The answer is likely “Yes” that you are deficient in Magnesium
Magnesium is the eighth most abundant mineral on earth, and the third most abundant in sea water. More importantly, it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and it is necessary in over 300 functions within the body.
Magnesium isn’t just abundant in the body, but vitally important too.
Every single cell in the human body demands adequate magnesium to function, or it will perish. Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well functioning detoxification pathways and much more depend upon cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissue containing the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart—two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency.
Proper magnesium ratios are important for the body to correctly use calcium in the cells. Even a small deficiency can lead to a dangerous calcium imbalance and lead to problems like calcification and cell death. This manifests itself with symptoms like heart trouble, migraine headaches, muscle cramps and premenstrual cramping.
Where Has All The Magnesium Gone?
Unfortunately, most modern farming processes tax the soil, depleting it of its natural magnesium. On top of that, many hybrids are selectively bred to survive low levels of magnesium and most conventional fertilizers use nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, and do nothing to replenish magnesium levels.
Water was once a good source of magnesium, but now:
Fluoride in drinking water binds with magnesium, creating a nearly insoluble mineral compound that ends up deposited in the bones, where its brittleness increases the risk of fractures. Water, in fact, could be an excellent source of magnesium—if it comes from deep wells that have magnesium at their source, or from mineral-rich glacial runoff. Urban sources of drinking water are usually from surface water, such as rivers and streams, which are low in magnesium. Even many bottled mineral waters are quite low in magnesium, or have a very high concentration of calcium, or both.
These additional dietary factors can also deplete magnesium:
- Consumption of caffeine
- Consumption of sugar (It takes 28 molecules of magnesium to metabolize a single glucose molecule!)
- Consumption of processed food
- Consumption of alcohol
- Consumption of produce from depleted soil
- Consumption of foods high in phytic acid
Additionally, drugs like birth control pills, hypertension medicine, diuretics, insulin, and certain antibiotics (among others) deplete magnesium levels. Sweating often from exercise or other causes can also deplete magnesium.
What Does Magnesium DO?
Magnesium is necessary for hundreds of functions within the body, but is especially important for:
- Gives rigidity AND flexibility to your bones (more important than Calcium in many cases)
- Increases bioavailability of calcium
- Regulates and normalizes blood pressure
- Prevents and reverses kidney stone formation
- Promotes restful sleep
- Helps prevent congestive heart failure
- Eases muscle cramps and spasms
- Lowers serum cholesterol levels and triglycerides
- Decreases insulin resistance
- Can prevent atherosclerosis and stroke
- End cluster and migraine headaches
- Enhances circulation
- Relieves fibromyalgia and chronic pain
- Treats asthma and emphysema
- Helps make proteins
- Encourages proper elimination
- Prevents osteoporosis
- Proper Vitamin D absorption
- protection from radiation
- To aid weight loss
- Lessen or remove ADD or ADHD in children
- in proper digestion of carbohydrates
- emerging evidence is showing a preventative role in many cancers
Even though magnesium deficiency is rarely addressed in medical settings, the National Institutes of Health websit states that:
Some observational surveys have associated higher blood levels of magnesium with lower risk of coronary heart disease [50-51]. In addition, some dietary surveys have suggested that a higher magnesium intake may reduce the risk of having a stroke . There is also evidence that low body stores of magnesium increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which may increase the risk of complications after a heart attack . These studies suggest that consuming recommended amounts of magnesium may be beneficial to the cardiovascular system.
Are You Deficient?
As I said above, the answer is likely ‘yes’ in today’s world, as over 80% of tested adults are. Unfortunately, blood tests are relatively ineffective in gauging magnesium levels as less than 1% of magnesium is in the blood.
Low magnesium levels are often diagnosed by symptoms alone, and the following symptoms can point to low magnesium levels:
- Inability to sleep or insomnia
- Sensitivity to noise
- Mental disturbances
- Anxiety, depression or restlessness
- Muscle soreness or spasms
- Infertility or PMS
- High levels of stress
- Heart “flutters” or palpitations
- Fatigue or unusual tiredness
- Coldness in extremities
- Fuzzy brain or difficulty concentrating
- Allergies and sensitivities
- Lack of appetite
- Back pain
- Body odor
- Bad short term memory
- Poor coordination
- Insulin resistance
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Frequent cavities or poor dental health
- Gut disorders
- Kidney stones
- Thyroid problems
If you have more than one of the above symptoms and especially if you have more than five, it is highly likely that you could benefit from magnesium supplementation.
Unfortunately, magnesium is often not well absorbed by the digestive track, and is even more difficult to absorb if you are deficient or are low in vitamin D, have poor gut bacteria or suffer from a number of other conditions.
On top of that, most foods are depleted of their natural magnesium levels and the water supply is lacking also. For this reason, I often recommend magnesium supplementation to clients who struggle with the above symptoms.
There are several ways to supplement, and a mixture of more than one type of magnesium supplementation seems to be most effective. It is important to start slow and work up, as high doses will not be completely absorbed at first and most will be wasted.
Leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, kelp, and especially nettle are good dietary sources of magnesium, though if you have a deficiency, it will be difficult to raise your levels enough through diet alone.
The best ways to supplement with magnesium are:
- In powder form such as magnesium citrate so that you can vary your dose and work up slowly.
- In ionic liquid form so that it can be added to food and drinks and dose can be worked up slowly.
- In Magnesium oil applied to skin. This is often the most effective option for those with damaged digestive tract or severe deficiency.
I’d actually advise at least two of the above forms, including transdermal supplementation especially if you show multiple symptoms. The easiest way to gauge your dose is to start at half of the recommended dose and work up (even above it) until you experience loose stools and then back off slightly. From this dose, you should be able to gradually increase your dose until your symptoms disappear.
If you experience any of the symptoms above, or if you are on a no grain diet or consume any processed or conventionally produced food, I’d definitely encourage at least trying magnesium supplementation to see if it can improve your symptoms. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of magnesium and its various actions in the body, I’d suggest the book The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean.
By Abby Soares
Registered Nurse | Nutritionist | Health Coach
Nourish Holistic Health & Nutrition Ltd