5 telltale signs that you might have a magnesium deficiency
From muscle cramps and migraines to chocolate cravings, these could all be signs you're lacking in this important mineral, writes Liz Connor.
Magnesium is one of those supplements that seems to be everywhere at the moment, and yet very few of us actually know what it does.
If your knowledge on the subject is scratchy, the short answer is that magnesium is pretty important for your health - it's the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, and involved with over 300 metabolic processes.
From keeping teeth and bones strong, to balancing hormones and supporting a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, think of magnesium - whether consumed via supplements or eating a diet rich in dark, leafy veg like spinach, whole wheat, nuts and beans - as the blanket mineral that keeps your entire body ticking over on a daily basis.
The average healthy adult requires around 270-400mg of magnesium per day, but research has shown that three-quarters of Brits aren't getting a good enough fix. In fact, magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in adults today, and this is associated with an increased risk of conditions such as diabetes, poor absorption, chronic diarrhoea, coeliac disease and 'hungry bone syndrome'.
Experts have even dubbed it the 'invisible deficiency', because it's do often overlooked, but there are plenty of telltale signs that you could be severely lacking in magnesium.
Here are six of the most common warning signs to look out for...
1. Muscle cramps
Ever lie in bed at night and get painful cramps in your feet or legs? Remember, craps are very common, especially if you're cold, but they can also be down to lack of magnesium.
Magnesium is an important tool for muscle relaxation, so when your body is depleted of it, your muscles can involuntarily contract. Twitches, tremors and cramps are all signs that you're not getting enough, and in some severe cases, deficiency may even cause seizures or convulsions. If you're experiencing muscle contractions more often than usual, it's a good idea to speak to your doctor to see whether you might need your magnesium levels tested.
2. Chocolate cravings
If you're constantly hankering for a chocolate fix, it might not just be down to your sweet tooth. When our bodies crave foods, it's often because they're telling us that we're lacking in a certain nutrient, and dark chocolate just so happens to be a brilliant source of magnesium; just one square contains about 24% of your daily requirement. To reap the benefits however, skip the sugar-laden milk chocolate and opt for a bar that's contains at least 65% cocoa. The darker the chocolate, the better the magnesium benefits.
One in seven Brits suffer with migraines, but few of us know that supplementing with magnesium could help. Studies have shown that low brain magnesium levels could be related to migraine attacks, as magnesium is needed for proper nerve function. If you regularly suffer from migraine-like headaches, it could be a good idea to invest in a daily magnesium supplement - but speak to your doctor first if you're already on any medication, and if your headaches are ongoing.
4. Trouble sleeping
Even a small lack of magnesium can prevent you from nodding off at night, because it plays an important role in your central nervous system. Magnesium can help to relax our muscles, while also stimulating a neurotransmitter in our bodies called GABA, which has a naturally calming effect on the brain. Next time you feel a bout of insomnia coming on? Try soaking in a magnesium-rich bath of Epsom salts to reap the full relaxation benefits.
Mental health issues affect one in four of us, so it's difficult to tell whether your anxiety is linked to a lack of magnesium. However, getting more of it in your diet could help ease the symptoms. A study in France of 264 patients with generalised anxiety disorder found that a statistically significant number of men and women reported improvements in their symptoms on a magnesium regimen. While magnesium won't cure your anxiety overnight, making sure you get enough into your diet will ensure that the 300 processes it affects are running correctly - which is sure to help you feel more relaxed in the long-run.