Sunday, April 8, 2012

Magnesium, Nature’s Natural Stress Buster.

Stress is the number one cause of illness the world over. But what is stress? We all need some to get out of bed in the morning and embrace the process of living! That sort of stress is probably of the positive variety. It’s negative pressure that causes problems. It comes in various forms. Not eating, not drinking sufficient water and exposure to extremes of heat and cold all constitute physical stress. Without doubt, many people are affected by these stressors. However, it’s emotional stress that probably does the most harm.

What then is emotional stress? I would like to describe it as resistance; pushing against the current or fighting what is. Austro-Hungarian born researcher Hans Selye working from McGill University in Canada and then the “Universite de Montréal “was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1949 for the work he did on “General Adaptation Syndrome”. He called negative stress “distress” and positive stress, "eustress". It was Langley who first coined the term “Autonomic Nervous System” in 1903, and was the earliest proponent of flight and fight. When exposed to “distress” the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to either get angry and resist or nervously run away. To do this successfully, some changes take place, triggered by the hormone adrenaline. These, increase blood pressure; divert blood flow to deeper muscle, improve eyesight amongst myriad other changes which better prepare individuals to cope. When the danger has passed, there is a switch to the parasympathetic state; this allows the body to rest and recuperate. The ANS was designed to help humans, when wild animals roamed the forests and early man was continually faced with life threatening crises.

Today, the crises are of a different sort. In the past, when confronted by a fierce saber tooth tiger, you could run away or fight it and get the meat back to the cave to feed the family. Now, saber toothed tigers are extinct and threats are generally less hostile. However, when confronted by an irate bank manager, which is not a life threatening situation, we regress and treat it as if it were! Adrenaline is switched on and the body goes through the same changes as if it were fighting for survival. Besides in the past, the threats were less frequent, having returned to homeostasis, several weeks could pass before the next dangerous situation emerged. This gave the system ample time to rid itself of the toxins that prompted the original stimulus response. Today, the situation is vastly different. Many people can be confronted by perceived threats several times per day. There is no time to relax and recover. It is little wonder that chronic ill health is on the rampage.

Nature has an extraordinary “destressor”. It is the mineral Magnesium. This alkaline metal plays a vital role in the production of ATP (Adenosine-5-triphosphate). This has been described as the dynamo, producing body energy. It works with Calcium to maintain the free flow of energy to the cells. To achieve this Magnesium keeps its opponent, Calcium in balance. When Calcium is overabundant there is a scary prospect of tics and muscular cramps occurring. These can cause heart conditions like angina and high blood pressure .Both increase the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. Today, Calcium gets all the publicity; there is negligible talk about Magnesium lack, but it exists in, perhaps, the majority of people. Gall bladder removal is a common intervention, but in my opinion gall stones don’t form if Magnesium levels are sufficient.

This alkaline mineral soothes the body, calming the nerves whilst promoting sound sleep. This is the natural way of being. Stress is an emergency situation that should occur infrequently. Magnesium combats over acidity, which is the pH level where illness occurs. The substance now occurs less often in soils depleted by the over use of NPK artificial fertilizers, which like Calcium are antagonistic to Magnesium. The deficiency was noted by the US Senate as long ago as 1936, yet, nothing has been done to alleviate the problem!

It would be a good idea for everybody to increase Magnesium in the diet. The understated RDA for Men is 400 and Women 310 mg per day. If encountering stress this could easily be increased significantly. 1000 mg would not be too much. Spinach, black beans, halibut and pumpkin seeds provide good sources, but you have to eat a lot to get anywhere near the recommended daily dose. If in doubt it is a good idea to buy a good quality nutritional supplement and take a high daily dose for three months to overcome any deficiency. As in all cases going to see a health care practitioner like Health Ambit Consultancy will help you find the solution best suited for your individual needs.
This article first appeared in the Samui Gazette of April 4th 2012


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