in our body.

There are any number of reasons we can feel tired or lacking energy. Not enough sleep, too much work, or several key nutrients missing from our diet. 

Low iron status is one of the most common deficiencies in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two billion people in both developing and industrialised countries are iron deficient. This is also true in New Zealand, especially for women. 

In the last New Zealand Nutritional Survey (all the way back in 2009!), 34% of girls aged 13-19 were deficient in iron, and that figure was 49% for Māori and Pasifika teenage girls. It is estimated 20-30% of women of child-bearing age in New Zealand are iron deficient.

When iron levels are low you are essentially depriving your cells of oxygen. Symptoms can include low energy, weakness, fatigue, pale skin, poor concentration, brain fog, and cold hands and feet. Low immunity to infection, and slow recovery from sickness is also common. In more severe cases, when haemoglobin levels are low and red blood cells become paler in colour, anaemia develops. This can cause a host of serious health issues including shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness.

“This iron liquid supplement has helped so much with energy levels, sleep and breathlessness. Can highly recommend.”

– Inger
Woman smiling after taking Skybright Iron Liquid Mineral

While low iron or anaemia occurs more frequently than any other micronutrient deficiency, too much iron can be just as dangerous. The symptoms for excess iron are often the same, such as low energy or cognitive issues. 

Haemochromatosis, or iron overload, is a genetic condition that affects 1 in 200 New Zealanders, mostly of European descent. It’s thought to be the most common genetic disorder in the world. The iron slowly builds up in the body, especially your liver, heart, and pancreas. Eventually, these organs can be permanently damaged by the excess iron.

A balanced wholefood diet can play a big part in restoring and maintaining sufficient iron levels, and a well-nourished person is able to regulate their iron levels effectively, depending on what their body requires.

However, if you think you require more iron, it is recommended that you consult a health professional before commencing supplementation.

Iron absorption and bioavailability

While there is often enough iron in our diets, absorption of the mineral can be problem. This comes down to bioavailability, and how our body can access the iron from our food.

The role of healthy gut

Maintaining a healthy and happy gut is key for getting all the nutrients from your food and your overall wellbeing. Simple things like chewing your food well can help stimulate acid production, and friendly gut bacteria and probiotics such as lactoferrin play a vital role. 

Man holding stomach. Friendly gut bacteria and probiotics such as lactoferrin play a vital role in iron absorption.
Friendly gut bacteria and probiotics such as lactoferrin play a vital role in iron absorption.

Food sources of Iron

Dietary sources of Iron can be broken up into two main types: Haem iron and non-Haem iron. 

Haem iron is found in red meats such as beef and lamb, as well as fish, shellfish and poultry, and is readily absorbed by the body. For many reasons, including health, we’re eating less red meat than we used to, and therefore missing out on one of the best sources of iron.

Non-Haem sources include lentils, legumes, wholegrain fortified cereals and tofu. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, brussel sprouts can also provide small amounts of iron.

Here in New Zealand, non-Haem sources such as wheat form a considerable portion of dietary iron; 40% according to the 2009 New Zealand Nutritional Survey (animal protein accounted for 18%). However, non-Haem or plant-based sources are not as bioavailable and often poorly absorbed. To assist with absorption, it can be paired with Haem iron foods such as red meat, fish or poultry. 

Vitamin C can be hugely beneficial. By eating citrus fruits, kiwifruits, capsicums and brassica vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, it can enhance the absorption of non-Haem iron, and increase iron status. Many iron supplements contain forms of vitamin C for this purpose.

In contrast, high levels of calcium, zinc or phytates, which can be found in legumes, rice and other grains can inhibit absorption of both Haem and non-Haem iron. Conversely, high intakes of iron can affect the absorption of zinc, and calcium.  

A range of foods that contain the mineral iron: beef, fish, spinach, legumes, wholegrain bread. Vitamin C helps with absorption of the mineral.
Variety is key, as there are small amounts of iron in many foods.

Variety is key, as there are small amounts of iron in many foods. It’s important to try and keep a good balance to help the body maintain sufficient mineral stores.

Lastly, although iron from plant sources is less bioavailable, if you don’t eat animal-based products, don’t assume you are iron deficient. Many vegetarians utilise iron from their diet very effectively. Again, it is best to take a blood test before undertaking supplementation.

