Tag Archives: magnesium

Magnesium – the humble mineral essential for sports

As the current generation of the world’s sporting elite bow at the biggest event on the planet, many athletes will be looking for that final ingredient to boost their athletic performance.

A growing number of doctors and professional coaches believe that magnesium is the single most important mineral to sports nutrition. Research has identified that even a marginal deficiency in magnesium can result in a significant reduction in exercise performance.

Magnesium allows the body to burn fuel and create energy in an efficient way which does not lead to lactic acid build up. However during vigorous exercise, critical minerals including zinc, chromium and selenium, in addition to massive amounts of magnesium, are excreted in sweat. Those minerals are then difficult to replenish.

Therefore athletes are often advised to increase portions of magnesium rich foods in their diet, such as green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. But there is evidence to suggest that this still isn’t enough for those taking part in regular sports, where magnesium will be lost much faster than average.

For example, it is extremely unusual that enough magnesium would be consumed by dietary sources alone. Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) can be misleading, as they only represent the minimum amount that should be taken for the maintenance of health.

Transdermal magnesium chloride treatments should be used as a staple part of any sports nutrition programme. Transdermal application of Magnesium is particularly suitable for athletes who need high levels of magnesium and where oral supplementation is much less effective in the treatment of injuries and tired muscles.

Dr Popescu, Physician of the Romanian National Football Team, tested Magnesium Oil during Euro 2008 on his team both on and off the pitch. As a result, he now strongly recommends the product for further usage in other sports and teams, after it was found to be beneficial in 90 per cent of cases.

But it’s not just professional athletes who can benefit. Many studies have found that magnesium supplementation will also enhance the performance and endurance of long distance runners, skiers, cyclists and swimmers.

Of course, magnesium doesn’t just help with performance – we often forget how important recovery is. We all know the delights of the two day burn, and without quick and full recovery, training programmes can often be delayed. A concentrated magnesium bath – foot, or full body, will help relax cramping muscles as well as replace the lost magnesium.

There have been positive examples of faster recovery through supplying magnesium oil to various sports personalities. A strong example is Team GB women volleyballers, who have praised the performance and recovery effects of transdermal magnesium.

Transdermal Magnesium
Transdermal Magnesium may have better absorption rates and aid recovery in sporting individuals

Lucy Wicks, Vice-Captain of GB Women’s Volleyball Team, said: “Our intense preparation programme means we have long days of training which are tough and tiring and our bodies are being pushed to the limit. We particularly like the magnesium flakes which we use in a warm body soak after an ice bath. Our legs are definitely feeling the benefit– in fact they are feeling great!”

Sports injuries can also be avoided with transdermal magnesium therapy. Dr Jeff Schutt insists that a shortened hamstring is a result of a lack of magnesium. He believes that Magnesium Oil sprayed into a sore Achilles tendon, or soaking the feet in a magnesium rich chloride footbath as the single best thing – apart from stretching – that can be done to prevent hamstring or other sports injuries.

Dr Mark Sircus, author of Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, firmly believes that a whole new world of sports medicine is going to explode onto the scene when athletes and coaches find out that magnesium chloride from natural sources is available for topical use.

There is virtually no one who can’t benefit greatly from increasing their daily magnesium intake – it is an essential part of health. For the professional athlete however, it can mean the difference between winning and losing, or even whether they are fit to compete at all.

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The importance of bone health

Bone health is an issue which is becoming increasingly more prominent in today’s society. According to the National Osteoporosis Society (1), one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 in the UK will suffer with a bone fracture. This is mainly due to poor bone health which means that we all need to know how important it is to build and maintain strong bones.

In addition to weight baring exercise, nutrition is absolutely vital for establishing strong bones in childhood and adolescence as this is when the body passes through the bone growth stages to create individual peak bone mass. Within the 4 years surrounding an adolescent’s peak height, around 39% of their total body bone mineral is gained. This highlights how crucial this time is for building strong bones for the future as we go in to adulthood, as low bone mineral growth during youth is linked to the risk of developing brittle bones and osteoporosis in older age.

Fresh Orange Juice
Many Fresh Orange Juice's can be bought fortified with Calcium, Magnesium or Vitamin D.

