Stress eats your magnesium
New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert answers readers’ questions about their health.
Question: Hi Dr Libby, I’ve read that magnesium is very important, particularly when we are stressed. So do we need more magnesium when we are stressed? Thanks, Melissa
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and we don’t talk enough about it and the vital role it plays in great health and energy, as well as disease prevention. About 50 per cent of total body magnesium is found in our bones. Magnesium is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, keeps bones strong and allows us to relax.
Although you may not obtain optimal amounts of magnesium from your diet for a host of reasons, it’s rare to be truly deficient. However, certain conditions can disrupt the body’s magnesium balance. For example, a gastrointestinal infection that causes vomiting or diarrhoea, some gastrointestinal diseases (such as IBS or ulcerative colitis), type 2 diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease and certain medications such as diuretics can lead to deficiencies. Magnesium can also become depleted with prolonged stress, as it is required by the body to produce the stress hormone adrenalin. Therefore, our requirements are greater when we are producing excessive amounts of stress hormones as the body’s priority is to save your life from the danger it perceives you are in, rather than sparing the magnesium for good bone health, for example. Stress management is vital to maintaining the balance of many vitamins and minerals, including magnesium.
Question: Hi Dr Libby. My hairdresser has commented that my hair is breaking really easily. Is there something I can do with my diet that might help this? I’m only 23 so I want to get this sorted! Thanks, Keira
There are many reasons why hair might break easily, but let’s address a few from a dietary perspective. Low ferritin levels can affect the growth cycle of hair, especially in women. Ferritin is your body’s iron storage. It can have a profound impact on the health of your hair as good levels of ferritin optimise hair growth. A lack of ferritin can result in the hair moving out of the growing phase and into the shedding phase sooner than is ideal. An underactive or overactive thyroid can also affect hair growth and strength. It may be beneficial to discuss having your thyroid and iron levels checked by your GP.
Vitamins B12 and C, as well as zinc are also important when it comes to hair strength. Insufficient levels of zinc can affect hair texture by causing brittleness and therefore increasingly the likelihood of breakage. Adequate dietary protein intake is also important, as hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin.
Dr Libby is a a nutritional biochemist, bestselling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Her new book, Exhausted to Energized, is available from all good bookstores and from drlibby.com
Stress management is crucial to maintaining the balance of many vitamins and minerals, including magnesium.