Magnesium is an essential electrolyte and necessary in conjunction with calcium, potassium, sodium, as well as phosphorous and many trace elements found in mineral and saline compounds. It is highly prized amongst athletes, usually in combination with zinc, for its effects on strength endurance and muscle recovery, especially when accompanied by adequate hydration. Electrolytes are important for every cell in the body and absolutely required for proper cellular function. These are critical in allowing cells to generate energy, are important in controlling fluid movements, providing minerals essential for excitability, secretory activity, membrane permeability, and general cellular activity. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body, and participate in myriad other activities.
The concentration of electrolytes in the body is controlled by a variety of hormones, most of which are manufactured in the kidney and the adrenal glands. Sensors in specialized kidney cells monitor the amount of sodium, potassium, and water in the bloodstream. The body functions normally in a very narrow range of concentrations, and it is hormones like renin (made in the kidney), angiotensin (from the lung, brain, and heart), aldosterone (from the adrenal gland), and antidiuretic hormone (from the pituitary) that keep the electrolyte balance within those normal limits.
Electrolytes may be lost from the body via perspiration, feces, vomiting, and urine. Many gastrointestinal disorders (including gastrointestinal suction) cause dehydration as does diuretic therapy and major tissue trauma, such as burns. As a result, some people may experience hypomagnesaemia, too little magnesium in the blood stream. Some deficiencies have to do with dietary deficiencies, inability of the intestines to absorb the mineral, or due to increased excretion. Oral magnesium supplementation, as previously mentioned, can be the culprit for the intestine’s inability to absorb magnesium and may actually cause, in part, the loss of necessary electrolytes due to its hygroscopic and muscle relaxing properties. As ingested magnesium reaches the intestines, water is drawn from the other cells in the body to the large intestine while the peristaltic muscles are being relaxed. This creates the effect of reduced constriction and added fluid. It should be noted that not all laxatives behave in the same way. Some work to stimulate the peristaltic muscles to “move things along” and this can result in cramping. Caution should always be used when administering laxatives, purgatives, and cathartics.
Hypermagnesaemia describes too much magnesium in the blood stream and most often occurs in those with diagnosed kidney disease in which the excretion of magnesium is limited. In these individuals, unregulated magnesium supplementation in general may result in elevated serum magnesium levels. Since the absorption and excretion of magnesium is linked to other electrolytes, other diseases may be associated with high magnesium levels, including diabetic ketoacidosis, adrenal insufficiency, and hyperparathyroidism.
Below is a chart of the common elements in the human body and their purpose.
The below chart reflects the mechanism of action inside the cells when magnesium increases and calcium decreases in three common diseases.
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