Magnesium is an essential nutrient to the body that is involved in countless cellular processes. It is estimated that approximately 75% of those in the United States are deficient in this mineral! It serves many key functions and deficiency can be detrimental to an individual’s health. Let’s take a look at why this nutrient is so needed by our bodies.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral serving numerous functions within our bodies. It plays an important role in the health of muscles and nerves, helps the body create energy, is important to the digestive system, and is also important for the building of DNA and RNA. Magnesium plays an important role in the brain because it works with neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
The most common source of magnesium is from the ground. As such, vegetables often contain the highest amounts of the nutrient. Chlorophyll contains magnesium so green vegetables are some of the highest sources of magnesium. [Check out our article on getting your greens here.] Leafy greens like spinach and kale are great sources of magnesium. Other sources include nuts and seeds. Many breakfast cereals are augmented with magnesium. Water also contains magnesium, approximately 10% of the daily value recommended.
Low magnesium levels have been linked to the occurrence of some chronic diseases.
What causes magnesium deficiency?
Unfortunately the “Standard American Diet” (SAD) is severely lacking in adequate nutrition. It is high in processed foods and low in vegetables. Given this, it is no surprise that such a large percentage of people in the United States have a magnesium deficiency.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
There are a variety of symptoms that can be seen in those with a magnesium deficiency. The early symptoms of a magnesium deficiency may include fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. The longer the deficiency is present there is a higher likelihood of worsening, and additional symptoms. Symptoms of a longer-term magnesium deficiency include tremors, irritation, muscle spasms, depression, heart arrhythmias and low potassium. Patient can also experience numbness, cramps, seizures, as well as mood and personality changes. Some patients may not experience any symptoms so it is important that magnesium levels are evaluated whether or not symptoms are present.
Individuals with high stress levels are very often found to have low magnesium. It is important for individuals with depression, anxiety, or high stress to have their magnesium checked.
How is magnesium deficiency diagnosed?
Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesaemia, can currently be diagnosed in a couple of ways. The most common method of determining an individual’s magnesium level is by a blood test in which the serum magnesium is tested at a laboratory. While this is the easiest, and most commonly used method of testing, it may not be the most accurate. Only 0.3% of the body’s magnesium is found in the serum. As such many individuals with a magnesium deficiency may have a normal serum magnesium level. Another method of testing magnesium includes a twenty-four hour excretion in urine. This can be annoying as the patient will need to urinate in the collection container over the course of an entire day. This test, however is a bit more sensitive to magnesium deficiency. In our clinic, we are fans of an additional test, the “Red Blood Cell Magnesium” (RBC-Mg), which is another blood test that may give us a better idea of intracellular magnesium.
Managing your minerals.
Magnesium is one of the elements that is commonly missed, while calcium is often overconsumed or over-supplemented. This imbalance can lead to muscle spasms and other negative health consequences. Remember that the heart is a muscle, as such a poor magnesium and calcium balance can lead to cardiac electrical abnormalities and arrhythmias. Managing a healthy balance of magnesium and calcium is very important to health.
In addition to keeping an eye on magnesium and calcium, managing Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D is important. Levels and absorption of these two minerals can also impact magnesium. All four of these nutrients work together, and as such it is important to address them all when managing a magnesium deficiency.
There are many sources of magnesium supplementation on the market today. Magnesium is always bound to another substance. Some magnesium supplements include; magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate (milk of magnesia), magnesium citrate, and magnesium carbonate. Magnesium oxide is the most commonly prescribed magnesium supplement but is poorly absorbed within the body and may lead to diarrhea. One way to get more magnesium into the body is by using Epson salts in a bath or foot soak. This is a source of magnesium that can be absorbed into your skin.
Questions to ask a doctor.
If one has concerns about magnesium deficiency, a doctor may arrange for a blood or urine test to evaluate magnesium levels. If one has a magnesium deficiency it is a good idea to ask a doctor or pharmacist if any current prescriptions drugs being taken are impacting the magnesium level. Many prescription drugs on the market can affect magnesium levels.