Nutrients such as calcium, vitamins D and K and magnesium have all been specifically identified for bone health and having an influence on bone mineral density. A recent review (2) published in the journal Clinical Biochemistry focuses in particular on calcium’s effect on bone health. They reviewed numerous research papers looking into the effects of certain calcium rich foods on bone density.

For example, one study reported that women who had a lower intake of milk in childhood and adolescence had low bone density in adulthood and as a result they had a much greater risk of fractures later in life. Additionally, the authors reported on findings that with low intake of cow’s milk, even pre-pubertal children can have a higher risk of fractures which shows how important calcium intake is in early life.

As well as dietary calcium intake, calcium supplementation has also been found to be a fantastic contributor to bone mineral accretion. So be sure you add calcium to your family’s supplement regime to ensure all your bones are as strong as they can be to help prevent breakages.

Once peak bone mass is achieved around the age of 20 it needs to be maintained in the bone maintenance stage which lasts around 10-20 years. Then as we reach middle age our bone density starts to reduce by approximately 0.5–1.0% per year. However, it is important to note that female bone losses can be considerably more around the time of the menopause, at around 2–3% per year due to decreases in oestrogen levels. This represents a crucial time for maintaining bone density through our food and nutrition choices. Not surprisingly, calcium intake has been linked to the prevention of bone loss around this time.

Within the review paper, the research indicates that baseline calcium intakes of 500–1000 mg/day (meeting the recommended intake of 700mg a day) which were increased by 500–1200 mg/day prevented bone loss.

In order to be within this calcium intake, try to include the following foods into your typical day’s food intake, which combined equates to around 1578mg of calcium:

Typical servings: plain low fat yoghurt, 225g (415 mg of calcium), cheddar cheese, 40g (307mg), milk (around 300mg), pink salmon, 85g (181mg), Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 170ml (375mg). Dietary calcium is also available from sources such as other dairy products, bony fish, legumes, certain nuts (such as almonds and Brazil nuts), fortified soya milk and some fortified breakfast cereals also contain smaller amounts of calcium.

However, the report noted that most people’s calcium intake from dietary sources is often not sufficient especially for those that do not drink milk e.g. Chinese cultures. They therefore recommended calcium supplementation to meet the requirement. Vitamin D is also a great contributor to healthy bones on its own however when combined with calcium it has a much greater effect and the review noted that supplemental vitamin D combined with supplemental calcium can help to slow bone loss. This study included 1200 mg/day calcium and 1000 IU/day vitamin D supplementation and found that the two nutrients used together had a greater effect on maintaining bone density than when used individually.

It was also noted that calcium and vitamin D supplementation, at an intake of around 1000–1200mg calcium (depending on dietary calcium intake) and 800 IU vitamin D daily, is particularly important for those with osteoporosis or those at risk of its development. However, make sure that you are not exceeding the recommended upper limit of calcium which is 3,000 mg/day for children and adolescents aged 9–18 years, 2,500 mg/day for 19–50 year olds and 2,000mg/day for those aged> 50 years.

What all of this means it that it is really important to get enough calcium and vitamin D in both food and supplement forms to help keep bones healthy and strong, and also that your kids are getting enough to help build their bones for the future.

Written by Lauren Foster

(1) National Osteoporosis Society

(2) Zhu, K. & Prince, R.L. (2012) Calcium and bone. Clinical Biochemistry, p7.

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Citrus Fruit Lowers Risk of Stroke

In February I wrote about the link between magnesium intake and reduced risk of stroke. There is a growing amount of research in this area, and a new study has now uncovered new links between a special compound in citrus fruits and a lowered risk of stroke (1).

The research, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, used data provided by almost 70,000 women to find links between diet and stroke risk.

Citrus Fruits can help fight the risk of Stroke
Citrus Fruits can help in the prevention of Stroke

Citrus fruits contain special compounds called flavanones, a special subclass of flavonoids which act as powerful antioxidants.

The data was gathered from the Nurse’s Health Study, which provided details of the diets of 69,622 women. The researchers found that women who ate high amounts of flavanones in citrus fruits had a 19 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least amounts.

Study leader Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of East Anglia  explains “Flavonoids are thought to provide some of that protection through several mechanisms, including improved blood vessel function and an anti-inflammatory effect.”

A typical serving of citrus fruit contains 45 to 50 mg of flavones. The women with the highest intake consumed more than 470 mg per day. While many of the women in the study consumed their flavanones in the form of orange juice or grapefruit juice, the researchers recommend that we should consume whole citrus fruits rather than sugary fruit juices.

These finding support a previous study which also found that citrus fruit and juice intake, but not intake of other fruits, protected against risk of ischemic stroke.

More studies are needed to confirm the association between flavanone consumption and stroke risk, in order to gain a better understanding of this link. In the meantime, there are several additional dietary measures than can help to protect against stroke.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep blood vessels healthy and reduce the inflammation that is associated with ischemic stroke. Oily fish, ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts are all good sources of this essential fatty acid.

Garlic contains a chemical called allicin, which makes your blood less ‘sticky’, and so less likely to clot and cause a stroke. Flavour your food with plenty of fresh garlic – or if you don’t like the taste then try a garlic supplement.

Broccoli will help to boost your levels of folic acid. Other good sources of folic acid are spinach, asparagus and lentils. This B Vitamin lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage your arteries and increase your risk of stroke. The best way to cook broccoli is by steaming, as this helps to preserve the vitamin content.

Purple fruit and berries, such as blueberries, are rich sources of nutrients called proanthocyanidins, providing potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Try adding a handful of blueberries to your muesli or your morning smoothie.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Aedín Cassidy, Eric B. Rimm, Éilis J. O’Reilly, Giancarlo Logroscino, Colin Kay, Stephanie E. Chiuve, and Kathryn M. Rexrode. Dietary Flavonoids and Risk of Stroke in Women. Stroke, February 23 2012

2. Joshipura KA et al. Fruit and vegetable intake in relation to risk of ischemic stroke. JAMA 1999. 282(13):1233-9

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Dietary magnesium reduces risk of stroke

Recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found new evidence of a link between magnesium intake and risk of stroke.

The research was conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. It took the form of a meta-analysis, whereby researchers collect and analyse data from many previous relevant studies. In all, the researchers took data from studies conducted from 1996 to 2011, involving more than 240,000 adults. Each study tracked adults from Europe, Asia or the United States, and lasted an average of 12 years. The data tracked how much magnesium each person took, and how many people suffered a stroke.

Leafy vegetables contain high levels of dietary magnesium
Leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, spinach and kale, contain high levels of dietary magnesium (2.)

The research team found that those with a higher level of dietary magnesium were less likely to experience a stroke. In fact, the risk of stroke was reduced by 8% for each additional 100 milligrams of magnesium a person consumed each day.

“Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with risk of stroke, specifically ischemic stroke”, concluded lead researched Susanna Larsson, adding that “the results suggest that people should eat a healthy diet with magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains.”

Larsson also maintains that the other dietary factors might also have influenced the findings. After all, those whose diets are high in magnesium-rich foods are also likely to have higher intake or absorption of other nutrients, such as dietary fibre and folate. Hopefully, further large controlled trials of magnesium supplementation will clarify the link.

There are of course a number of reasons why magnesium in particular may help reduce the risk of stroke. Strokes are said to be caused by conditions such as hypertension, atherosclerosis and diabetic complications, all of which are linked with low magnesium. This mineral is essential for keeping blood vessels strong and preventing blood from clotting. The UK recommended intake for magnesium is currently 270mg for women and 300mg for men, although it is estimated that many of us in the UK do not manage to reach these levels in our diet.

The best way to ensure that you are getting enough dietary magnesium is to follow the below guidelines:

• Eat a wide variety of vegetables daily, including greens such as kale, spinach and chard.
• Include beans, legumes, nuts and seeds as magnesium-rich sources of protein.
• Include a variety of wholegrains, such as oats, buckwheat, barley, rye and quinoa.
• Choose animal foods that are magnesium-rich, such as halibut and mackerel.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

Reference
(1.) Larsson S, Orsini N and Wolk A. Dietary magnesium intake and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Feb 2012.

