Why We Need Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium and magnesium are macrominerals. They are required by the body in large quantities, even stored to some degree in bone and soft tissue to be drawn upon for later use, calcium more so than magnesium. Both of these essential nutrients are used for a number of reasons, many of which are connected.
Calcium, found in large quantities in the bone, is the primary mineral for strong bones and teeth. It is also needed for regulating the heartbeat, for the transmission of nerve impulses, for muscle tissue and some enzyme activity. Calcium is the mineral that helps form blood clots when necessary, and allows for the flow of nutrients in and out of cell membranes. Without it, we tend to have joint problems, tooth decay, brittle bones and nails, heart palpitations, high blood cholesterol, insomnia, even depression.
Magnesium also is vital for healthy bones, as this mineral regulates calcium absorption into the bones. It is a catalyst in hundreds of biochemical reactions, stimulates energy production on the cellular level, protects artery walls from blood pressure shifts, and helps the adrenals run smoothly. Over time, a magnesium deficiency can
lead to high blood pressure, serious heart problems, asthma and depression.
While both of these minerals are essential, the calcium and magnesium balance is just as important.
How These Minerals Work Together
Together, calcium and magnesium promote a state of optimum health, and equilibrium. For example, calcium stimulates nerves, which magnesium works to calm. For wound healing, calcium helps to form blood clots, while magnesium promotes the flow of blood to prevent excessive clotting, which can lead to atherosclerosis. Muscles are able to contract because of calcium, and relax with magnesium.
The correct ratio is needed for a proper stress response. With stress, blood pressure rises, the heart beats faster, muscles become ready, and, calcium, which is normally present on the outside, floods the cell. This upsets the mineral balance. As the stress subsides, magnesium again becomes the dominant mineral within, and calcium flows back outside. When there is not enough magnesium present in the first place, the stress response reaction can be triggered easily, leading to irritability, and a reactive mood.
Calcium has long been prescribed for the prevention of osteoporosis and arthritis, two common degenerative diseases. Magnesium has not been. An excess of calcium without magnesium leads to calcium deposits, which can form anywhere in the body, eventually threatening well-being. Magnesium is needed to balance calcium; it offsets the formation of calcium deposits by stimulating the production of calcitonin, a hormone that increases the presence of calcium in the bones. At the same time, it suppresses the parathyroid hormone, which takes calcium from the bones to soft tissue.
On a cellular level, magnesium prevents the calcification of mitochondria, the energy-engine of the cell. When a cell produces energy, it uses the calcium pump, which is located at the cell membrane. This pump needs magnesium to operate properly. If there is insufficient magnesium, a small amount of energy is produced, and the pump becomes less and less efficient, until eventually the mitochondria becomes calcified, and the cell ages. This calcification process, over great periods of time, extends to soft tissue, and eventually stimulates aging and degeneration of the whole body. Together, however, the two minerals promote healthy energy production at the cellular level. Without equilibrium, they are destructive.
The Correct Calcium to Magnesium Ratio
The National Academy of Sciences recommends a bare minimum of 1,000 milligrams per day of calcium, although because of limited absorption, twice as much can be taken. The recommended daily amount of magnesium is around 400 milligrams. For equilibrium, the body needs a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to magnesium.
The body easily stores excess calcium, but magnesium is quickly eliminated, so it is rare to have an excess of this mineral in the body. Calcium needs vitamin D, and the correct amount of magnesium, to be utilized. An excess of alcohol, soda, zinc, fluoride, vitamin D and calcium, all increase the need for magnesium.
Green leafy vegetables are one of the best sources of both. Calcium is also found in dairy, oats and soy. Magnesium is found in many foods — in nuts, seafood, meat, avocados, bananas, soy, peaches, figs, brown rice and garlic. The benefits of these two minerals come not only from their specific roles within the body, but from the harmony from the calcium and magnesium balance.
Balch, Phyllis. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Group, 2006).
Evers, Dr. H. Ray. “Magnesium Linked to Aging Mystery and Calcifications.”
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image by Ofer Deshe
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