When you understand the role of magnesium in regulating and preventing the stress response and the far reaching affects that that can have on the body, it starts to become clear why magnesium plays such a key role in the treatment of a huge range of conditions.
Unsurprisingly depression, hypersensitivity, anxiety and panic attacks can all be symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Furthermore magnesium is a key component of most heart disease treatments. Risk factors associated with heart disease such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and stress itself, are all strongly associated with poor magnesium intake. Even the hereditary component of such diseases may have a link with magnesium, because a mother who is low in magnesium will provide her offspring with poor levels, this has been shown to result in a reduced tolerance to stress even later in life. It could also be that genetic abnormalities in magnesium metabolism may exist and will be passed on from parent to child.
As you might expect, behavioural disorders can also be impacted by an imbalance in magnesium. Nutrition in general has been identified as a contributing factor with conditions such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and Autism. Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, zinc, and most significantly, magnesium have all been shown to improve such conditions (Curtis & Patel 2008). As more research comes to light, magnesium is showing itself to be the dominant dietetic factor, with one study showing that 95% (of 116 children) diagnosed with ADHD have a magnesium deficiency (Kozielec & Starobrat-Hermelin 1997).
Magnesium is often given with Vitamin B6 to patients suffering from Autism, in this instance the magnesium is used to promote the bioavailability of Vitamin B6 but Mousain-Bosc et al. (2006) found that magnesium is effective in its own right, and identified half of their subjects as having low intracellular magnesium levels. They postulate, based on these findings and those of Schlingmann et al. (2002), that an impairment of a magnesium channel in the cell membrane could be responsible for cases of Autism and similar disorders due to the resultant hypomagnesia (too little magnesium) and secondary hypocalcemia (too little calcium as a result of too little magnesium). This explanation is particularly relevant with hereditary cases, where the same defect is likely to have been passed on.
Starobrat-Hermelin (1998) studied deficiencies in hyperactive children with ADHD, he found that mineral deficiencies of magnesium, copper, zinc, calcium and iron were all more common than in healthy children, and of these, magnesium was by far the most common and marked deficiency appearing in 110 of the 116 children studied. From a group of 75 children with ADHD and magnesium deficiency, the author treated 50 children with magnesium over a 6 month period, and retained 25 children as controls. In the treatment group there was a clear increase in not only magnesium, but also zinc and calcium levels in the body (magnesium aids the absorption and utilization of certain nutrients) and a significant decrease in hyperactivity. The study concludes that magnesium supplementation is of vital importance to ADHD children irrespective of the nature of other coexisting mental disorders, and should also be considered with any child at risk of educational, emotional or social problems. This is consistent with findings from other studies.
Seaman (2003) outlines further related complications of magnesium deficiency, connecting it to increased inflammatory response and free radical production which has implications for many health problems. This would explain why magnesium is often reported to be beneficial for joint problems, because inflammation and free radical damage are key issues with joint wear. Magnesium is also used to help prevent the calcification of tissues which causes aging and damage, this function is very relevent to the prevention of arthritis.
In the nervous system magnesium deficiency is known to increase sodium conduction which results in overactivity, this is evident not only as over sensitivity but also with muscular problems such as cramping and restless leg syndrome. Even seizure disorders can benefit from magnesium supplementation.
Magnesium deficiency will also result in the excessive release of excitatory chemicals, and a reduction of our naturally suppressive hormones including melatonin and serotonin which control mood, in fact magnesium is vital for proper melatonin regulation (Durlach 2002).
There is a well established link between stress, gut ulceration and magnesium. Studies in mice have shown that those with a naturally higher magnesium level in their blood are far less prone to developing stress induced ulcers, similarly that giving a diet low in magnesium will result in greater susceptibility and that magnesium supplementation can be a successful preventative measure (Henrotte et al. 1995). In humans the link between stress and the resulting predisposition to gastric disturbance is well known. It seems therefore, that we should be paying far greater attention to magnesium supplementation in cases of stress and gastric disturbance, particularly as nutraceutical aids which aim to neutralise stomach acid tend to be very high in calcium which will reduce magnesium absorption and heighten any imbalance. Furthermore, medicines which are used for the treatment of gut ulceration manage gastric acid by acting as proton pump inhibitors; this action is also greatly detrimental to magnesium absorption.
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