Move over probiotics, magnesium is the new hot commodity!
Did you know nearly 40% of adults today struggle with some type of gastrointestinal issue? Whether it be recognized as IBD, Crohn's, Celiac disease, IBS or just recurring gas and bloating, this is a huge problem for many people today. Many have the misunderstanding that if there is a digestive issue, probiotics are the only way to fix things, disregarding the understanding that there is more than just bacteria there. We have our stomachs, small intestine, large intestine, colon, liver, pancreas, and some people would even include the kidneys as well. Everything is connected and plays a role in how we break down, absorb and utilize the food.
Sure, bacteria are helpful, but we're not supposed to have large amounts of bacteria in our stomach or small intestine. In fact, the large intestine is where they're all at, helping ferment the left over fibers from our carbohydrates, which are then transformed into short chain fatty acids to formulate energy. Anything before that, it all comes down to enzymatic reactions fired by certain bodily processes like pancreatic enzymes, stomach acidity, bile, and so forth.
Magnesium, interestingly enough, plays a major role in many of these steps for digestion and we thought we'd share!
1. As mentioned, magnesium helps activate enzymes that break down and absorb our macronutrients (such as fats, carbs and proteins). Two of the main ways we do this is by secreting pancreatic enzymes and stomach acidity to neutralize the bolus of food entering our digestive tract and break it down further than what our mouths have done so we can metabolize its nutrients. Magnesium is important in activating both of these processes, pancreatic enzymes and production of hydrochloric acid.
2. Piggy backing off the stomach acid point above, magnesium is also recognized as a muscle relaxant. Part of the many reasons people assume they may have "too much" stomach acidity when they're dealing with heart burn or GERD is because of the acid coming back up the esophagus. In reality though, it's a sign of low stomach acidity, and even in some cases magnesium deficiency for magnesium. When one can't digest food properly, whether it be digestive enzyme insufficiency, poor stomach acidity production, stress, etc., the body will push gases and the undigestible food back up into the lower esophagus, which will then cause the acid reflux. Magnesium, however, is meant to relax the spasms that occur, which can prevent this from happening in the first place.
3. Which connects us to our third point and magnesium's relaxing benefits. For many people dealing with digestive issues, a good portion of them are also constipated. There could be a series of reasons on as to why someone is constipated, but one important factor to literally "let things go" is to relax the muscles in the intestines so stool could pass easier. Conversely, depending on the magnesium one is using, it could also attract water into the colon to further soften the stool.
4. Lastly, magnesium has also been shown to increase bile secretion via the gall bladder and ease any spasms it may experience. In addition, magnesium has been shown to relax the sphincter of Oddi, the muscular valve surrounding the exit of the bile and pancreatic duct into the duodenum. The sphincter is typically closed, opening only when a meal is present to digest due to its secretions, stomach acidity and digestive enzymes signaling it to open up. In cases in which we aren't producing adequate stomach acidity, pancreatic enzymes, or have adequate minerals to provide signaling for the sphincter to open, it struggles to get the message.
Hope this helped!
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach