If you've ever perused the vitamin and supplement section at your local pharmacy or health store, you might be wondering, "What is magnesium used for?" It turns out that magnesium is a critical component for many of our body's main functions.
What Is Magnesium
Before discussing the role of magnesium supplementation, it's important to understand magnesium's role in normal body functions. Magnesium is a multi-faceted mineral essential for proper functioning of the human body. Adequate magnesium levels are needed for normal bone growth. In addition, magnesium is involved in:
- Regulation of blood sugar
- Nerve function
- Muscle function
- Immune system support
- Regulation of body temperature
- Blood pressure maintenance
- Energy metabolism
Magnesium is found naturally in unprocessed foods, including green vegetables, legumes, nuts, unrefined grains, fish, and potatoes. If you are looking for foods high in magnesium, spinach is a wonderful option.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency can occur due to poor nutrition, but that is uncommon in the United States. In the U.S., deficiency is more likely a result of alcoholism, untreated diabetes, certain prescription drugs, diuretic abuse, poor absorption, or chronic diarrhea. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are varied and may include:
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness and tingling
- Weakened immunity
- Anxiety disorders
What Is Magnesium Used For: Specific Conditions
Magnesium supplementation is suggested or prescribed for numerous ailments, but only a physician can determine if a deficiency actually exists. If you suspect a deficiency, consult with your doctor. Do not start a supplementation regimen on your own because too much magnesium can be dangerous. There are different forms of magnesium, and each has its own set of uses and indications.
Aches and Pains
Magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salts, are useful for dealing with a variety of muscle aches and pains. Epsom salts baths are popular among athletes, but the general public can also see benefits from them. Simply add a cup of Epsom salts to running warm water and soak as tolerated. An added benefit to Epsom salt baths is increased serotonin, which means a better mood and relaxed spirit. For added relaxation, add a couple drops of essential oils, such as lavender. Magnesium sulfate has more far-reaching benefits that simple aches and tired muscles, though. Epsom salts gel has been found to reduce pain in sufferers of fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.
Magnesium's Uses in Pregnancy and Childbirth
Magnesium sulfate is also used during pregnancy in emergency situations to prevent preterm labor and other complications. Some doctors use magnesium sulfate to treat preeclampsia. Magnesium sulfate in IV form is also used to try to prevent cerebral palsy in premature infants. A pregnant woman should not self-treat with magnesium as these treatments should only be undertaken with strict medical supervision, often in a hospital setting.
ADHD and Magnesium
Recent trials and studies have found important benefits of magnesium supplementation for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. For example, a 2006 study by Mousain-Bosc found that children with ADHD had much lower magnesium levels than normal. Therapies combining magnesium and vitamin B6 have shown great progress, with decreased activity and aggression, along with an increase in attention span.
Laxative and Bowel Cleansing
Epsom salts are used as a laxative for occasional constipation. In addition, magnesium citrate is used as a saline laxative. This is a slightly harsher and more effective laxative regimen and is often used to cleanse the bowels for surgery or colonoscopies.
Anxiety, Depression, and Mood
If mood disorders can be a symptom of magnesium deficiency, it stands to reason that magnesium supplementation can treat depression, anxiety, and other mood problems. Studies using both mice and humans show that is the case. In studies and testimonials, a combination of magnesium-rich foods and magnesium supplementation was shown to improve:
- Response to stress
- Nervous disorders
Now you know the answer to the question, "What is magnesium used for?" If you are concerned about your magnesium levels, ask your doctor if supplementation might be right for you.