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Is magnesium the key to better sleep and fewer migraines?

What if one little pill, spritz or soak could give you more energy, clearer skin and reduce stress and headaches? That’s the promise of magnesium. DANIELLE FOX examines its benefits

Beauty

You may have dabbled with magnesium, whether taking a pill, adding Epsom salts to your bath or applying it to your body, but it’s the one mineral we’re all most deficient in – in fact the World Health Organization reports that 80 percent of us simply don’t consume enough. Here’s how – and why – to get your fix.

What does magnesium do?

Involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, magnesium provides energy, keeps cells healthy, regulates blood pressure and improves muscle and bone strength. Stress, caffeine, sugar and alcohol all lead to lower levels of magnesium, as do contraceptive pills and certain antibiotics.

What should we be looking for?

Mined all over the world from extinct lakes and seas from the Jurassic period, there are differing grades (or qualities) of magnesium, and experts advise looking for those of a medical, food or pharmacy grade.

What’s the best way to take it?

Absorption is best through the skin, which is just as beneficial, if not more so, than a supplement. You can get magnesium oils and sprays, or use Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in your bath – body brush beforehand to stimulate skin and open pores, then add two scoops to the water and soak for 20 minutes. If you’re short of time and in need of some muscle relief, spritz a magnesium oil directly on to the ache and the soles of your feet (the best place for quick absorption). If you want to up your magnesium intake through diet, add brown rice, almonds (a handful is enough) and Swiss chard to your meals. Opting for a supplement? Stick to 300mg per day.

Can magnesium ease a headache?

New research reveals a link between magnesium deficiency and headaches, and the deficiency could be a risk factor for migraines, too. This may have something to do with the fact that magnesium is known to help reduce inflammation, a key contributor to migraine attacks and the disconcerting auras that often accompany them. The authors of the study suggested that consuming magnesium salts may help decrease the frequency of attacks. Of course, not all migraines will be down to a magnesium deficiency, but supplementing with it daily could be worth trying if you’re a migraine or headache sufferer.

Take it post-workout…

Magnesium relaxes the muscles and is very good at drawing out toxins, which you produce in abundance when you exercise. However, magnesium is also key for helping convert energy in the body, so you use a great deal when working out – it’s therefore vital to replace it straight after the gym.

…and before you sleep

It’s estimated that more than a third of us suffer from insomnia. Called the ‘anti-stress’ mineral, magnesium is well known for its ability to relieve sleeplessness and relax muscles and nerves. One study found that it helped to decrease levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’ that can keep you up at night, while another study has also shown magnesium to have a positive effect on depression and mood.

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