Magnesium deficiency is one of the most overlooked nutrient deficiencies that I see in patients.
Your body is alive because of brilliant biochemistry, and magnesium is needed for more than 300 incredibly important biochemical reactions in your body. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in your entire body. So, if you have a magnesium deficiency, it must have taken a while to get you there. Magnesium deficiency will create some difficulties for you to maintain optimal health. My job as a health practitioner is to get to the underlying core cause of why you are struggling with health problems, and since an estimated 50 to 90 percent of us are dealing with magnesium deficiency, it is crucial that we look at this vital piece of your health puzzle.
Why do so many people have magnesium deficiency?
There are four main reasons:
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Medications (such as antibiotics and diuretics)
- Soil depletion
- Chronic gut problems
What are the main signs of magnesium deficiency?
- Muscle cramps and spasms
Sporadic spasms, cramps, and “charlie horses” in your legs and other places in your body might seem random, but they aren’t. They are happening for a reason, and they are typically one of the most common signs of a magnesium deficiency.
- Low thyroid function
Every cell of your body depends on your thyroid hormones for their metabolic health, and magnesium is essential to making thyroid hormones. This is a commonly overlooked factor I often find when treating thyroid problems. Once magnesium deficiency is overcome, often thyroid function improves.
- Difficulties sleeping
GABA is a calming, restful neurotransmitter, and magnesium is needed for GABA receptors in the brain to function optimally. But reducing magnesium deficiency can be helpful as a natural muscle relaxant as well and help with preventing muscle cramping and anxious mind during sleeping time.
- Anxiety and depression
Magnesium is the quintessential “chill pill.” Magnesium calms down the excitatory NMDA receptor of nerve cells. Without healthy magnesium levels, other substances have access to activating NMDA receptors and can lead to increasing depression and anxiety.
- Adrenal fatigue
I have personally struggled with adrenal fatigue, and can attest to magnesium’s role in calming my stress levels and helping my body rebalance many of my hormones. In particular, reducing magnesium deficiency helps to regulate cortisol levels from the adrenal glands, allowing for more balanced hormones throughout the day.
- Poor memory
Brain fog and memory problems are so common today that it’s considered “normal”. MIT researchers found that magnesium plays a pivotal role in regulating brain receptors needed for learning and memory function (eg: NMDA receptors, discussed above), and helping clear “brain fog.” Additionally, magnesium can enhance the brain’s ability to change, heal, and grow new neural pathways (neuroplasticity), essentially slowing down and even reversing cognitive decline.
- Migraines and headaches
Millions of us suffer from debilitating headaches and migraines. An estimated 50 percent of those suffering migraines have a magnesium deficiency! Research has found the 60 percent of people with chronic migraines have genetic changes that decreases their body’s ability to metabolize magnesium, which would normally relax blood vessels in the brain. There are many contributors to chronic headaches and migraines, but magnesium may be one factor heavily involved that is quite easy to remedy.
- Heart problems
A sad statistic is every 43 seconds someone has a heart attack. Luckily, magnesium is showing to be a powerful piece to the heart health puzzle. An American Journal of Cardiology study found that a lower level of magnesium intake increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 to 80 percent!
One common factor that links maybe every chronic health problem is inflammation. One inflammatory protein called C-reactive protein (CRP) is known to indicate inflammation, and magnesium has been linked with decreasing its abundance in the body and reducing inflammation.
Studies have found that children who took 200 milligrams of magnesium daily over six months had a significant decrease of hyperactivity compared to their symptoms before treatment and to those who didn’t take the magnesium. This can apply to some degree to anyone suffering with ADHD issues.
- Insulin resistance
A disturbing number of people are estimated to have some form of insulin resistance, from metabolic syndrome to PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) to full-blown type 2 diabetes. This hormonal problem is now at epidemic proportions. Research published in the medical journal Circulation studied nearly 5,000 people for 15 years. The people who took the higher levels of magnesium had a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome! Another similar study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology observed more than 1,000 healthy adults for five years and found that greater magnesium intake improved insulin sensitivity. Other studies have shown that magnesium improved triglycerides and high blood pressure, two other notable indicators of insulin resistance.
- Weak bones
Magnesium is a known key nutrient for strong, healthy bones. A study found that 300 milligrams of supplemental magnesium increased bone mineral content when taken for a year. Two other American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studies found that the greater the magnesium deficiency, the lower the bone density was, increasing risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Research suggests people who don’t eat enough magnesium-rich foods have a higher rate of asthma. Magnesium is thought to increase bronchodilation (relaxation of the muscles in the bronchial tubes in the lungs) making it easier to breath.
Do you have any of these magnesium deficiency signs?
All this information supports the obvious, that magnesium is super important to your body’s health. Once you know this, there are easy steps to improving your magnesium levels and minimize the effects of magnesium deficiency. Here are some action steps you can take to make sure your magnesium levels are optimal.
- Have your magnesium levels checked
Conventional nutrient lab tests aren’t always very accurate but can still be useful. Ideally, I suggest running advanced nutrient lab tests through a functional medicine practitioner, like myself, to find out your nutrient levels. These lab tests will test for more than just magnesium as many minerals are necessary for body health and often work together.
- Add magnesium rich food to your daily diet
- 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
- Take a quality magnesium supplement
It is quite difficult to replenish your magnesium entirely through diet. It is a water soluble mineral you urinate out daily, and additionally, even your best veggies won’t have enough magnesium for your needs unless you eat bags and bags of them daily. So, if you feel like you can’t possibly eat more swiss chard, or are still deficient after eating well for a few months, take it to the next level and add magnesium supplements. I suggest taking around 250 milligrams twice each day, taken with food, using magnesium citrate or glycinate forms. Different forms tend to be more difficult to absorb through the gut. Make it a habit to read the ingredients list on supplement bottles. Keep in mind that supplementing with magnesium is generally safe, but can cause diarrhea and gut upset when taking too much for your body and using certain forms in supplements. The glycinate form seems to not cause loose stool as much as the citrate form sometimes does. I always say that if the quality magnesium supplement you’re taking is contributing to diarrhea, go down one dose and remain there for long term benefits.
Magnesium deficiency can help create many ailments in your body. Magnesium is an amazing mineral that your body cannot live well without when deficient. It is easy to increase levels with safety if you take an appropriate dose and take with a meal. For best results, consult a knowledgeable health care practitioner who deals with nutrition and determine if you indeed need supplementation and if so, the best dosage for you.