Of all the electrolytes, magnesium is one of the most important, because it helps other electrolytes do their jobs. What are electrolytes? Electrolytes are minerals such as calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. The electrolytes receive orders from the brain telling appropriate muscles what to do like when to contract or relax and these electrolytes play a role in getting the message through.
If you are lacking or not getting enough of these minerals or sweated them out during or after vigorous exercise, a muscle may not get the message to relax. This can cause it to contract in a painful cramp. Magnesium’s role is to help the other electrolytes. When you don’t eat enough
Magnesium-rich foods, minerals such as calcium and potassium can’t get into muscle-fiber cells.
Even when you have an abundance of the other electrolytes, but is deficient in magnesium they may be locked out and ineffective. “People who are depleted of magnesium tend to have greater irritability of the muscles and nerves,” says Dr. Robert McLean, M.D. clinical assistant professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. “This irritability may cause muscle cramping.”
Many foods contain large amounts of magnesium. For example, a serving of tofu has 128 milligrams of magnesium, 32 percent of the Daily value. A serving of spinach has about 44 milligrams, 11 percent of the DV and a serving of mackerel has 82 milligrams, 20 percent of the DV.
You also need plenty of calcium, which helps regulate the muscles’ ability to contract. Dairy foods are the best sources. A cup of skim milk, for example, has nearly 302 milligrams of calcium, 30 percent of the DV, while a serving of low-fat yogurt has 77 milligrams, 7 percent of the DV. Getting enough potassium in your diet may also be helpful for preventing cramps says Dr. Press. Bananas are a good source of potassium, with one banana supplying 451 milligrams, 13 percent of the DV. Potatoes are also a good source, with a half-cup containing 114 milligrams, 3 percent of the DV.
For most people, the problem isn’t getting enough sodium, it’s getting too much, since this mineral is found in large amounts in many foods, particularly processed foods. For those who are sensitive. Sodium can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure. If and when you are cramping, leave the sodium alone because you are getting enough.
When it comes to fluids, it’s almost impossible to get too much. When you perspire, you lose fluids from the muscle cells, which can result in cramping. Sipping water frequently throughout the day will help keep electrolyte levels in balance. When you are planning on being active, it’s a good idea to hydrate your body with at least 16 ounces of water or juice with the necessary minerals. You should also drink 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.
Millions of Americans don’t get enough magnesium. A mineral that’s involved in literally hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body, many of which are related to the heart and blood vessels. Low levels of magnesium are linked to hypertension, heart disease and heart attacks.
Magnesium has been called an “anti-stress” mineral because it relaxes muscles in blood vessels, as well as skeletal muscles. People who increase their intake of magnesium can experience significant drops in blood pressure.
It’s important for you to know that diuretic drugs commonly used to treat high blood pressure can cause a decrease in magnesium. Your soft water (treated tap water that contains few minerals), common in the U.S, contributes to low magnesium intake.
The recommendation for women’s intake of magnesium is 320 mg a day and 420 mg a day for men. Many researchers now believe that higher amounts up to 700 mg daily for men and women may be optimal. Legumes, whole grains and dark green vegetables are all high in magnesium. People who don’t eat a lot of vegetables or other plant foods should take daily supplements (150 mg. three times a day).
Fish oil is recommended for people with hypertension and or heart disease to consume adequate fish oil, either by eating fish or taking fish oil supplements. Two of the fats in fish are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docasahexaenoic acid (DHA) reduce risk of atherosclerosis. Fish oil makes platelets less sticky, increasing blood flow. Eating fish two to three servings of fish per week is recommended. Best choices are mackerel trout and salmon.
Large fish such as tuna, often have higher levels of mercury than smaller species. To reduce mercury exposure, eat a variety of fish, and not a single type.
You may take supplements since most manufacturers screen out mercury and other heavy metals. The dose recommended is three grams of fish oil taken daily. Strict vegetarians or vegan may want to use flaxseed oil or hemp oil (one tablespoon or usually three capsule, twice a day).
Limit caffeine since it is a stimulant on the central nervous system. It causes the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol a “stress” hormone that constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Limit coffee to a cup or two a day (or one or two soft drinks with caffeine daily).
Most people find it difficult to cut back. You may find it easier to give up caffeine altogether.