The fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, magnesium plays an important role in more than 300 bodily chemical reactions. Chemically, magnesium is an electrolyte, which means that it carries an electrical charge in solution, such as within the blood. However, most of it is stored in an undissolved form inside the bones and other tissues.
Magnesium plays an important role in regulating your heart rate and blood pressure, boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, and even improving your mood. There is some evidence that magnesium may help to reduce insulin resistance in those with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, to minimize the frequency and severity of migraines, and even to fight depression.
Magnesium for Muscle Cramps
Some magnesium is stored in the body’s muscles, and it is a significant factor in regulating both muscle and nerve activity. If your magnesium levels are depleted, you may experience muscle twitches, tremors, and cramps. During exercise, magnesium helps to provide needed glucose to your muscles and remove the lactic acid (lactate) buildup that can cause pain and exhaustion.
As an electrolyte, magnesium levels can be affected when you are dehydrated or, ironically, when you drink too much plain water. Magnesium helps your body hold onto potassium, which is crucial for proper muscle functioning, including heart function. Along with symptoms such as lowered urine output, dizziness, and extreme thirst, muscle cramping and fatigue can signify dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. When rehydrating after exercise or a bout of mild dehydration, be sure to choose sports drinks that contain electrolytes rather consuming an overabundance of plain water.
Muscle cramps have many causes, from overuse to certain illnesses. It’s important to have a thorough physical exam if you experience severe cramping or pain that doesn’t go away. In many cases, though, along with stretching and applying heat, increasing your magnesium level can help to reduce muscle cramping regardless of its root cause.
How to Increase Magnesium in Your Body
Magnesium is present in numerous foods, including unrefined grains, beans, and dark leafy vegetables. However, many people do not consume enough through diet alone. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 410 to 420 mg for men and 310 to 320 mg for women, but as many as 75% of adults do not regularly meet this guideline. In addition, those with certain medical conditions and those taking many common medications may be at risk for depleted magnesium, even if they frequently eat magnesium rich foods.
Fortunately, magnesium supplements are any easy way to make sure you consume enough of this extremely important nutrient. If you have any underlying health conditions, check with you’re your doctor to make sure supplementation is right for you. Regardless of your health status, make sure that you choose only high quality supplements that contain pure, safe magnesium. Though not as popular in supplementation as magnesium oxide, a better choice with greater bioavailability is magnesium chloride, a naturally occurring compound with one magnesium and two chloride ions.
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