A note about tea and coffee

It is recommended not to consume tea or coffee with iron-rich meals as this has been shown to inhibit absorption due to the tannins present. These tannins can bind to the iron and hinder absorption. Allow two hours before or after eating iron-rich foods or when taking an iron supplement.

Iron in pregnancy

The WHO has estimated that anaemia is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency worldwide, affecting 33% of non-pregnant women, 40% of pregnant women and 42% of children worldwide. Research suggests that 20-30% of women of child-bearing age may be iron-deficient in New Zealand.

Pregnant woman sitting on floor in bedroom. 20-30% of women of child-bearing age may be iron-deficient in New Zealand.
20-30% of women of child-bearing age may be iron-deficient in New Zealand.

Women often require more iron when pregnant and nursing children. A lack of iron can lead to complications in pregnancy such as decreased fertility, reduced birth weight and reduced gestation periods. 

Iron deficiency in children can lead to irreversible effects on brain development, lack of growth, and low immunity to infection. Cognitive development can also be affected if a mother is lacking iron in her last trimester of pregnancy.

The issue of excess iron is rarely found in women of child-bearing age, due to menstrual blood loss. Having children and monthly cycles can often deplete women’s iron stores for many years to follow.

Iron for athletes

Iron can be critically important for endurance athletes. Anaemia or even marginal iron deficiency can impair performance as it reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and inhibits mitochondrial enzyme function in the cell. 

Endurance athletes often deplete their iron stores more rapidly through sweat loss, red blood cell destruction, and gastro-intestinal blood loss.

Male athlete running on track. Iron liquid mineral for energy.
Endurance athletes often deplete their iron stores more rapidly through sweat loss.

Some athletes have difficulty meeting their iron needs due to factors such as calorie restriction, avoiding animal-based products and a high carbohydrate intake. Those training for more than six hours per week are more at risk and should have their iron status checked at least once a year. 

When to supplement

At certain times of life, there is an increased need for iron. In infancy, experiencing growth spurts in childhood, adolescence, when pregnant and breastfeeding, and exercising often.

Woman taking care of her daughter with minerals supplements
Iron deficiency in children can lead to irreversible effects on brain development, lack of growth, and low immunity to infection. Cognitive development can also be affected if a mother is lacking iron in her last trimester of pregnancy.

“Really easy to use, and noticed a big difference within a couple of days in my daughter.”

– Becky

Elderly men often have low iron status or anaemia due to weak stomach acid. Try to avoid or limit the use of antacids, heartburn or stomach acid lowering medication that can prevent absorption of iron and other minerals. 

Iron supplementation should only be recommended following a consultation with a healthcare professional, especially for those on medication. They may suggest a test which measures haemoglobin levels, determining the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood cells. An additional serum ferritin test measures the amount of iron stored in the body.

Iron deficiency can develop slowly and correcting it can also be a slow process. A supplement may be required for at least a few months to replenish your iron levels. Always use as directed and keep out of reach of children. 

References:
Coory, David. Stay Healthy by supplying what’s lacking in your diet. 1992
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
WHO guidance helps detect iron deficiency and protect brain development. 2020
Ministry of Health ­– Manatū Hauora. Iron overload (Haemochromatosis). 2018

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar FAQ’s

People holding up glasses of water containing Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar FAQ’s

Here are some FAQ’s on ACV. There are hundreds of uses for Apple Cider Vinegar, and almost as many health benefits.

See our other articles on how to Love your gut with our Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, or try out one of our Recipes with Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Don’t take it straight – Organic Apple Cider Vinegar can be harsh on your oesophagus if you take it as a shot.
Don’t take it straight – it can be harsh on your oesophagus if you take it as a shot.

Young woman holding her stomach.

“Eat fermented foods, sleep a lot, fill up on fibre, and maintain a healthy weight. Your belly and your brain will thank you.” 

The Beginner’s Guide to Better Gut Health

Have another question for us?

We’d be happy to help. Send us an email, phone us on 0800 200 707 or message us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Dark-haired woman smiling

“Gorgeous ACV… will be buying it again and again 🙂 ”

— Michelle

Disclaimer
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.