You might think that a head injury has little in common with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurogenerative diseases. And, yes, they are unrelated on the surface. But when it comes to protecting your brain from all of these traumas, you can rely on one natural nutrient: magnesium.
Studies have confirmed that better magnesium levels help protect brain tissue from the damage that can be caused by any head trauma.
Magnesium acts as a natural calcium channel blocker, which makes it a principle nutrient for helping to control blood pressure. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, researchers found that people who took in enough magnesium while on a calorie-controlled diet were able to lower their blood pressure. And this same calcium channel blocking effect plays a role in protecting the brain.
The brain operates on a balance between “excitatory” and “inhibitory” activity. A neurotransmitter called glutamate is the primary trigger for the excitatory activity. When brain cells are activated by glutamate, calcium ions rush in. This is fine as long as the excitation is kept under reasonable control. But too much calcium entering the cells can be deadly to brain tissue. That’s where the calcium channel blocking effect of magnesium comes in.
Magnesium is also known to help control glutamate levels, possibly because it blocks the primary excitatory receptor (NMDA). And it helps glucose metabolism in the brain. Together, these functions of magnesium prevent brain cell death.
As I mentioned above, magnesium doesn’t just protect your brain from physical injury caused by an accident. Over-excitation of the brain as a result of excessive glutamate activity is a major cause of neurodegenerative disease. Stress hormones promote excitatory activity, as do dietary sources of glutamate. Of course, we need to control the amount of stress we have in our lives and watch what we eat. But getting enough magnesium is also critical for prevention.
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 400 mg/day. However, I think 500 to 800 mg is necessary for most people. Beans, nuts, and seeds are good dietary sources of magnesium – but to get optimal levels, it’s helpful to take supplements too. At the LaValle Institute, we like magnesium taurate and magnesium glycinate in particular, because taurine and glycine are amino acids that also help calm the brain.[Ed. Note: It truly is possible to improve your health just by making wise choices when it comes to diet and lifestyle. James B. LaValle, RPh, ND, CCN – founder of the LaValle Metabolic Institute and a nationally recognized expert on natural therapies – can give you easy-to-understand directions for living the healthy life you’ve always wanted. Learn more here.]