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Should you be taking a magnesium supplement?

These days there are so many supplements available, and they all sound so great, that it can be difficult to figure out which ones you should actually be taking – after all, we can’t take all of them!

So today we’re talking about magnesium. People rave about this mineral all the time, and for good reason: it’s involved in over 300 chemical processes in the body, from energy production to muscle control. Magnesium deficiency is also really common these days because intensive farming has depleted magnesium from our soils, and less magnesium in the soil means less magnesium in our food. This, and the fact that many of us aren’t eating enough healthy, magnesium-rich foods to start with!

So how do you know if you should be taking a magnesium supplement?

First of all, let’s take a look at some of the groups of people who commonly require a magnesium supplement:

  • Menopausal women. Magnesium is important for so many aspects of the menopause. It can help beat fatigue, counter low mood and keep bones healthy. The stress that the menopause puts on your body can quickly strip magnesium from your system.
  • Pregnant women. As with many vitamins and minerals, pregnant women need extra magnesium to pass onto their baby – in particular to make strong, healthy bones.
  • Menstruating women – seeing a pattern yet? Period pain is often caused by the muscles around the uterus painfully contracting. Magnesium is vital for muscle relaxation, so it is a very useful supplement for women who struggle with period pain. It can also decrease fatigue, another common symptom associated with periods and PMS.
  • People who exercise regularly. Magnesium is vital for muscle function, and without it you might experience stiff, painful muscles after exercise. Intensive exercise can also strip magnesium from the body, so it's important to replace it!
  • People with stressful jobs or lifestyles. Stress quickly depletes our stores of magnesium, so the more stressed you are, the less magnesium you are likely to have.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, so you can get an idea of whether you are low on this vital mineral:

  • Muscle problems. This includes muscle spasms, cramps, stiffness, weakness and difficulty co-ordinating muscles.
  • Fatigue. This is a very common side effect of even mild magnesium deficiency. If you find that you feel fatigued, exhausted or weak, it may be that you are low in magnesium – but consider an iron supplement too.
  • Mood and sleep problems. Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system, and it can also reduce the release of stress hormones. This means that a lack of magnesium can cause all kinds of nervous problems such as low mood, irritability, anxiety and sleep problems. These symptoms are commonly related to fatigue, as exhaustion can easily cause irritability and low mood, plus sleep problems will inevitably cause fatigue, so it can really be a vicious cycle.

So if you fit into any of these categories and experience some of these symptoms, you should consider a magnesium supplement.

But with so many available, what type do you buy?

When looking for a magnesium supplement, look out for those containing magnesium citrate or chelated magnesium as these are the most easily absorbed. Tablets and capsules are probably the most common, but don’t disregard other forms such as liquids or sprays – these are actually often absorbed much more quickly and easily by the body than tablets and capsules!

In addition, try to increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods like seeds, nuts, oily fish, leafy greens and quinoa. And some good news for you chocolate lovers – dark chocolate is a great source of magnesium! Just watch it doesn’t have too much sugar and other nasties in it. One of our favourite chocolate brands is Ombar.