(2.) Image courtesy of Dan

 

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A hard tablet to swallow? The benefits of sublingual and transdermal supplements

We are all becoming aware that the nutritional value of the food we rely on day to day contains less vitamins and minerals than it did 50 years ago and that our modern, pressured lifestyles impact on our natural health balance(1). For most of us we look to capsules, tablets and drinks to supplement our intake. However, recently a number of research bodies have reminded us that ingesting these nutrients is not the only way of ensuring an adequate supply… and maybe there are more efficient ways.

Our digestive health has never been so poor. The human body requires hydrochloric acid in the stomach to break down our food sufficiently in order for it to absorb the essential nutrients within. Historically, as we age our production of hydrochloric acid reduces but this process is becoming evident earlier and earlier in our lives. When we are ill, production further reduces. Hospitals will provide intramuscular injections or intravenous drips rather than tablets for certain nutrients for this very reason. The key therefore is to get the nutrients or medication into the bloodstream as soon as possible, reducing opportunity for wastage.

Absorption options:

DLUX Vitamin D Spray
Vitamin D is one vitamin that can be taken in a spray sublingually to help promote better absorption

A ground breaking study(2) by Dr Charles Heard of The Welsh School of Pharmacy investigated ways of reducing death from malaria. Victims often struggled with quinine tablets (an effective treatment) as vomiting and illness impeded their absorption. A simple quinine solution, sprayed under the tongue delivered the life-saving medication directly into the bloodstream. There’s no requirement for water or for a doctor to administer an injection. The mucous membrane around the cheek and under the tongue is an incredibly absorbent tissue and absorption is immediate. The concept works for other elements which either require the bloodstream to transport them to essential organs, such as vitamin D (essential for bone health and the immune system), or which struggle to be absorbed within the stomach such as vitamin B12 (a large molecule necessary for energy production).

The skin too should not be overlooked for its absorption qualities. We just have to look at the rapid rise of skin patches to see just how important the skin is. The body’s largest organ is a very hungry one and works hard to keep bad elements out of the body and absorb beneficial ones. A clinical trial this year(3) by Cardiff University showed how mineral salts such as magnesium are particularly well absorbed through the skin, whether sprayed on or absorbed in a bath, helping the body to normalise muscle function and absorb calcium. We all know how relaxing a mineral-rich spa pool can be for this very reason.

The lungs are a particularly interesting area. A very effective absorption membrane it benefits from an undulating surface area which, if laid flat would be the size of a tennis court. This is why smoking is such an additive activity. The benefits, of course, mean that people with respiratory difficulties can inhale muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories. Specialising in support for athletes The Magnesium Therapy Centre(4) in Orthenstraat, Holland, has developed a method of exposing magnesium chloride solution to ultrasonic vibration within a steam room, allowing the magnesium to be breathed in so enhancing the lungs ability for oxygen uptake.

There will always be a requirement for ingested nutrients but we should not ignore the fact that the whole of the body has been designed for optimum absorption.

Written by Andrew Thomas from BetterYou

References

1. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Dep. Of health 2008-2010.

2. Delivery of atovaquone and proguanil across sublingual membranes, in vitro. Eleri Wallace, Charlene M.Y. Ong and Charles M. Heard. Welsh School of Pharmacy, UK

3. In vitro transdermal delivery of magnesium. 25 Oct 2011. Dr Charles Heard, Cardiff University

4. Magnesium Therapy Centre, Holland

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Natural solutions for more energy

Are you the type of person that jumps out of bed every morning with a smile on your face as soon as your alarm goes off, ready and waiting to face the day? Do you remain full of energy and on full pelt for the rest of the day before having a great night’s sleep every night? Or are you more likely to hit snooze on your alarm as much as possible before you absolutely have to get up? Then day-dream about your bed as your energy levels drop through the floor throughout the day?! If you are more likely to be the latter, you are most certainly not alone.

A persistent lack of energy is one of the most common complaints in both men and women across the nation. Daylight, and more importantly sunlight, has a great effect on our overall energy levels.  Historically we are used to being outside all day benefiting from the effects of sunlight. Modern living, however, results in the majority of us spending large amounts of time indoors, deprived of sunlight and this causes problems with our body’s natural rhythm and well being.

