Can dietary magnesium help with long Covid?
Of all the nutritional factors that can play a role in supporting people with long Covid, the mineral magnesium is perhaps one of the most significant. Essential to the functioning of over 600 enzymes in the body and a crucial activator in 200 more, magnesium affects most of our biochemical processes. In this article we take a look at the relationship between magnesium levels and the symptoms of long Covid and highlight ways to increase magnesium consumption.
- Low magnesium levels are suspected to predispose individuals to Covid infection and progression to severe illness. In fact, conditions linked with magnesium deficiency are mostly the same as those linked with risk of severe Covid – for example, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
- Research suggests that low magnesium levels may contribute to and exacerbate long Covid.
- Good magnesium levels are needed to support the production, transport and activation of vitamin D, giving magnesium an important role in preventing vitamin D deficiency and its associated diseases, including those affecting the respiratory tract.
- Adequate concentrations of magnesium are needed inside the infection-fighting cells of the immune system to preserve their function.
- Low magnesium levels appear to promote and perpetuate inflammation.
- Magnesium is needed for optimal function of muscles, including heart muscles, and so may be implicated in the aches, pains and fatigue seen in long Covid.
- Magnesium is vasodilatory (supporting dilation of blood vessels) and anti-thrombotic (defending against inappropriate blood clotting), giving it potential to protect against the cardiovascular effects of Covid infection.
- Magnesium has a stabilizing effect on the mucus lining of the respiratory tract and has a modulatory role in the contraction of the bronchial walls. It has been seen to reduce respiratory symptoms in Covid patients by supporting a healthy mucus lining and contraction of the lungs.
- Magnesium deficiency promotes insomnia, anxiety, depression, muscle pain and weakness. Conversely, magnesium supplementation can improve pain, fatigue and mood disorders.
- Magnesium is important in cognitive function and is seen to combat neuroinflammation, which is also found in those with Long Covid.
- Magnesium plays a key role in the body’s energy production processes, so can support better energy levels.
Magnesium in the diet
Dietary magnesium intake is often inadequate, with some studies finding a majority of people taking in less than recommended daily amounts which is 300mg per day for an adult. In fact, it can be difficult to consume sufficient magnesium in standard Western diets, for a variety of reasons:
- Food processing depletes foods of magnesium, so diets high in processed foods may lead to low magnesium levels.
- Soils are often over-farmed and depleted of magnesium, leading to less magnesium in our foods.
- Stomach-acid-reducing medications and other common medicines can interfere with the body’s absorption of magnesium.
- Magnesium absorption in the gut may also be hindered by ingesting pesticides, poor digestive function and imbalanced gut bacteria, which play a crucial role in the absorption of nutrients.
Boost your magnesium intake with these simple strategies:
- Choose organic food – research suggests organic produce has higher levels of magnesium. Reduced intake of pesticides can also support better magnesium absorption in the body.
- Look for bottled water with a high magnesium content – magnesium consumed in water may be more bioavailable than in food.
- Include an array of magnesium-rich foods in your diet:
- Dark green leafy vegetables.
- Pumpkin seeds.
- Sunflower seeds.
- Brown rice.
- Oat bran.
- Consider easily-absorbed magnesium supplements such magnesium taurate and magnesium malate.
- For those with digestive issues who do not tolerate oral supplements well, topical magnesium may be preferable such as magnesium chloride spray or bathing in a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).
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