What does magnesium do?
- Magnesium helps to break down fight and flight compounds such as adrenaline and noradrenaline – this helps to avoid being worked up and stressed out all the time.
- Magnesium helps with bowel regularity – taking the “trash” out everyday is so important for toxin removal.
- Magnesium is required to make serotonin, our neurotransmitter associated with happiness.
- Magnesium helps to relax the body, muscles and get a better night of rest. How you feel when you wake up can determine how your day will go or how you will influence other people’s day.
- Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause people to be “hangry” and make poor dietary choices.
- Magnesium helps with vitamin D absorption – both from the sun and from supplements.
- Magnesium helps with energy production in the mitochondria as well as DNA and protein synthesis.
Why are we deficient in magnesium?
- Highly refined and processed food
- Topsoil erosion and excess of heavy metals
- Chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions
- Medications eg proton pump inhibitors – Pantoprazole or Nexium.
- Chronic stress
- Ageing – decreased stomach acid needed to absorb magnesium.
- Diabetes – type 1 and 2
How do we measure magnesium levels?
- Serum magnesium is most commonly measured – but only accounts for 1% of total body magnesium
- Intracellular magnesium gives a more accurate measurement of how much magnesium is inside a cell and available for enzyme reactions.
- 90% of total body magnesium is in our bones and muscles
Where can we source magnesium in our food?
- Leafy greens
- And…..dark chocolate!
Overall magnesium is a very important mineral that our body (and genome) has needed for millennia. Current lifestyle choices, chronic conditions and food quality can impact on magnesium availability and thus contribute to (subclinical) magnesium deficiency. This can be an under-recognised driver of cardiovascular disease.
If in doubt, get your levels of magnesium tested by your health care provider, and if recommended, support your body with a good quality supplement – you may notice a benefit in lots of areas of your life.
Today I want to briefly discuss how I now approach an individual with an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune means the body attacks itself. Unfortunately autoimmune conditions are on the rise as noted in this article from 2015 (The World Incidence and Prevalence of Autoimmune Disease is increasing, Lerner A et al, 2015. doi:10.12691/ijcd-3-4-8).
In conventional medicine, autoimmune diseases are usually seen by separate specialities eg rheumatologists for rheumatoid arthritis, endocrinologists for thyroid conditions and type 1 diabetes, gastroenterologists for coeliac disease and neurologists for multiple sclerosis.
Through a functional medicine lens, we look at the whole individual and see the body as interconnected. In considering why an autoimmune condition may start, we look at a four legged stool of: environmental triggers, genetic predisposition, weak, imbalanced immune system and intestinal permeability. Many times we will start with good gut health, often supporting the affected body part with prescribed autoimmune treatment while necessary, and addressing lifestyle and environmental triggers that are contributing to the immune system acting like an overwhelmed, cornered animal.
From Dr Terry Wahls, MD: “Chronic stress and resulting sympathetic dominance will then lead to chronically lowered levels of immune organ activity, higher levels of immune dysregulation and the inability of the immune system to react to threats appropriately.”
So what can be environmental triggers?
- Poor quality foods
And what can contribute to intestinal permeability?
- Medications including the oral contraceptive pill, NSAIDs including Nurofen (Ibuprofen)
- Imbalance in gut bugs – dysbiosis – overgrowth of bad gut bugs
- Candida overgrowth
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Glyphosate (active ingredient in RoundUp)
Why might the immune system be weak or overwhelmed?
- Multiple competing infections – Epstein Barr virus, Candida
- Toxicity – eg mercury
- Nutrient depletion – Vitamin A, D, K (all fat soluble vitamins), Zinc
- Stress – high cortisol
What might cause long term immune system activation
- Gluten and Intestinal permeability
- Food sensitivities
- Gastrointestinal dysbiosis (gut bug imbalance)
- Nutrient deficiency
- Overt toxicity
- Ongoing stress
How would we start to address an autoimmune condition in an individual?
- Put in what’s needed for this unique person
- Gut health strengthening – soothing and healing supplements, probiotics
- Nutritional support where there are known nutrient imbalances
- Eating hygiene
- Good hydration
- Regular bowel movements
- Take out what’s harmful for an individual
- Excessive exercise
- Medications contributing to intestinal permeability
- Stress – raised cortisol (stress hormone) increases intestinal permeability
- Foods that can cause intestinal permeability eg wheat – gluten is proven to cause increased intestinal permeability with undigested food able to access the whole body
- Create an environment for healing
- Sleep. Soundly. Regularly.
- Clean air, water and thoughts.
- Eat real foods that don’t confuse the immune system eg GMOs and chemical laden Foods