You might unknowingly suffer from a Magnesium Deficiency and could have an improved quality of life if you correct it.
Magnesium (Mg) is an essential mineral that is required for proper function of over 300 chemical reactions in the body. Mg is present in nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, dark chocolate, figs, bananas and dark green leafy vegetables. Smaller amounts are found in some meats, fish and dairy.
Mg is necessary for the production of energy and protein, supports a healthy immune system, and helps bones stay strong. Mg is also required to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, helps to keep the heart beat steady, and aids in blood pressure and blood glucose regulation.
Severe magnesium deficiency is rare in healthy individuals who are consuming a generally balanced diet. However, clinical data suggests that many individuals are consuming or absorbing significantly less than the recommended amounts.
There are many signs and symptoms of a Mg deficiency. Some are rather subtle, while others can cause serious health problems. Many people who have a Mg deficiency don’t even know it, and a lot of health issues remain unexplained as a potential magnesium deficiency is overlooked.
Normally, only about 1% of total body Magnesium is present in the blood and this makes it difficult to get an accurate measurement of total magnesium content from blood tests alone. However, this test is still useful for evaluating a person’s magnesium status if there is a severe enough deficiency.
You can develop a magnesium deficiency if you don’t consume enough dietarily or if you have an issue with intestinal absorption. Mg can also be depleted by certain medications like birth control pills, high blood pressure pills, statin drugs, diuretics, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and acid blockers or PPI’s. Consumption of too much alcohol will also interfere with absorbing Mg properly. Other causes of Mg interruption can be taking a regular high dose Zinc supplement or having a vitamin D deficiency.
Because of Magnesium’s integral role in so many critical physiologic processes, it is a good idea to review a common list of low Mg warning signs.
Fatigue can be blamed on hundreds of things. Interestingly, one of the most common and early symptoms of a magnesium deficiency is fatigue. Due to the common nature of being tired it is tricky to get a Mg deficiency diagnosis from your doctor up front. Because magnesium is part of the production and transport of energy, an insufficient level can easily result in feeling tired and weak.
- Muscle Spasms and Cramps
Muscle spasms can be quite painful. They can come on suddenly and literally stop you in your tracks. From cramps in your toes to leg cramps at night and muscle stiffness after exertion, all can be signs of low Mg. If regular stretching and proper hydration do not calm the frequency of the cramps, you may consider a deficiency is present. Replenishing your Mg levels should resolve the issue and will mostly confirm the suspicion of low levels. Two cups of Epsom salts in a warm bath is an efficient way to help induce some magnesium to tight muscles. I frequently use magnesium supplementation with many patients. Don’t forget proper hydration and a healthy whole foods diet will support proper absorption of Mg.
- Cardiac Arrhythmias
Magnesium has a huge role in heart health and function. It’s vital for proper muscle contraction and relaxation so a low Mg level can directly affect cardiac functionality. An Arrhythmia feels like a flutter in the chest and is actually an irregular heartbeat. Because magnesium is critical for maintaining heart rhythm, deficiency can actually be causative for heart rhythm changes. Magnesium can be used as IV therapy in a clinical setting to control heart rhythm issues.
- Type 2 Diabetes
Mg is a cofactor of many enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. Magnesium also has an important role in insulin action so Mg is beneficial in improving the cells ability to use sugar as fuel instead of storing it as fat. Mg can decrease the risk of and improve severity of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetic patients commonly have low levels of Mg when tested. Eating a magnesium rich diet consisting of nuts, whole grains, leafy vegetables and beans has been studied as preventative for diabetes.
Similar to fatigue, magnesium deficiency is not the first place that your physician is likely to look for why you are feeling dizzy. As a result, magnesium deficiency is often overlooked when trying to find a diagnosis. Low Mg levels can give “off balance” or room spinning vertigo symptoms as well. Usually the severity of the “off-balance” symptom is proportionate to the deficiency so when levels of dizzy fluctuate that could be an indicator of Low Mg. Dizziness can also be a serious side effect of underlying neurologic or vascular issues so medical evaluation is certainly warranted. Don’t be afraid to ask for them to check your magnesium levels though.
- Nausea and Vomiting
An early sign of low Mg levels is nausea and, if severe enough, even vomiting. Many people will wake in the morning with nausea that resolves after breakfast, un-aware that they are boosting magnesium levels enough to calm the symptom with their meal.
- Mood Changes
Confusion, irritability and a poor tolerance of stress are common symptoms that can improve when a Mg deficiency is resolved. A poor stress response can manifest as flying off the handle at a small irritating thing. This is likely due to the calming effect that magnesium has on the mind and body. When Mg levels are low irritability can be on the rise.