Officially summer comes to an end this weekend with clocks going back an hour. This signals the start of dull days with very limited and less intense sunlight and even less opportunity to benefit from the sun. This can bring about a reduction in energy levels for much of the population and reduced daylight can, in some cases, cause Season Affective Disorder (SAD) – sometimes known as Winter Depression. As a result many people begin to dread the winter months. There are, however, many natural ways to combat low energy and SAD. Balancing your circadian rhythm is a great way to do this.

Below we have drawn up a brief guide on how you can boost your energy levels and prevent the frequent desire for those 3pm snoozes!

Early Morning (approx 6.30am – 9am)

A healthy start to the day
A boiled egg with wholemeal toast will provide you will a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning. (1)

Your Internal Bodyclock is in its “awakening” mode at this stage. Your metabolism is slow and rising. Your body temperature, blood pressure and cortisol levels are all also increasing, signalling to your body to wake up. You may feel ‘groggy’ first thing and crave that morning cup of coffee or a bowl of sweet, sugary breakfast cereal. This may give you a rapid increase in energy, but it will also leave you with an energy slump once the initial effects have worn off. This is where people can fall into the habit of regular caffeine or sugary snacks in an attempt to maintain this feeling.

There are better ways to boost your energy and replenish the low blood glucose levels that have developed during sleep. Try adding a slice of lemon to hot water – this has natural sugars and also helps cleanse the digestive system (having the effect of a bit of a mini detox) ready for the day ahead. Also opt for high fibre breakfasts such as 100% pure rolled porridge oats with a handful of fruit and seeds or a boiled egg with wholemeal toast. These kinds of foods will provide you with a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning, keeping you full for longer and reducing those energy slumps.

Try to get out in the daylight as much as possible in the morning as this will wake your body up for the day. The winter days will prevent many people from being able to do this, therefore you may wish to try using a sunrise alarm clock, like the Lumie Bodyclock Starter in the mornings. This will stimulate your brain into waking gradually, balancing your circadian rhythm and your cortisol levels, which has the added bonus of being able to also support your immune system and stress levels.

Morning until Lunch (approx 9am – 2pm)

As your cortisol levels are still increasing you are more alert and efficient and your mental capability has reached its peak of the day. This means your concentration, memory and focus are all waiting to be utilised. So use this time to get all your lingering tasks done!

You could also try using a SAD light for 30 minutes every day for energy stimulation. The effectiveness of SAD Lights is measured in lux, which is the level of light intensity that you would normally get from the sun. A SAD light with 10,000 lux is recommended for those who want to see the most benefits.

Also avoid drinking coffee at this time as this can cause the swift rises and falls in energy levels. Instead you could try green tea, which is packed with antioxidants and contains much less caffeine per cup. Other teas are also great options such as ginger tea, which is good for digestion. Peppermint, fennel and camomile are also good options.

Females should take extra care too. A lack of energy can be due to low iron levels and coffee has been shown to reduce iron stores in the body. Make sure your levels are topped up by eating foods rich in iron such as meats, some fish and leafy greens such as spinach. Consider taking an iron supplement and remember to take this with vitamin C to help its absorption. B vitamins are also great for energy – You could try adding a multivitamin with extra B Complex, such as Viridian High 5 Multi Vitamin to your daily routine.

Another helpful tip is to try to get outside during your lunch break – the fresh air and daylight can do wonders to prevent that mid-afternoon slump. When choosing your lunch, choose slow-release carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholemeal bread rather than refined carbs such as white bread or crisps. Also ensure you have some protein in your meal too – such as lean chicken, fish, beans or pulses.

Afternoon (approx 2pm – 5pm)

Your cortisol levels start to drop which can often lead to drowsiness or that mid-afternoon slump. It’s best to avoid the temptation for biscuits or chocolate for a sugar boost at this time. If you must have a snack, try a small piece of minimum 70% quality dark chocolate or some dried fruit, nuts or seeds. Make sure you prioritise your tasks for the afternoon so you know exactly what you need to achieve before home time. That way you can go home happy and content with the day. ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’ after all. Also taking in deep breaths is great for energy levels and can help reduce stress and aid concentration.

