Two very important minerals to consider adding to your MS diet are calcium and magnesium. The substances go together like two conjoined twins with the same heart. They should not be be separated. Both are minerals that play important roles in keeping your body functioning effectively and they need each other to do so. You will find that most supplements containing calcium will also contain magnesium. Calcium actually needs magnesium to be effectively absorbed. When these essential minerals are put together, they complement each other and provide a variety of important benefits for our bodies. For example, calcium primarily causes the contraction of muscles and vessels while magnesium primarily helps with relaxation of muscles. Let's take a closer look at this delicate interaction.
Where One Is, The Other Must Be
Electrical impulses transmit signals to the nerves and brain, and movement occurs. The conductor for these impulses is calcium which enters the cells through calcium channels operated by magnesium. Once calcium does its work, magnesium helps the body get rid of the calcium before it crystallises. If not enough magnesium is present, then calcium builds up in the cells causing symptoms such as hypertension, migraines and asthma. The most important benefits of calcium and magnesium in a single supplement are the following:
- Facilitation of healthy blood pressure and a steady heartbeat
- Prevention of muscle cramps and pain
- Support of the nervous system by ensuring fast transmission of messages all over the body
They are your quintessential Batman and Robin, Ben and Jerry, or Bert and Ernie. You should not have one without the other! In addition, the Calcium and Magnesium combo do not like to be taken in isolation. They are highly social characters and need a variety of other elements to ensure proper absorption and utilisation. Without help from their friends, your expensive calcium-magnesium supplements may simply pass through the body, unused. It is important that a calcium-magnesium supplement is taken with:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
Let's take a closer look at each mineral and it's benefits.
Benefits Of Calcium In The Body
We have all grown up knowing that Calcium is important for strengthening bones and teeth. It helps to prevent osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Basically, if there is not enough calcium floating around in our blood to carry our essential functions, the body will leach it from our bones. Sustaining a proper heart beat, muscle contraction, and nerve function is more important to your body than maintaining strong bones, so it will do what is necessary to stay alive. Your body is thinking of survival, not long term quality of life. Over the years and without your knowledge your bones will become weaker and more brittle until one day, surprise, you have osteoporosis and a host of other complications!
MS Diet Sources Of Calcium
We have all been told that dairy products are the best source of calcium. In actual fact, most of this nutritional content is lost during the process of pasteurisation. As dairy products are not part of The MS Diet, the best source of calcium is leafy green vegetables or fish such as sardines (tweet this). However, you need to eat a large amount of these sources to get your daily requirement of calcium.
Just to get back to the dairy/calcium discussion, it is interesting to note that Americans, along with other countries with high-calcium intakes from dairy (New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have amongst the highest hip fracture rates in the world. This is compared to countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore which do not consume much dairy and have amongst the lowest hip fracture rates in the world. Part of the problem is that dairy is rich in protein and the more protein you consume, the more calcium is excreted in your urine (tweet this). In addition, calcium is not the be all and end all when it comes to strong bones. Vitamins K and D and magnesium are also vital for healthy bones. In fact, about two-thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones.
Benefits Of Magnesium In The Body
Almost every bodily system is dependant on magnesium. It helps to manufacture the cellular energy needed for nerve transmission. Sounds like a highly important job to me, especially for those with MS! We need all our healthy nerves to be firing at full speed as there may be a few unhealthy ones that are not. Magnesium also helps metabolise the B vitamins and essential fatty acids. As we all know, these two are absolutely essential to keeping MS under control. Magnesium is also an important co-factor in over three hundred enzymatic reactions in the human body, contributing to the production of cardiovascular functions, and the production and synthesis of energy. A magnesium deficiency is a common finding in MS and spasticity can often be traced to low levels of magnesium. This deficiency may be caused by a diet high in refined and processed foods and saturated fat. Interesting!
Symptoms of MS that are also symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: muscle spasms; weakness; twitching; muscle atrophy; an inability to control the bladder; nystagmus (rapid eye movements); hearing loss; and osteoporosis. Even a mild deficiency of magnesium can cause increased sensitivity to noise, nervousness, irritability, mental depression, confusion, twitching, trembling, apprehension, and insomnia. Good levels of Magnesium will help with depression, sleep disturbances and emotionally disturbed behaviour.
Most importantly for us, it works to heal neurological diseases because of its effect of calming and nourishing the nervous system. There are quite a few conditions and complications listed in this paragraph that could be avoided, simply by ensuring your body has what it needs - this is a supplement worth having.
MS Diet Sources Of Magnesium
Green vegetables such as spinach and kale are good sources of magnesium. Nuts, such as cashews and seeds, will also get you ahead in the magnesium game.
Please remember, I’m not a doctor so please ensure you consult with a medical professional to see whats right for you – I’m just someone who wants to share what has worked for me!
What Makes Calcium & Magnesium Essential For MS'ers?
