Magnesium and Immunity

Many of us have had our lives turned upside down over the past few months thanks to COVID-19.  If this coronavirus strain hasn’t affected you personally, you likely know several people it has.  On top of that, we have been quarantined, stressed, and are learning how how to keep healthy and virus-free now and in the future.

COVID-19 has forced most of us to review what is important to us, and for many of us health has made the top of the list.  This novel coronavirus has shown us how vulnerable we really are, and how important a strong immune system is for living our best lives.

An often-overlooked supplement that is so important for not only immunity, but general health and well-being is magnesium.  There are approximately 1,000 enzymatic functions in your body that require magnesium as a cofactor.  Put another way, 80% of your body’s approximate 1,250 enzymatic processes can’t function properly without sufficient magnesium.

What does this mean for immunity?  A lot, as it turns out.  Besides its pivotal role as an anti-inflammatory, magnesium is an immune system modulator that increases the activity responsible for the formation of antibodies, which in turn boosts your immune response.  Magnesium makes cells more active, which aids in protection from microbial, bacterial and – most importantly – viral attacks.  Magnesium deficiencies have been shown to accelerate thymus involution, which is the shrinking of the thymus with age. This is a significant observation when one considers the importance of the thymus on immune health. 

High levels of magnesium have also been also been associated with better lung function and reduced risk of airway hyper-reactivity and wheezing, something that wasn’t a thought in many of our minds but is now at the forefront of health and well-being given how COVID-19 often manifests in the lungs.  Because it relaxes bronchial muscles and expands the airway, more air can flow in and out of the lungs, and as such magnesium is often used in the treatment of respiratory distress.

Magnesium’s role in sleep and stress and how it relates to the immune system cannot be overstated, especially during a crisis like COVID-19.   Magnesium depletes stress, yet when you are deficient, feelings of stress and inability to cope are exacerbated, trapping us in a cycle that feels hopeless without sufficient magnesium supplementation.  Magnesium produces and releases stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, and when your magnesium levels are low, your adrenal glands have a low threshold for producing these stress-related hormones.  This means that even a small stressor can trigger a big reaction in your body, which floods your nervous system with these hormones and contributes to further depletion of your magnesium.  Magnesium not only blocks these stress hormones’ actions, it relaxes your nervous system.  Considering the well-known connection between stress and illness, you do not want to let your stress levels go unchecked.

Sleeping is also foundational to good health, and many people are having a hard time getting enough with everything that is weighing on them thanks to the coronavirus.  Studies show that those who miss out on proper quantity and quality of sleep are not only more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, but generally experience longer recovery times.  During sleep, your immune system produces protective immune proteins called cytokines, which play a pivotal role in fighting infection and inflammation.  It is also during sleep that infection-fighting antibodies and cells are working their hardest, and lack of quality sleep will greatly reduce their effectiveness.  The sleep-magnesium connection has been long-touted, and it is imperative to supplement if you are struggling with getting adequate or quality sleep.

Because magnesium is so foundational, it is a necessary first step in overall health and well-being.  It is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, yet it is nearly impossible to get adequate sources from food alone, especially during stressful times when your body uses a lot more up.  The RDA hovers around 350mg, but during a time like this, you might find that’s not enough.  Make sure to take a high-quality supplement and try to spread your dosage throughout the day, and you might be surprised at how much better you start to feel.

Originally Published in Spa Elemental

 

 

 

 

 

 

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