by Selva Wohlgemuth, Co-op News contributor
Selva Wohlgemuth, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist
Dear Nutritionist: I have been struggling with muscle cramps and have a hard time falling and staying asleep. Is there anything you can recommend to help alleviate these symptoms?
Muscle cramps and spasms in the soles of feet and legs, as well as twitching of the eyelid, can all be telltale signs of a magnesium need. Magnesium can also be very helpful in promoting relaxation and therefore good quality sleep. Did you know that more than 60 percent of Americans are not getting adequate amounts of magnesium in their diet?
This is most often related to:
- not eating enough magnesium-rich foods
- lower amounts of magnesium in our soil today than there used to be in the past
- taking medications that deplete magnesium stores (some of the most common are acid blockers, antibiotics, and birth control). Also, chronic stress, alcohol abuse, and malabsorption can all contribute to magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It plays an important role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body that can affect you from your nervous system all the way to your bones. Magnesium is required for DNA synthesis, reproduction, energy production, blood pressure regulation, insulin metabolism, adrenal function, nervous system transmission, and more. The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for adult men and women are 400 mg and 310 mg daily. However, most Americans are not getting enough.
Although severe magnesium deficiency is rare, low or insufficient levels of magnesium have been associated with several health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, migraines, muscle and period cramps, and ADHD. Many symptoms associated with a magnesium deficiency are often neglected or overlooked. Indicators of poor magnesium status include anxiety, depression, menstrual cramps and PMS, sleep disorders, low stress tolerance, muscle cramps, constipation, elevated blood pressure, and more.
How Can You Get More in Your Diet?
Aiming to get adequate magnesium from diet is the best approach, because magnesium-rich foods also provide other essential nutrients and fiber. Chlorophyll and therefore green veggies are a major source of magnesium. Some other excellent food sources include nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Some beans and legumes, fruit, and fish provide moderate amounts of magnesium as well.
What About Magnesium Supplements?
Supplemental magnesium is very safe and can provide quick relief of symptoms. It is a supplement I often recommend if someone has a lot of magnesium-wasting risk factors. However, it’s best not to take more than 350mg of supplemental magnesium per day unless recommended by your health care provider.
Some types of magnesium can be better tolerated and absorbed. Magnesium oxide acts as a laxative, and therefore only individuals that need stooling support should supplement with magnesium oxide. Magnesium citrate can cause loose stools, but only if taken in large dosages. Magnesium glycinate is highly absorbable and does not influence stools. Magnesium is best taken 30 minutes prior to bed due to its relaxing effects.
CALM Magnesium (magnesium citrate)
Start with 1 teaspoon and gradually increase to 2–3 teaspoons if needed.
Start with 100mg pill. Then increase if needed to 2–3 pills, depending on recommended dosage.
Take a hot bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts. Soak for 20–30 minutes, 1–2 times per week.
Sources of Magnesium from Food
|Food Item||Serving Size||Magnesium (mg)|
|Pumpkin seeds||¼ cup||190mg|
|Mung Beans||¼ cup, dry||140mg|
|Soy Beans||½ cup, dry||140mg|
|Buckwheat grouts||¼ cup, dry||95mg|
|Almonds, roasted||¼ cup||90mg|
|Quinoa||¼ cup, dry||85mg|
|Spinach||½ cup cooked||80mg|
|Swiss Chard||½ cup cooked||80mg|
|Beans (varied)||¼ cup, dry||75mg|
|Oats, rolled||½ cup, dry||40mg|
|Plantain||1 cup, boiled||40mg|
|Sesame Seeds||1 tablespoon||30mg|