Is your child constipated, restless, or experiencing difficulty sleeping? Do they have problems with attention, aggression, anxiety or hyper-excitability? We need to talk about magnesium!
Magnesium is involved in so many crucial processes in the body, some of which include:
- Converting vitamin D into its active form to ensure strong, healthy bones
- Growth and development
- Blood sugar control, to ensure stable energy levels and moods
- Reducing aggression and promoting calmness in children
- Promoting relaxation and ensuring restful sleep
- Energy production
- And helping the body adapt to stress
In children and adolescents, research shows that magnesium intake is inversely associated with externalising behaviours, such as aggression and attention issues. This means children who consume less magnesium are at greater risk of displaying these behaviours. Deficiencies have also been linked to behavioural disorders, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
As children accumulate almost half their peak pone mass by adolescence, childhood is a critical time to ensure healthy bones. In addition to calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, magnesium is an essential nutrient to supporting the growth and development of your children.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
As you can see, magnesium is a serious multitasker in the body, but unfortunately, deficiencies are common. Given these many roles, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are often vague and widespread. Some of the symptoms include:
- Restlessness and difficulty sleeping
- Poor concentration
- Aggression, irritability and hyper-excitability
- Anxiety or excessive worry
- Muscle cramps or twitches
- Noise sensitivity
- Teeth grinding
Why Are Deficiencies So Widespread?
The best sources of magnesium are minimally processed plant foods, such as raw nuts, seeds, green veg, legumes and wholegrains. Unfortunately, many children do not eat anywhere near enough of these nutritious foods, instead relying on processed cereals, bread, meat and other refined foods for much of their energy. Bread, pasta, cereals and other refined foods are not adequate sources as they contain little, if any, magnesium.
For this reason, picky eaters are at a particularly increased risk of deficiency, due to their low consumption of fibre and vegetables, and their tendency towards processed foods.
Soft drinks and sugar increase excretion of magnesium in the urine, meaning they deplete the body of this essential nutrient. Many of the foods marketed as a ‘healthy’ option for your children are actually loaded with sugar. This includes many flavoured yoghurts, cereals, biscuits, muesli bars and fruit juices, in addition to the usual suspects (like lollies, soft drinks and chocolates).
Other factors that may increase magnesium requirements include:
- Periods of growth and development (e.g. childhood and adolescence!)
- Times of stress (e.g. about an upcoming assignment or sporting event)
- Intense or prolonged physical activity
- Heavy sweating
- Other nutrient deficiencies (e.g. selenium)
- Certain conditions, such as diabetes, ADHD and autism
So What Can You Do About It?
We see many children in clinic who have been told they’re disruptive or have behavioural issues, but correcting their magnesium status (along with their blood sugar levels, sleep and various other things) can go a long way to helping stabilise their mood, behaviour and energy levels.
If any of the symptoms described in this article sound familiar, we recommend you talk to your naturopath, so we can determine if magnesium is right for your children. We can also teach you how to optimise your magnesium intake through diet, and if supplementation is needed, determine the type and amount required. There are so many brands and types of magnesium on the market (many of them poorly absorbed), so it is crucial to be prescribed one that is not only bioavailable, but also suitable to your age and circumstances.