In September 2015, Julie’s spinal cancer started to press inwards from her vertebrae onto her spinal cord. The spinal cord is the one thing that you don’t mess about with unless you are in a hurry to be paralysed or a lover of extreme pain.
Julie tried the extreme pain bit for a month, until the orthopaedic surgeons started to play the paralysis card. “If we don’t operate within a few days, you WILL be paralysed.” He harrumphed.
We asked to see the scans, and, indeed there was this tumour in Julie’s back looking uncannily like the thing that wrapped around John hurts face in the film Alien.
It had to get sorted.
To cut a very long story short, she underwent a five hour spinal decompression operation which involved removing part of the Spinal Column, to relieve pressure on the Spinal Cord, which, in turn, successfully removed the pain and the immediate risk of paralysis.
In exchange, she got a back full of steel rods and nuts and bolts which will deny her smooth access through any future Airport Security Scanner for the rest of her travels.
The procedure was a success in that:
- The pain from the cancer was gone.
- She was not paralysed from the operation
- Her spine was stabilised from collapsing
- Part of the tumour had been removed
- I didn’t have a future of wiping her arse and lugging her up and down stairs every day.
After a month, or so, of post operative recovery, it came to pass that really, really, really we were on our own. The medics can’t really do much more in terms of chemo, radiation or Mechanics, other than tightening any loose screws in Julie’s back.
This is not a problem, because she didn’t want any of that from day one, back in 2011.
However, it did get us thinking about bone strength and supporting the spine.
Immediately, we turned our attention to Calcium which everybody knows is why you need to drink your Milk.
But, milk is dairy, and dairy is not in Julie’s diet because it is full of nasty hormones and other things that fuel her cancer and are generally not conducive to having a tip top immune system.
Undaunted, I go off on the Research Trail. (Again !!)
Surprisingly, I find one of the ways forward is not necessarily Calcium, but Magnesium.
Before diving feet first (Again !!), I message one of my trusted gurus, who also has cancer and has also rejected the “Chemo Radio Drugs” route about her thoughts on Magnesium.
This was her instant reply:
“Magnesium is essential for all cellular energy, and especially is crucial to us Cancer patients.
We both know that it is proven that Magnesium helps Calcium enter our bones and cells. It is Magnesium that “acts as the pump” in the membrane of all our cells, which in turn pumps Potassium into our cells, and the mitochondria kicks out all the nasty Sodium. The Sodium keeps the cells acidic which lowers our Oxygen levels, which then deflates our energy levels.
I have also heard that most people are deficient in Magnesium.”
This is an excellent summary from a non scientist, who is putting her faith in knowledge of minerals to help her survive, and survive well against cancer.
The first generic pointers that I came across were that Magnesium levels are lowered by:
- Eating refined and processed foods.
- EXCESS stress and Physical Exercise
- Excess tea, coffee and alcohol.
- Sugar, carbohydrates and fat based diets.
Magnesium is also crucial for a healthy liver. The liver is the major detox organ in your body.
A healthy liver means a healthy body. In fact, the French aare particularly adroit at using Magnesium for liver cleansing.
The key point is that without enough Magnesium, your Calcium and Potassium transport system cannot function correctly and a build up of Sodium will occur, creating acidic cell conditions with consequent lower Oxygen levels.
Magnesium is our master mineral and, depending on which studies you read, is responsible for between 300 and 800 enzyme driven processes in the body including:
- Activates muscles and nerves
- Aids digestion
- Boosts moods (Reduces anxiety and depression)
- Can prevent blood clots
- Creates energy
- Helps with Detox
- Protects bones and teeth
- Relieves headaches and migraines
- Promotes better sleep and may alleviate sleep apnoea.
- Supports kidney, bladder, bowel and liver health.
- Blood Pressure
The problem is that most people in the Western World are lacking in magnesium. Our culture means that we have the highest levels of blood calcium and the lowest levels of bone calcium. Which is, precisely, the wrong way around. This is because we eat lots of dairy which floods the body with calcium, but magnesium (and Vitamin D) are needed to get the calcium out of your blood and into your bones. The main modern culprits are:
Modern day diets, because magnesium has been systematically farmed out of the soil. A hundred years ago we enjoyed a diet high in magnesium with a daily intake of some 500mg per day in a normal diet. Today, you would be lucky to get 200mg.per day.
Calcium and magnesium work together in our bodies, but modern diets are low in magnesium (see above) and because of the ready availability of dairy products much higher in calcium.
In fact, you can get enough calcium from food without taking in any dairy. Your daily calcium requirement could be supplied by having 150 grams per day of, for example:
- A few Almonds
- Dried Apricots
Furthermore, eating good levels of Potassium and Magnesium but low levels of Sodium will help your cells to become more alkaline, and more importantly stay that way.
Magnesium levels are also depleted by stress. When you find yourself in a stress full situation, your adrenal hormones trigger a fall in magnesium within your cells. What happens then is that there is an influx of calcium into nerve cells which constricts all kinds of muscle cell, in particular the heart and veins. This is the immediate response to a “flight or fight” situation.
Under normal conditions, the muscle cells return to a relaxed state once the emergency is over. But…. When stress is chronic and magnesium levels continually fall then calcium is drawn from the bones and cardiac and vascular muscles will remain in a state of sustained contraction. This could leave to palpitations, muscle cramps and further anxiety. So the situation is self perpetuating.
The combination of modern diet, high levels of stress due to 21st Century Urban lifestyle, increase in use of magnesium depleting pharmaceutical drugs, plus an increase in calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis has tended to raise the threshold at which muscles and veins remain contracted.
People who have a large input of calcium through some of the above without taking magnesium have shown an increase risk of heart disease in men and women.
The amount of supplements that you should take will depend on your diet, stress levels and prescribed drugs that are being taken.
As a rule of thumb, a person weighing 70Kgs (11 stone) would need 350 mg/day, or 5mg/Kg of bodyweight.
A second, less scientific, but more prescient is to take a dose increasing 50mg/day until your bowels become loose. Your optimum level would be the dosage before that.!!!
People suffering from anxiety, fatigue, headaches insomnia or are on a very short emotional fuse should see some relief from an increase in magnesium.
Another way to get more magnesium into your system is by soaking in a bath of magnesium sulphate, otherwise known as Epsom Salts. Commonly used to ease muscle aches and pains, magnesium sulphate also helps with detoxification when sulphur is needed by the body. When used intravenously, magnesium sulphate can save lives in such crises as acute asthma attack, onset of myocardial infarction, etc.
A couple of cups of Epsom Salts added to a hot bath will induce sweating and detoxification; after the water cools a bit, the body will then absorb the magnesium sulphate.
N.B. Alcohol and caffeine intake can cause liver stress and deplete magnesium. If this is this case, then consider taking Milk Thistle and Dandelion Extract, if liver health is poor.
GOOD FOOD SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM
- Whole Grain Bread and Oats
- Beans and Legumes
- Leafy Vegetables (Spinach Broccoli)
- Seeds, Pulses and Nuts
- Dark Chocolate
- Authentic, unrefined sea salt.
- Brown Rice
- Bone broths.
The Magnesium – Calcium Conundrum
The amount of daily calcium needed for good health is one gram per day. Any excess will lead to Magnesium depletion. The paradox is that if magnesium levels fall, then calium cannot be absorbed into bones and tissue.
Calcium also needs Vitamin D to deliver it into the bones and Vitamin D needs magnesium to synthesise it into the body.
Too much dairy leads to high blood calcium, low magnesium and vitamin D means poor delivery to your bones and tissues thereby potentially leading to cancers.