3 Reasons to keep magnesium in your cupboard this winter

3 Reasons to keep magnesium in your cupboard this winter

As we step into winter, keeping physically and mentally healthy can be a challenge, and many of us have our immune boosters on hand in case we get the sniffles. What you may not know is that the mineral magnesium is essential to the maintenance of good health. Magnesium is often associated with muscle cramps and exercise recovery, yet as an enzyme to over 300 chemical reactions, it helps regulate the cardiovascular, digestive, neurological and respiratory systems. 

Here are three reasons why you need to keep magnesium in your medicine cabinet this winter: 

1. Magnesium activates vitamin D 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a major role in immune function and cellular stability and magnesium is needed to move vitamin D around in the blood and to activate vitamin D. It also helps Vitamin D bind to its target proteins, and simultaneously helps the liver and the kidneys to metabolize Vitamin D. 

Our primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. Research has shown that influenza infection is most common worldwide when vitamin D levels are at their lowest, i.e. during winter; the less you’re exposed to the sun, the less your body is able to produce Vitamin D. A meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials – with over 11,000 participants – showed that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections in the overall population by 12%. Furthermore, both magnesium and vitamin D sufficiency is required to counteract the detrimental effects of COVID-19 development. Magnesium’s role in activating vitamin D is essential in that vitamin D has been shown to reduce the rate of viral infection in patients with several respiratory tract infections. 

Thus, even if you are supplementing with Vitamin D, if your magnesium levels are low, vitamin D is stored and inactive, until magnesium levels are reached. 

2. Magnesium affects your mood 

If you’re one of those people who get the “winter blues”, insufficient levels of magnesium can exacerbate those feelings by inhibiting the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP*, which causes a decrease in the production of the mood-stabilizing hormones, serotonin and melatonin. Due to this role in serotonin production, not getting enough magnesium may even lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). ** Studies also show that magnesium helps stimulate your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s ability to relax – vital for good sleep. 

3. Magnesium has anti-inflammatory effects 

Magnesium has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects both on its own, and as a result of activating vitamin D. Studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory effects of magnesium are potentially responsible for reducing symptoms of asthma patients treated with magnesium. There is also strong evidence of magnesium playing a role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and inflammation. 

Magnesium can be found naturally in avocado, spinach, almonds, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, black beans, wheat, and oatmeal. If you choose to supplement and you’re currently taking any medications, please discuss the dosage with your pharmacist as certain prescription medications can deplete magnesium. 

When choosing your supplement, always check if there is a full list of ingredients on the product, a package insert, a valid company address with contact details and compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which is a prerequisite for health product manufacturing. Read more on How to choose a supplement. 

 * 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan, an essential amino acid. After tryptophan (an amino acid) is converted into 5-HTP, the chemical is changed into another chemical called serotonin (a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells). Source: Mount Sinai. 

** Symptoms of SAD are irritability, low energy, sleep issues and difficulty with concentration.  

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References 

1. Diamandis, E.P. (2020). Vitamin D and Magnesium – Benefits, Dosages, and Why They Should Go Together. Iamaware [Online]. Accessed on 19 May 2022. Available from https://www.imaware.health/blog/vitamin-d-and-magnesium [IA] 

2. DiNicolantonio, J. J., & O’Keefe, J. H. (2021). Magnesium and Vitamin D Deficiency as a Potential Cause of Immune Dysfunction, Cytokine Storm and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation in Covid-19 Patients. Missouri Medicine, 118(1), 68–73. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33551489/ [SM] 

3. Eskander, M., & Razzaque, M. S. (2022). Can Maintaining Optimal Magnesium Balance Reduce the Disease Severity of COVID-19 Patients?. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 13, 843152. https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2022.843152 [FE] 

4. ITL Health. (n.d.) Why You Should Supplement with Magnesium this Winter. ITL Health [Online] Accessed on 18 May 2022. Available from https://www.itlhealth.com/articles/magnesium-benefits/why-you-should-supplement-with-magnesium-this-winter [ITL] 

5. Jennings, K. (2017). How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep. Healthline [Online]. Accessed on 23 May 2022. Available from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep [HL] 

6. Kirkland, A. E., Sarlo, G. L., & Holton, K. F. (2018). The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders. Nutrients, 10(6), 730. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10060730 [N] 

7. Lipman, F. (2011). SAD: Winter Blues Busters. Huffpost [Online]. Accessed on 18 May 2022. Available from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sad-winter-blues-busters_b_813069 [HP] 

8. Mount Sinai. (n.d.) 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Mount Sinai [Online] Accessed on 20 May 2022. Available from https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/5-hydroxytryptophan-5-htp [MS] 

9. Story M. J. (2021). Essential sufficiency of zinc, ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin D and magnesium for prevention and treatment of COVID-19, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and cancer. Biochimie, 187, 94–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biochi.2021.05.013 [B] 

 

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