Calcium and Magnesium are both classified as "essential minerals" which humans require for good health. Like all minerals, these cannot be made in our body and must therefore be plentiful in our diet in order for us to remain healthy.
Calcium is a major constituent of bones and teeth (99%), where it plays two roles. First, as an integral part of bone structure, providing a rigid frame that holds the body upright and serves as attachment points for muscles, making motion possible. Second, it serves as a calcium bank, offering a readily available source of the mineral to the body fluids should a drop in the mineral occur.
Calcium is crucial for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, heartbeat, and blood coagulation, the production of energy and maintenance of immune system function. A deficiency in this mineral has been associated with ADD/ADHD behaviour (Clin. Psychol, 2004). According to anecdotal evidence, from Dr Jaquelyn McCandless (USA) children deficient in calcium are more likely to exhibit "irritability, sleep disturbances, anger, and inattentiveness."
J. Pangborn (Ph.D.) and S. MacDonald Baker (MD) of the Autism Research Institute's Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) Project speak of the consistently subnormal levels (found by tissue or fluid analysis) in subsets of the autistic population (along with zinc).
Pangborn and MacDonald Baker go on to suggest that poor absorption, including fat malabsorption, may be part of the mechanism that limits uptake of calcium.
Aside from subnormal levels, which may be a secondary part of the disease process for some autistics, there is also a major issue of adequate levels when a casein-free (i.e. dairy free) diet is followed. Removing daily products, especially milk, means excluding a major source of calcium from the diet, since for a typical child milk may provide 75% of their total dietary intake.
A paper written by Catherine Tamaro (B.S.M.E.) on Vitamin K Deficiency as a cause of Autistic Symptoms (2006) also refers to the link between unregulated calcium and symptoms associated with autism. The paper states that the mineral (in tandem with the neurotransmitter glutamate) is essential to the functioning of the excitatory cells of the nervous system; once glutamate opens the neuronal cell's calcium channel, the mineral pours into the channel and triggers the neuron to fire.
Magnesium (Mg) is an essential macro-mineral that plays a key role in more than 350 enzyme catalysed metabolic pathways, such as the making of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and glutathione (GSH) and as Mg-ATP complex in energy-dependent activities. It also helps maintain ionic balances in and around cells, as well as being part of structural tissues. A recent article we published looked at the relationship between Magnesium and Vitamin B6 (please refer to this article for more information on this topic).
Like calcium (and phosphorus), magnesium supports bone mineralization. Approximately two thirds of all magnesium in the body is found in our bones. Together with calcium, magnesium is also involved in muscle contraction and blood clotting: calcium promotes the process, whereas magnesium inhibits them. This interaction between the two minerals helps regulate blood pressure and functioning of the lungs. Magnesium also helps prevent dental caries by holding calcium in tooth enamel. Like many other nutrients, magnesium also supports the normal functioning of the immune system.
Magnesium and calcium, also act together to help regulate the body's nerve and muscle tone. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as a chemical gate blocker - as long as there is enough magnesium around, calcium can't rush into the nerve cell and activate the nerve. This gate blocking by magnesium helps keep the nerve relaxed. If our diet provides us with too little magnesium, this gate blocking can fail and the nerve cell can become overactivated. When some nerve cells are overactivated, they can send too many messages to the muscles and cause the muscles to overcontract. This chain of events helps explain how magnesium deficiency can trigger muscle tension, muscle soreness, muscle spasms, muscle cramps, and muscle fatigue.
- Calcium → children will need from 600 to 1200mg daily, particularly those following a gluten and casein free (GF/CF) diet.
- Magnesium → the body should contain twice the amount of Calcium as Magnesium, (i.e. the ratio is 2:1), therefore children will need from 300mg to 600mg of magnesium daily.