Craving Chocolate? It may be a sign…

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Do you often crave chocolate? Ever get a twitchy eye or cramps in your legs? Do you feel fatigued and get frequent migraines? You may be experiencing low levels of magnesium… This is quite common, especially if you lead a busy and stressful life. Find out how you can increase your magnesium levels and what foods you can eat to ensure that you’re getting your daily dose.

What is Magnesium & Why is it important?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions and it is actually involved in over 300 chemical reactions within the body. It is also an important co-factor nutrient for many other minerals including calcium and chromium – so in other words, without magnesium these other minerals do not work effectively. Magnesium helps promote heart and muscle contraction which is why post-exercise you may suffer with muscle cramps as magnesium levels become depleted. In the heart, magnesium helps to dilate the arteries and assists in lowering blood pressure. It also strengthens teeth and bones, helps the body to make cellular energy, proteins and transmit nerve impulses. If magnesium levels become too low, the nerves can lose control over muscle activity, respiration and mental processes.

Magnesium Deficiency Signs

There are a number of signs and symptoms that indicate that your body may be deficient in magnesium including:

  • Muscle tremors or spasms
  • Eye twitch
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chocolate cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness and confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Kidney stones (calcium deposits on tissues)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression, low mood or anxiety
  • Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT) and spasmodic period pain
  • Migraines or headaches

Possible long-term complications of Magnesium Deficiency

  • Arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries due to the formation of fatty deposits, eventually causing blockages)
  • Coronary disorders: high blood pressure, heart spasms, heart attack, irregular heartbeat
  • Behavioural disturbances and neurological dysfunction
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Eclampsia (a condition that causes convulsions in pregnant women due to extremely high blood pressure)

Magnesium Benefits

Magnesium is one of those nutrients that is needed for so many things in the body and therefore has heaps of benefits.

Here are a few:

  • Increases energy levels to help combat fatigue. Magnesium is needed along with B vitamins and CoQ10 to produce cellular energy so that your cells can function efficiently.
  • Promotes relaxation by calming the nervous system, which is especially important when your stress levels are high. Magnesium is also needed to produce the ‘feel good’ hormone Serotonin which helps to lift your mood.
  • Prevents muscle cramping as magnesium promotes relaxation of muscles.
  • Prevents post-workout muscle ‘burn’ as magnesium stops an excess build-up of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a substance that builds up in your muscles after strenuous exercise due to a reduced amount of available oxygen in the tissues.
  • Promotes healthy, strong bones as magnesium is an essential nutrient required for bone metabolism, along with calcium and vitamin D.
  • Healthy cardiovascular function – magnesium is needed for contraction of the heart and to maintain heart rhythm.
  • Blood sugar balance and prevention of diabetes as magnesium is required for the release of insulin from the pancreas and it also helps to improve insulin sensitivity – so your cells get their fuel (the sugar) quickly and efficiently.
  • Reduces acidity in the body as magnesium is an alkalising mineral and aids in maintaining optimum pH levels.
  • Promotes sleep as there is a neurotransmitter in the brain and nervous system called GABA that is dependent on magnesium to function. GABA is a ‘calming’ neurotransmitter and helps the brain to switch off.
  • Keeps the body hydrated as magnesium (along with calcium, sodium and potassium) is an important electrolyte needed to maintain water balance in the body.
  • Prevent or reduce migraines - clinical evidence has shown that migraine sufferers tend to have low intracellular magnesium levels. Low magnesium is thought to cause a spasm in the arteries of the brain and release certain chemicals which increases the person’s sensitivity to pain.

Magnesium Rich Foods

  • Leafy green veggies such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard
  • Broccoli, green peas and squash
  • Nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Chocolate (dark or raw)
  • Beans (navy, pinto, lima, kidney & black beans), lentils and chickpeas
  • Whole grains such as buckwheat, wholegrain rice, bran, barley and millet
  • Quinoa
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Mackerel
  • Figs

How much magnesium do I need?

From the food we eat, around 40-60% of magnesium is actually absorbed into the body and 70% of this is stored in the bones and teeth. The rest is stored in the muscles, liver and pancreas. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium ranges from 320- 360 mg per day for women and 400 – 420 mg per day for men, dependent on age. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require 350-400 mg per day. On a daily basis we lose approximately 100 – 300 mg of magnesium in urine and it is for this reason that our magnesium levels need to be continually topped up.

In some instances, a person may be required to supplement with magnesium especially if they are experiencing magnesium deficiency signs and are struggling to get the required amount from their food. If you feel that you may be low in magnesium, speak to your naturopath or healthcare provider and they will be able to advise you accordingly.

Need more help?

If you would like to discuss your health with me in more detail, drop me an email at michelle@vitalitycorner.com and book in for a health consultation.

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Michelle is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, Reflexologist and Reiki practitioner who is passionate about living a holistic lifestyle and helping others to achieve their health goals. She is also a Jungle Body Dance Fitness Instructor, which not only keeps her fit but also helps her to inspire others to feel confident and get in shape.

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