Lumie Bodyclock Active
The Lumie Bodyclock Active, which gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off

Evening (approx 5pm – 10pm)

As the evening progresses your melatonin levels start to increase (the hormone that prepares your body for sleep) and your digestion slows. Try to avoid snacking in the evening and heavy meals before bed time. This will require a lot of digestion as insulin is less effective at night. Also your digestive system will struggle to cope with excess amounts of food before bed and this can lead to weight gain as well as disruptive sleep – contributing to an imbalanced circadian rhythm. It is best to avoid all stimulants such as coffee, tea and alcohol as much as possible at this time as these can also disrupt your sleep.

A bad night’s sleep can cause low energy the following day and contribute to reduced mental performance. This can cause stress and lead to a spiral of stress and disrupted sleep which is hard to get out of. If you have trouble drifting off at night, try a sunrise alarm clock with a sunset feature like the Lumie Bodyclock Active. The light gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off. If a sunset feature is not for you, then try spraying lavender on your pillow or rubbing some lavender sleep therapy balm on your body to help you switch off.

In addition to these helpful tips, specific nutrients that can support energy levels are:

  • Magnesium – found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Vitamin B Complex – found in brown rice and wholemeal bread. If you supplement this, it is best taken as a “complex” of B Vitamins
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) & Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC) – Found in green foods such as broccoli, spinach and some red meats
  • Co-Enzyme Q10 – found in fish, organ meats such as liver and whole grains
  • Iron – found in a multitude of food sources, such as red meat, beans and pulses, leafy green vegetables, tofu and fortified breads and cereals
  • Ginkgo Biloba – a widely available supplement or combined in an energy supplement such as Femergy

Consistent poor energy levels should be treated seriously. If you think the cause of your low energy levels is more than poor diet you should always consult your GP or Natural Health Practitioner.

 

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

 

References

1.  Image courtesy of Simon Howden.

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Beat the winter blues: Supplements and SAD

In Parts 1 and 2, I wrote about the impact of light therapy and diet on managing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and its milder form, the ‘winter blues’. In Part 3 we’ll look at further nutritional support for this common disorder.

Doctor's Best Vitamin D3 2000iu
Evidence suggests that people with SAD who have low levels of vitamin D might benefit from supplementation.

Vitamin D

As there are fewer daylight hours in the winter months, levels of Vitamin D in the body can drop. While light boxes represent a promising treatment option for SAD, they do not provide UV light and so will not boost Vitamin D levels. Researchers have tested whether Vitamin D supplementation can improve mood during the winter months. A double-blind study found that mood improved in healthy people without SAD who received 400 or 800 IU per day of vitamin D for five days in late winter (1).

Another study tested the effects of supplementation with either 600 or 4000 IU of vitamin D every day for six months (2). Both dosages led to improved mood and general well-being in the participants, with those on the higher dose experiencing greater benefits.

Although additional research needs to be done before any conclusions can be made, the available evidence suggests that people with SAD who have low levels of vitamin D might benefit from supplementation.

Magnesium

The Western diet, high in animal produce and refined carbohydrates, leaves us vulnerable to deficiency in the mineral magnesium. This may affect mood, because conversion of tryptophan to mood-enhancing serotonin is dependent on sufficient levels of magnesium. Studies indicate that an insufficient level of magnesium can alter also levels of melatonin and upset the body’s biological clock, a pattern that is seen in SAD (3).

Supplementing with magnesium can be recommended to those with insufficient intake. I prefer the forms magnesium citrate or magnesium taurate, which are bioavailable, well-absorbed forms.

Omega-3

I wrote about the importance of omega 3 in optimising serotonin levels in Part 2. These oils appear to have a natural anti-depressant action, and their effect on mental health has been widely studied. While omega-3 can be supplied through oily fish in the diet, those who are concerned with levels of mercury in fish might want to try supplementing with a fish oil that has been screened for contaminants.

Omega 3
Omega 3 oils appear to have a natural anti-depressant action, and their effect on mental health has been widely studied.

St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort is widely recognised as an effective supplement for mood disorders, and one small randomised study has investigated its benefit for those with SAD (4). The blinded study tested the effects of a daily dose of 900mg of St John’s Wort over 4 weeks. It concluded that the supplement may be an efficient therapy for those with SAD, though further research is needed.

