Is your immune system getting enough of this one essential mineral?
Updated: Jun 27
If you find yourself susceptible to every sniffle, bug and cough doing the rounds, you might want to think about your magnesium levels.
Let’s be clear; there is no silver bullet when it comes to supporting our immune systems and there’s no escaping the fact that we all need to eat a varied and healthy diet. However, there is increasing evidence that magnesium plays an essential role.
You may be aware that vitamin D has immune-supporting properties; after all, those of us living in the northern hemisphere are less likely to catch a cold in the summer months – when there are more daylight hours (vitamin D forms in our skin in response to sunlight).
But what has this got to do with magnesium?
Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D. According to Anne Marie Uwitoze and Mohammed S. Razzaque in a 2018 paper for The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, all the enzymes that metabolise vitamin D, require magnesium to do so.
Simply put: if your magnesium levels are low, then your body is going to be less efficient in harnessing the benefits of vitamin D, therefore impacting the effectiveness of your immune system.
So, what can you do to ensure you are getting enough magnesium? Magnesium can be obtained orally through diet (from sources such as: chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds and avocado) and/or supplements - although some thinking suggests that it is best taken transdermally (i.e. through the skin).
Transdermal application of magnesium is often presented as being more effective, as almost 100% of it is absorbed by the body. There is also the added bonus of fewer side-effects, such as diarrhoea, as it bypasses the gastrointestinal tract. Having said that, a 2017 paper titled Myth or Reality – Transdermal Magnesium?, which looked at effectiveness of transdermal application, could not categorically say it was the best method.
Personally, I like to soak my feet in warm water and magnesium chloride flakes just before bed (you can also add them to your bath), as I find it very calming. There are indications that magnesium is an excellent muscle relaxant and that it helps to “slow down” the receptors in the brain and nervous system, promoting sleep.
Whatever the best method may be, it is clear that in order to support our immune systems, we should be getting adequate amounts of magnesium, as well as vitamin D.
Signs that you may be magnesium deficient:
· Sore muscles and cramps
· Low mood
· High blood pressure
· Numbness and tingling in the extremities
· Irregular heart rhythms
Signs that you may be vitamin D deficient:
· Frequently ill
· Aches and pains
· Low mood
· Hair loss