Many Americans Need More Magnesium

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There's a nutrient that experts say helps your body produce its main source of energy and impacts at least 300 enzyme systems. It can also help treat the flu by regulating your temperature, helping you sleep, relaxing your muscles and giving you more energy.

It's magnesium. And compared to a century ago, the amount we consume in our diets has dropped by about 60 percent.

That's according to Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD ND, one of the nation's top natural physicians and a member of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association's medical advisory board. Known as "The Doctor of the Future" because she focuses on preventing problems rather than using medicine to fix them, Dean has written or coauthored over 30 books and she's frequently interviewed by the news media.

"Doctors are not taught enough about magnesium, and the best magnesium blood test is done in only about 3 percent of the nation's laboratories," Dean said. "All the current medical research is driven by drug companies. You don't have 'mineral reps.' going to doctors, so we're ignoring an unpatented, well-proven solution."

Dean said 100 years ago, people consumed an average of 500 mg of magnesium daily, but that number has dropped to about 200 mg because the magnesium in soil has been depleted over time and it's not a component of most fertilizers. A lack of magnesium can contribute to dozens of health issues, Dean said, including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety, fatigue, muscle cramping and inflammation.

To increase your body's magnesium levels, Dean recommends:

>>Eating more dark greens, such as kale and collard greens, as well as nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and seaweed.

>>Soaking in Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) because magnesium is well absorbed through the skin. Dr. Dean said people can soak daily using 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt per bath, but they can use more if they are working on especially tight muscles or a muscular injury.

>>Asking your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor if you should take oral magnesium supplements.

Magnesium is especially helpful this time of year, Dean said, when the cold weather and the holidays can heighten stress levels and people crowding together can spread germs.

"Magnesium is the anti-stress mineral," Dean said. "It helps you sleep, relaxes your muscles, improves your digestion, balances your blood pressure and gives you more energy. And Epsom salt is a safe and easy way for people of all ages – including babies and pregnant women – to increase the body's magnesium levels."