My mother is one of the smartest people I know. She is more often than not right about most things and while it frustrates me ALOT I can’t help but secretly smile at how awesome most of her advice is.
On my last visit home to Bowral mum and I launched into one of our usual health related debates, this time centred on what supplements one should take. I am personally not a huge tablet taker, I take fish oil daily, an occasional zinc tablet and magnesium nightly before bed because I suffer the world’s worst night cramps. Since starting to take magnesium about 18 months ago my nocturnal cramps are fewer and less regular but I still get them several times a week.
Mum launched into a full blown discussion about how people take this and that and how do we actually know that our body is absorbing what we put into it…. Ok so I zoned out a little… until on the topic of my cramps the relationship between calcium and magnesium came up.
A while back I wrote a blog about magnesium and the important role it plays in many of our bodily functions. (Read that blog HERE) And all of this still holds true, magnesium is arguably the MASTER nutrient. BUT now thanks to my mother (and a little extra research on the side) I have realised that getting sufficient magnesium intake is a little more complicated than taking a tablet before bed. In the process she has quite possibly found the missing puzzle piece to my night cramping conundrum.
The body is impeccably designed, so much so that everything requires a balance. Too much of one thing inhibits absorption of another etc etc. When it comes to magnesium, one must consider its relationship to calcium. Most of us know that calcium is VITAL to the health of our teeth and bones. But calcium cannot act alone, it needs magnesium. These two minerals need to co-exist together to allow many critical bodily functions to take place. Too little of one or too much of another can lead to many health consequences!
What do we need calcium and magnesium for exactly?
In order for us to go about our daily activity, small electrical impulses take place in our neuromuscular system, this transmits a signal via the nerves to the brain to bring about movement. In order for these impulses to be transmitted calcium needs to enter our cells, through channels operated by magnesium. Calcium does its job then magnesium is again required to get rid of the used calcium before it crystallizes.
Not having enough magnesium leaves calcium deposits in the cells and can lead to headaches, migraines, heart disease etc etc
Like magnesium, calcium is also required at a muscular level. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant while calcium helps with contraction of muscle tissue. Having too much may lead to muscle twitching while chronic calcium deficiency can result in muscle cramping and spasm.
- Calcium: backbone mineral (literally) for development and maintenance of bones and teeth, while also important for muscle contraction/relaxation, nerve impulse transmission, metabolism
- Magnesium: The master nutrient for enzyme reactions in over 300 of the bodies cellular reactions, important for muscle relxation, REQUIRED for absorbtion of CALCIUM and other essential nutrients, regulation of body temperature and pH levels
Calcium + magnesium = THE DYNAMIC DUO
Both minerals require each other for utilisation and absorption in the body.
As a side note, we must also consider Vitamin D. Our bodies synthesize vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Unsurprisingly, with all the media focus on preventing skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen (which of course is no doubt very very important) many of us are actually Vitamin D deficient. Our skin needs to be exposed to some natural sunlight in order to get adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D is required to help the body absorb and regulate calcium levels in the blood, BUT in order for vitamin D to work it needs magnesium to convert it into its active form in our bloodstream.
In summary: Calcium and magnesium cannot exist alone. In order for our bodies to work as efficiently as they were designed to we need adequate amounts of both. Magnesium is needed to convert vitamin D into its active form and we need magnesium and vitamin D to absorb calcium. And so we come full circle.
Let’s look at a real life case study….. ME
Fit healthy 24 year old female. Exercises daily. Takes daily magnesium which have reduced incidence but not cured night cramps. In the last 18 months I have completely cut dairy from my diet due to skin allergies. So where do I get my calcium from? I did a little experiment and for 4 days I entered everything I ate into a program which tracked my calcium intake… average daily intake was 24% of my required level. PROBLEM.
My calcium:magnesium ration is way way way way out of whack.
Solution: Again thanks to my wise wise mother. Take a calcium supplement. I kid you not my night cramps have all but disappeared. I think I have suffered one or two nights since beginning to take calcium 3 weeks ago.
If there is anyting to take from this blog, other than mothers are ALWAYS right, its simply that to address deficiencies in our diet (of which most of us probably have a few) we need to look at the whole picture. If you have concerns about levels of certain nutrients or you think you may be deficient in something, chat to your GP, a qualified nutritionist or naturopath. These things can be tested and looked into but best done by a professional.