As we have already discussed, the calcium-magnesium combo has a very important role to play in keeping our nervous system healthy. People with MS are often found to have a deficiency in magnesium and some would argue that this deficiency could have actually given rise to MS. Interestingly, it seems that vitamin D needs to be taken in combination with the minerals to help them absorb in the small intestines. These are a few of the MS specific benefits of these mega minerals:
- Calcium and magnesium are important in the development, structure and stability of myelin - this has been shown through recent research studies
- Magnesium facilitates the nervous system's ability to relax and contract your muscles, essential for smooth movement and balance
- Magnesium calms and nourishes the nervous system
- Magnesium manufactures the cellular energy, needed for nerve impulse transmission
- Calcium is the conductor of nerve impulses between brain and body
What I Use
Chelated Calcium / Magnesium 1:1 Tablets: 120 by Solgar
After quite a bit of research, I have settled on a supplement by Solgar. This neatly combines both calcium and magnesium in a high-quality dose. I chose this supplement for two important reasons:
1. The Ratio of 1:1
Firstly, the dosage of each mineral is in equal proportions. Though many reports suggest taking calcium to magnesium in a 2:1 ratio, this figure is largely arbitrary. The ideal ratio for any individual will vary depending on their current levels of each mineral as well as risk factors for deficiency. Several researchers now support a 1:1 calcium to magnesium ratio for improved bone support and reduced risk of disease. This is due, not only, to the increased evidence pointing to widespread magnesium deficiency, but also concerns over the risk of arterial calcification when low magnesium stores are coupled with high calcium intake. If you feel you need more calcium on a daily basis, try and eat foods rich in calcium such as loads of kale and spinach, rather than boosting your calcium supplement intake.
2. Contains Chelation
Secondly, the name of this supplement contains a very important word, "chelated". This helps the minerals to bind with amino acids in the body to make absorption more effective. The mineral particle is held much like a claw would hold a small object. Chelation prevents a normally reactive mineral or ion like magnesium from interacting with other reactive substances. You will find that many inexpensive supplements are not chelated which means that very little of them are actually being absorbed.
What Does This MS Supplement Contain?
This supplement is suitable for vegans and is starch and sugar free. Four tablets of Solgar Chelated Calcium/Magnesium 1:1 provides:
- Calcium (as bisglycinate+, carbonate, citrate+) 500mg
- Magnesium (as bisglycinate+, oxide, citrate+) 500mg
- microcrystalline cellulose
- hydroxypropyl cellulose
- cellulose gum
- rice flour
- citric acid
- silicon dioxide (anti- aking agent)
- magnesium stearate (anti-aking agent)
- hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose
- titanium dioxide (colour)
- vegetable glycerin
Why I Recommend This Specific Brand
Solgar is well known for its high quality supplements and production methods. All products are well researched and science based. I also like that the tablets are aqueous coated which means they are finished off using a natural, water based coating instead of the more common solvent-based coating agent, shellac. This natural coating improves absorption of the nutrients.
Once again, its always best to consult with your doctor or neurologist before taking any supplements as part of your MS diet. The recommended dosage (which I use) is as follows:
Tablets: Six tablets daily which provide 750mg calcium and 750mg magnesium. The tablets are quite big and it is a labour of love for your body to take them each morning. Interestingly, the dosage of calcium is only 94% of your DV (RDA) and the dosage of magnesium is 200% of your DV (RDA). There is a an important reason for this. Calcium is known to deplete some of your body's store of magnesium. So increasing the dose of of magnesium helps to make up for the amount you'll lose. With this dosage, you will correct any magnesium deficiency however, if the dose of calcium was higher, the calcium would prevent more magnesium from being absorbed.
"Definitely an essential combination."
In addition, magnesium aids the absorption and utilisation of calcium. Therefore, if it is lacking then no matter how much calcium you are taking, it won't be properly absorbed. They have a strange relationship in that they need each other, desperately, to fulfil their functions but they also work against each other in certain ways. Sounds like a typical husband and wife relationship if you ask me!
Finally, you may want to take these at night, as they considered slight "relaxants", although I have never experienced this.
Expected Monthly Cost
This MS supplement is readily available and inexpensive, so it won't break the bank to ensure you are getting what your body needs. MS supplements dont have to cost a lot, and more more you buy, the cheaper they generally are, so always try buy bulk where possible.
Tablets: A bottle of 120 tablets should last 30 days taking 4 tablets per day. The bottle costs roughly $15 (£16), which should last a month.
Where Can I Get This Supplement?
Solgar Chelated Calcium Magnesium 1:1 can be obtained through your local health store (use Solgar's store locator), but is easiest bought via Amazon: just following the links below:
You should be able to source a supplier in your local area, alternatively, find one online. There are many MS supplements out there, so please make sure you are getting a good quality brand from a reputable seller!
I hope that gives you a bit more insight into what MS supplements I use, for a complete list of all the supplements I take as part of my MS diet, visit the Supplements page. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a comment below, I will respond to every one.