Magnesium for Relaxing Muscles
As I’m laying in bed awake at 3:30 am, I think to myself, what the hell am I going to write about for my health column! Then I roll to my side, and realize my back is KILLING me; I need to take some magnesium when I officially wake up! Then it dawns on me, I’m not the only one that suffers from back pain! Why not share my experience and knowledge of the benefits of magnesium for relaxing muscles?
Magnesium is a crucial mineral needed by our bodies for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It is needed to keep muscle and nerve functioning normal, heart beat rhythmic, supports the immune system, keeps bones strong, and regulates blood sugar levels, which helps promote normal blood pressure, energy metabolism, and protein synthesis. It also helps regulate calcium levels; yet also competes with calcium for absorption, so can cause calcium deficiency if calcium levels are already low.
Magnesium deficiency symptoms can include: pain in the neck and back, anxiety, fatigue, migraine headaches, muscle weakness and spasm, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, abnormal heart rhythms, diarrhea, and muscle twitching. Stress can also lower the levels of magnesium in the body, leading to many of these symptoms.
What causes tight muscles or muscles to spasm or cramp? According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “muscle spasms can be triggered by alcoholism, dehydration, hard exercise, tired muscles, pregnancy and a shortage of calcium in the body and diet.” Muscle spasms are brief contractions of a muscle that can trigger muscle cramps, which are longer and more painful than muscle spasms.
You may be thinking to yourself, “How much magnesium do I need daily?” The dietary reference intake, DRI, for magnesium for women ages 19-30 is 310 mg daily and 320 mg daily for ages 31 and above. For men ages 19-30 it is 400 mg daily and 420 mg daily for ages 31 and above. Pregnant women, teenagers, and people that are recovering from surgery and/or illness do require more magnesium. Children require less.
What forms of magnesium are there? Natural sources of magnesium include dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, sea vegetables, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin and squash seeds, whole wheat bread and whole grains, tofu, fish beans and legumes, as well as chocolate, amongst other foods. Other forms include pill supplements, but the variety that is out that can get confusing!
Magnesium as a supplement is not easily absorbed in the body unless first attached to another substance. For this reason, many supplement manufacturers have “chelated” magnesium to organic and amino acids. Elemental magnesium refers to the amount of magnesium in each compound. The amount of elemental magnesium in a compound and its bioavailability, the amount of or rate at which a substance or drug is accessible to the body, influences the effectiveness of the magnesium supplement.
Magnesium glycinate, magnesium aspartate, magnesium taurate, and magnesium orotate are the best in terms of absorption and body use. Magnesium oxide is the most common magnesium supplement, but it is also the most difficult to absorb and use, hence the reason it is used as a laxative.
Other forms of magnesium are typically minerals or salts found in nature. They include magnesium bicarbonate, magnesium carbonate, magnesium chloride, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium oxide, magnesium phosphate, and magnesium sulfate/sulphate (Epsom salt). Of these, magnesium chloride has the highest bioavailability.
Still confused as to which is the best supplement to take? If trying to decipher what each supplement is and what it does, and its bioavailability, it’s probably easier and better for you to drink plenty of water and eat what Mother Nature has given to us than buy an expensive supplement that your body may not even absorb the substances in it that well. As with all dietary guidelines, supplements, and health concerns, contact your physician or health care provider before adventuring into something new.