Magnesium: Are You Getting Enough?
Eight Symptoms That May Indicate a Magnesium Deficiency In Your Body
Magnesium is an important mineral which plays a critical role in activating enzymes, transmitting nerve impulses, regulating hormone functions, balancing minerals in the body and releasing energy on the cellular level.
It is, however, one of the minerals most easily eroded by the modern day lifestyle and diet. As our eating habits have gone from freshly prepared items made at home to processed meals and ‘fast foods’ taken on the run, the magnesium content of our food has taken a hit. Refining and processing of grains results in loss of about 70% of the magnesium content. Polishing rice sacrifices 83% of the magnesium content. In fact, chances are that you are not consuming the recommended EU RDA of 375 mg of magnesium daily. Also, chances are that you regularly intake coffee, alcohol and other substances that flush magnesium out of your body.
In mild cases, magnesium deficiency can result in muscle cramping, insomnia, increased stress or headaches. But chronic magnesium deficiency is implicated in a number of conditions like osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, lowered immune function, depression, migraine, Restless Leg Syndrome and ADHD.
Checking for Magnesium levels
One method of assessing your magnesium levels is to request your health care provider for a detailed magnesium test. However, magnesium assessment is typically done using blood serum testing and can be misleading. Another way is to watch out for certain signs and signals of low magnesium levels. Some of the more prominent symptoms  of magnesium deficiency are:
- Low Energy Levels
Magnesium plays a key role in regulating the conversion of food into energy for use by the body, especially since both carbohydrates and fats use chemical reactions that depend on magnesium. People who regularly feel fatigued and lethargic could be low in magnesium.
- Sleep Disorders
Those suffering from low magnesium levels have a problem falling asleep. Magnesium has a calming effect on nerves. The mental, emotional and physical effects of excessive nerve functioning contributes to sleep disorders–primarily insomnia. They also find it difficult to get back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night.
- Weakened Bones
Magnesium plays a role in the proper absorption of calcium in the bones. Without magnesium, however, the calcium ends up being released from the bones and back into the blood stream. This effectively hollows out calcium from the bone matrix; making it softer and more prone to fractures. The result is a heightened risk for developing osteoporosis, which in turn makes a person more vulnerable to incurring fractures from even the slightest of injuries.
- Occurrence of Kidney Stones
When lack of magnesium forces calcium back into the blood, that calcium will eventually end up in the kidney. Magnesium will normally dissolve this calcium into the urine, but kidney stones will begin forming if magnesium levels are not high enough to dissolve the calcium buildup in the kidneys. These kidney stones make urinating much more painful and are both costly and expensive to remove.
- Emotional Disruption
A lack of magnesium has been shown to cause anxiousness, nervousness and irritability. This is attributed to magnesium’s role in transmitting nerve impulses. One of the more significant disruptions is overstimulation, wherein the nerves are unable to regulate the transmission or reception of signals – effectively over-stimulating the nerves.
- Heightened Sensitivity
Magnesium’s role in transmitting nerve impulses has the following side-effect: Added sensitivity to various external stimuli. The same overstimulation of the nerves that causes a wide range of emotional problems also heightens the effects of various external stimuli. Sounds are louder and lights are brighter to the point where it starts to hurt those lacking in magnesium. Even emotional reactions tend to be more extreme, which plays a role in the disruption of a person’s normal emotional pattern.
- Muscle Pains and Cramps
Magnesium is largely responsible for relaxing the muscles, which is why a lack of magnesium will “lock” the muscles into extended periods of tightness. Those without the proper amount of magnesium circulating in their system have a tendency to experience a wide range of muscle-related problems, from cramping legs to chronic headaches. More severe cases of magnesium deficiency can even cause tremors and spasms.
- Disruption of Heart Rhythms
The muscle cramping caused by a lack of magnesium can lead to deadlier consequences – especially when the blood vessels and the muscles of the heart start to cramp up. Magnesium normally relaxes the blood vessels and makes it easier for the blood to pass. Low bodily reserves of magnesium make it more difficult for the blood vessels to relax; leading to abnormal heart rhythms. This disruption of the normal heart rhythm will increase the risk of heart complications that can ultimately result in a fatal heart attack if left untreated.
Factors effecting Magnesium levels
It is possible that you might not notice some of these symptoms as they take a while to show. But then, you can also take a closer look at your day-to-day activities and see if there are any risk factors that can ultimately lead up to a deficiency in magnesium. These risk factors include
• Insufficient magnesium intake
• Excessive salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and saturated fat consumption
• Medication (certain antibiotics, PPIs, adrenergics and renal excretion stimulants)
• Intestinal malabsorption (chronic loose bowel movement, liver cirrhosis etc.)
• Endocrine (i.e. thyroid, parathyroid) problems
• Kidney damage
Many of these risk factors cannot be changed in a short period of time, but the two things people can do to deal with magnesium deficiency is to modify their diet and supplement their magnesium intake. The simplest (but hardest) part to modifying the diet is to eliminate substances that make it harder to absorb and retain magnesium in the body. That means salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and fat have to go. Only then will there be room for magnesium to settle into the body. Grain bran, dried herbs, flax, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, molasses, soy beans and seeds of the cucurbita plant family (cashew, squash, pumpkin etc.) are foods very rich in magnesium. Chocolate can be counted in as well, but only in the darker, bitter varieties that have less sugar in them.
Magnesium can also be directly introduced in the body through oral supplements like Mag365 or through topical solutions. Magnesium Rub is a form of transdermal magnesium therapy that is ideal for those suffering from a severe lack of magnesium.
Reduced mineral availability in older adults maybe a consequence of reduced gastric acid levels in their digestive system. Doctor may recommend taking Hydrochloric acid supplements along with magnesium, if they suspect this to be the reason of low magnesium levels in a patient. For such cases too, magnesium supplements like Mag365 work well. Mag365 not only has a high bioavailability, the supplement is also gentle on your tummy. For best results, take on an empty stomach ideally half hour before bed.
- Shils, M.E. & Rude, R.K. 1996. Deliberations and evaluations of the approaches, endpoints and paradigms for magnesium dietary recommendations. J. Nutr., 126 (9 Suppl): 2398S-2403S.
- Magnesium Overview, http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/magnesium-000313.htm
- SleepRemedy.com, “Insomnia Remedies”, accessed 2011-10-10. URL: http://www.sleepremedy.com/herbal-remedies/sleepremedy/insomnia-remedies
- Chemocare.com, “Hypomagnesemia (Low Magnesium)”, accessed 2011-10-10. URL: http://www.chemocare.com/managing/hypomagnesemia-low-magnesium.asp