This herb is thought to increase serotonin levels by inhibiting serotonin reuptake, working in a similar way to conventional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. If you are using a light box to relieve SAD or the ‘winter blues’, then you should check with your GP before taking St John’s Wort, as this herb can make your eyes more sensitive to light.

As winter approaches, the short days and long nights of the season can make life difficult for those with SAD. Even in its milder form, the ‘winter blues’, symptoms of low mood, fatigue and weight gain can make life miserable. The good news is that some fairly simply lifestyle adjustments can make a positive difference. Using a sunrise alarm clock in the mornings for instance can also help you get out of bed on the “right side”. The evidence for bright light therapy with an approved light box is compelling, and coupling this with nutritional support might just help you to banish those winter blues for good.

 

Written by Nadia Mason

References

1. Lansdowne AT, Provost SC. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998.135:319–23.

2. Vieth R, et al. Randomized comparison of the effects of the vitamin D3 adequate intake versus 100 mcg (4000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of patients. Nutrition Journal 2004. 3:8

3. Wester PO. Magnesium. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1987. 45 (5 Suppl): 1305–12. PMID 3578120

4. Durlach J, Pagès N, Bac P; Bara M, Guiet-Bara A, Agrapart C
Chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion with hypofunction or with hyperfunction of the biological clock. Magnesium research : official organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium 2002.15(3-4):263-8.

5. Kasper S. Treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with Hypericum extract. Pharmacopsychiatry 1997. 30:89-93.

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Why magnesium is important for health

In our efforts to remain healthy and youthful there is a lot of talk about antioxidants, omega oils, calcium and several other nutrients and yet we may have overlooked the missing link in our diets, the mineral magnesium.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and can be found in the teeth, bones and red blood cells.  In fact half is found in bone and the rest in soft tissue in the body.  The body jealously maintains about 1% of its magnesium within the blood making blood tests notoriously difficult to identify a deficiency (1).  Magnesium is our most interactive mineral.  It is essential for numerous biochemical reactions carried out within the body (over 350 in fact – more than iron and zinc combined) and interestingly the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are identical to those found in old age and include low energy levels, irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries, migraines and headaches, heavy metals build-up, high blood pressure and insulin resistance (2).

BetterYou Magnesium Oil
Magnesium – our most important mineral that we all overlook

A study published in 2005 (3) showed that a staggering 70% of the US population may be magnesium deficient and 19% didn’t even reach half the Recommended Daily Allowance, which has just been raised to 360mg in the UK.  People at serious risk of magnesium deficiency include the elderly, diabetics, children, those on low calorie diets, those over-indulging in alcohol and those engaged in heavy exercise and stressful lifestyles.

Modern Western diets

Unfortunately modern farming methods have depleted the soils and artificial fertilizer favours certain minerals over others.  Over processing food depletes magnesium levels as does increasing the shelf life of food.  Did you know that we lose over 80% of the magnesium in wholegrain flour when we convert it into white bread?  In fact, magnesium levels in our diet are half what they were hundred years ago.  Foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, nuts, wholegrains and dark green vegetables but these rarely feature within our daily staple diet.  In addition our calcium intake has never been higher (4).  Asian and African populations have a dramatically lower intake of calcium with little incidence of osteoporosis. Their magnesium intake however is at least double that of Western diets.

Magnesium deficiency develops over time so we often only notice problems when we experience changes due to age, the menopause or when our body is under stress.

Low Energy & Fatigue

Magnesium is a key mineral in the enzyme processes that convert food into energy and several studies show that individuals with low magnesium levels use more energy and therefore tire quickly.  Magnesium is critical for both the synthesis and secretion of insulin so diabetics are often found to be deficient in magnesium (5).

PMS & Hormonal Imbalances

Sufferers of PMS have significantly lower levels of magnesium suggesting a clear association.  In fact research by Dr David Thomas showed sufferers of severe PMS will tend to have common elements within their diet consuming only a quarter of their necessary magnesium but almost 80% more dairy and a staggering 275% more sugar (6)!

Insomnia

The inability to sleep may also be linked to magnesium deficiency.  If you find it difficult to sleep or find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with muscle spasms, cramps or stiffness you may benefit from higher levels of magnesium (7).