Anxiety can be a debilitating condition that can be exaggerated by a Mg deficiency. If you have no clearly defined circumstance that would cause anxiety, you suffer from fluctuating levels of anxiousness and you are not usually an anxious person, you might have a low level of magnesium. Unfortunately, high stress can lower Mg levels so anxiousness and Mg imbalances can be a two-edged sword.
Low levels of Mg can cause restless leg syndrome, muscle cramps and an inability to feel calm and achieve a restorative level of sleep. With that, Mg deficiency can challenge sleeping patterns in many ways. In that magnesium plays a role in balancing stress hormones, and stress hormones compete with melatonin levels, there can be a hormonal relationship to a MG related insomnia as well. A teaspoon of Calm Magnesium in water before bed can dramatically improve sleep quality if you have a Mg issue.
- High Blood Pressure
Due to the smooth muscle lining in the vascular system and the ability of Mg to relax this vascular lining, there are numerous studies correlating low levels of MG with hypertension. There are also many studies that demonstrate the use of Mg in lowering blood pressure and decreasing risk of heart attack and stroke.A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that that consuming 100mg of Magnesium daily from magnesium rich foods can decrease the risk of having a stroke by 8-percent.
Magnesium impacts your nervous system by enhancing nerve transmission and signaling. A more severe warning sign of Mg deficiency can be tingling and numbness, most commonly in the face and extremities. Without sufficient magnesium levels in the body, muscle and nerve function may be compromised and will worsen along with the level of deficiency. Sudden onset face, arm, hand, leg and foot numbness, when one sided, sounds more like a serious health issue that requires immediate medical evaluation. Magnesium related numbness is often a more gradual and fluctuating symptom on both sides at the same time.
60% of our body’s magnesium is stored in the bone and a deficiency in Mg can lower blood levels of Calcium. When levels of the mineral are low in the system for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to mineral imbalances and bone loss.
- Migraine & Common Headaches
We previously discussed the relationship with Mg and the cardiovascular system. Following blood vessel dilation, there will be a normal rebound contraction. If an individual has low enough Mg levels the vaso-constriction can trigger migraine or common headaches. There are often underlying issues, like systemic toxicity or histamine intolerance, that will trigger migraine level headaches but Mg still plays a powerful role in improving severity, frequency, intensity and duration.
Similar to the smooth muscle in your cardiovascular system, the colon lining is primarily smooth muscle. When low in Mg you are more likely to deviate toward constipation. If you couple a Mg deficiency with a low fiber diet and poor hydration you are certainly going to deviate toward a slow colon transit time. Mg Citrate capsules can be used as a laxative when there is a significant issue with constipation. 100mg two to four times a day and drinking 50% of your body weight in ounces usually does the trick.
- Acid Reflux
If you have a magnesium deficiency, sometimes the gastric sphincters cannot properly contain the food, thus allowing food and stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. This can result in gastric reflux or LPR (silent reflux). If you present to your PCP with gastric reflux symptoms, over 95% of the time an ant-acid medication is used to control the symptoms. As discussed earlier in this article, PPI medications causes a Mg deficiency so will only exacerbate the root cause of the problem.
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
One of the more common complaints with PMS or PMDD is severe cramping in the lower abdomen or pelvic bowl. If the cramping from the menstrual cycle comes from colon bloating or the uterus, magnesium can help with relaxing these muscles and alleviating pain. In that Mg also plays a role with mood regulation it can have a double benefit with menstrual related issues.
- Thyroid Issues
It is very common to treat slow thyroid in my practice. In Western PA we are in the thyroid belt due to low selenium in the soil and low vitamin D levels from lack of sunshine. Mg plays a rather large role in most of the enzymatic processes involved in thyroid hormone production and is often used as part of the treatment for Hashimotos, an auto immune thyroid problem.
If you have any of the listed symptoms or conditions above, you can run a small Magnesium test by yourself. Start by taking 100mg of pharmaceutical grade magnesium glycinate (1 capsule of My Magnesium Complete) with breakfast, lunch and one at bed. Do this for 7-10 days, and monitor if any of your symptoms dissipate.
Because magnesium can lower blood pressure, those who are taking prescription blood pressure medication should monitor their blood pressure while performing this experiment. Too much magnesium can cause loose stool and in some people mild nausea so cut doses back if you observe these symptoms.
You can also easily increase your food sources of Mg:
➢ Spinach, 1 cup: 157 mg
➢ Swiss chard, 1 cup: 154 mg
➢ Dark chocolate, 1 square: 95 mg
➢ Pumpkin seeds, 1/8 cup: 92 mg
➢ Almonds, 1 ounce: 80 mg
➢ Black beans, 1/2 cup: 60 mg
➢ Avocado, 1 medium: 58 mg
➢ Salmon, 1 fillet: 53 mg
➢ Kefir, 1 cup: 50 mg
➢ Figs, 1/2 cup: 50 mg
➢ Banana, 1 medium: 32 mg
Stay Healthy and Stay Informed!