Bone Health

Although calcium is the most abundant skeletal mineral it is very poorly soluble on its own.  It requires sufficient hydrochloric acid (quantity of which reduces as we age) magnesium and vitamin D in order for it to be absorbed into the bone.  Calcium that is not made soluble cannot enter the bone and settles in soft tissue such as joints, muscles and in arteries as cholesterol plaque (8).

Cramps & Spasms

Magnesium is essential for the proper function of muscles.  Calcium is responsible for the contraction phase of muscles whilst magnesium is needed for the relaxation phase.  Cramping at night and irritating twitches in the eyelids are often clear signs of magnesium deficiency.  Restless Leg Syndrome, a poorly understood neurological disorder, responds favourably to magnesium chloride rubbed into the muscles (9).

Headaches

Many studies indicate that there is a relationship between headaches, migraines and low levels of magnesium in the bloodstream.  Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels, encouraging normalised oxygen flow to the brain (10).

Anxiety, Nerves & Irritability

A deficiency in magnesium can result in the symptoms of anxiety and irritability since magnesium is required for the manufacture of adrenal stress hormones.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones, one of the most painful urinary disorders, have beset humans for centuries.  A kidney stone is a hard mass of chemicals from urine.  The most common type of kidney stone contains calcium oxalate.  Studies indicate that magnesium helps prevent recurrence of calcium oxalate kidney stones due to its effects on solubilising calcium in urine (11).

Skin problems

Magnesium is necessary for the elasticity and dermal protection of the skin and low levels will reduce skin cell health (12).

Magnesium absorption through the skin

Our intestines are simply not efficient at absorbing relatively large doses of magnesium from supplements and increasing the intake simply results in diarrhoea.  Absorption is dramatically reduced with poor digestive efficiency, particularly as we age or when unwell.  This is why hospitals will always favour a slow, gradual supply (IV drip) rather than an oral supplement.

Magnesium chloride is the form favoured by our bodies as it is the result of all other magnesium compounds being exposed to the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs.  Magnesium chloride is in fact the result of evaporation of sea water. As pure and as simple as that and it is perfectly suited to absorption through the skin.  Cardiff University has just completed the first clinical trial to produce evidence that magnesium is excellently absorbed through the skin (13).  And an earlier trial in 2010 showed that the body could remineralise five times faster by skin application than by oral supplementation (14).

Written by Andrew Thomas from BetterYou

References

1. Last, W., “Magnesium Chloride for Health & Rejuvenation”.
2. Cargue, Otto, Vital Facts about Foods, 1933, quoted in J.I. Rodale, Magnesium, the Nutrient that could Change your Life, Pyramid Books, New York, 1968; also see “Excessive Calcium causes Osteoporosis”, Sircus, Mark, “Magnesium and Calcium”
3. CSIRO Minerals Report DMR-2378, September 2004.
4. Karpf, Anne, “Dairy Monsters”, The Guardian, UK, 13 December 2003. 
5. Office of Dietary Supplements, “Magnesium”. King, D. et al., “Dietary Magnesium and Creactive Protein Levels”, J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 2005 Jun; 24(3):166-71
6. http://www.mywire.com/a/WorldWatch/Nutrients-declining-food-supply/1632863/
7. Davis, W. and Ziady, F., “The Role of Magnesium in Sleep”, Montreal Symposium 1976,  also see http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/70832.php
8.12.Sircus, Mark, AC, OCD, Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, Phaelos Books, Chandler, Arizona, 2006, p.199; see http://www. magnesiumforlife.com/ or http://www. magnesiumforlife.com/thebook.shtml
9. Restless legs syndrome is treatable but under-recognised. British Medical Journal. 2 September 2006; 333:457-458 doi:10.1136/bmj.333.7566.457
10. Vergini, R., MD, “Magnesium Chloride in Acute and Chronic Diseases”,  or http://www.industryinet.com/~ruby/ magnesium_chloride.html
11. Piesse, J.W., “Nutritional Factors in Calcium Containing Kidney Stones with Particular Emphasis on Vitamin C” (review article), Int. Clin.
13. National School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University. Pub date TBC.
14. A Pilot Study to determine the impact of Transdermal Magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg Ratios, Josling & Watkins.  Date of publication 09/04/2010.

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