9 Signs You Have Magnesium Deficiency and How to Treat It
Magnesium is arguably the most important mineral in the body, which is why magnesium deficiency can be such an issue.
According to Norman Shealy, MD, Ph.D, an American neurosurgeon and a pioneer in pain medicine,
“Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency and it’s the missing cure to many diseases.”
Not only does magnesium help regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, but it’s essential for cellular health and a critical component of over 300 biochemical functions in the body.
Even glutathione, your body’s most powerful antioxidant that has even been called “the master antioxidant,” requires magnesium for its synthesis. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of this, and millions suffer daily from magnesium deficiency without even knowing it.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
Once thought to be relatively rare, magnesium deficiency is more common than most physicians believe. Here’s why:
- Soil depletion, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the chemicals in our food have created a recipe for disaster. As minerals are removed, stripped away or no longer available in the soil, the percentage of magnesium present in food has decreased.
- Digestive diseases, like leaky gut, can cause malabsorption of minerals, including magnesium. Today, there are hundreds of millions of people who aren’t absorbing their nutrients. Also, as we age, our mineral absorption tends to decrease, so the probability of having a deficiency increases across the board.
- Chronic disease and medication use is at an all-time high. Most chronic illness is associated with magnesium deficiency and lack of mineral absorption. Medications damage the gut, which is responsible for absorbing magnesium from our food.
Should you worry about magnesium deficiency?
It all depends on your risk factors and presenting symptoms. Also, approximately 80 percent of people have low levels of magnesium, so the chances are that you’re probably deficient.
Take note: Only 1 percent of magnesium in your body is in your bloodstream, so often you can have a deficiency, and it would not even be discovered by a common blood test.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Many people may be magnesium deficient and not even know it. Here are some key symptoms to look out for that could indicate if you are deficient:
1. Leg Cramps
Seventy percent of adults and 7 percent of children experience leg cramps on a regular basis. Turns out, leg cramps can more than a nuisance – they can also be downright excruciating! Because of magnesium’s role in neuromuscular signals and muscle contraction, researchers have observed that magnesium deficiency is often to blame.
More and more health care professionals are prescribing magnesium supplements to help their patients. Restless leg syndrome is another warning sign of a magnesium deficiency. To overcome both leg cramps and restless leg syndrome, you will want to increase your intake of both magnesium and potassium.
Magnesium deficiency is often a precursor to sleep disorders, such as anxiety, hyperactivity and restlessness. It’s been suggested that this is because magnesium is vital for GABA function, an inhibitory neurotransmitter known to “calm” the brain and promote relaxation.
Taking around 500 milligrams of magnesium before bed or with dinner is the best time of day to take the supplement. Also, adding in magnesium-rich foods during dinner – like nutrition-packed spinach – may help.
3. Muscle Pain/Fibromyalgia
A study published in Magnesium Research examined the role magnesium plays in fibromyalgia symptoms, and it uncovered that increasing magnesium consumption reduced pain and tenderness and also improved immune blood markers.
Oftentimes linked to autoimmune disorders, this research should encourage fibromyalgia patients because it highlights the systemic effects that magnesium supplements have on the body.
As magnesium deficiency can affect the central nervous system, more specifically the GABA cycle in the body, its side effects can include irritability and nervousness. As the deficiency worsens, it causes high levels of anxiety and, in severe cases, depression and hallucinations.
In fact, magnesium has been shown to help calm the body, the muscles and help improve mood. It’s a vital mineral for overall mood. One of the things I’ve recommended to patients over time with anxiety is taking magnesium on a daily basis, and they’ve seen great results.
Magnesium is needed for every cell function from the gut to the brain, so it’s no wonder that it affects so many systems.
5. High Blood Pressure
Magnesium works partnered with calcium to support proper blood pressure and protect the heart. So when you are magnesium-deficient, often you are also low in calcium and tend toward hypertension or high blood pressure.
A study with 241,378 participants published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition uncovered that a diet high in magnesium foods could reduce the risk of a stroke by 8 percent. This is profound considering that hypertension causes 50 percent of ischemic strokes in the world.
6. Type II Diabetes
One of the four main causes of magnesium deficiency is type II diabetes, but it’s also a common symptom. U.K. researchers, for example, uncovered that of the 1,452 adults they examined, low magnesium levels were 10 times more common with new diabetics and 8.6 times more common with known diabetics.
As expected from this data, diets rich in magnesium has been shown to significantly lower the risk of type 2 diabetes because of magnesium’s role in sugar metabolism. Another study discovered that the simple addition of magnesium supplementation (500 milligrams/day) lowered the risk of diabetes by 35 percent!
Low energy, weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Most chronic fatigue syndrome patients are also magnesium-deficient. The University of Maryland Medical Centre reports that 1,000–2,000 milligrams of magnesium per day can help, but you do also want to be careful, as too much magnesium can also cause diarrhoea.
If you experience this side effect, you can simply reduce your dosage a little until the side effect subsides.
8. Migraine Headaches
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraine headaches due to its importance in balancing neurotransmitters in the body. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that 500–1,000 milligrams of magnesium daily can reduce the frequency of migraine headaches by up to 52 percent.
The National Institute of Health reports that, “The average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones.” This is important to realise, especially for the elderly, who are at risk of bone weakening.
Thankfully, there’s hope! A study published in Biology Trace Element Research uncovered that supplementing with magnesium slowed the development of osteoporosis “significantly” after just 30 days. In addition to taking magnesium supplement, you will also want to consider getting more vitamin D3 and K2 to naturally build bone density.
Are You at Risk?
So, who is most susceptible to a magnesium deficiency? According to the National Institute of Health, not everyone is created equal in regard to metabolising and assimilating magnesium. In fact, certain people are inherently at a greater risk of developing a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium deficiency can be inherited genetically as an inability to absorb this important mineral. Also, a diet low in high magnesium foods or even emotional or work stress can drain magnesium from the body. Whether inherited, through a deficient diet or even stress, a magnesium deficiency can lead to side effects of migraines, diabetes, fatigue and more.
The four most prominent at-risk groups include:
- People with gastrointestinal complaints — It really all starts in the gut. Since most magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines, issues like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and regional enteritis all have a tendency to cause magnesium deficiency. Also, people who elect for surgeries involving the gut, such as resection or bypass of the small intestines, leave themselves vulnerable for magnesium deficiency.
- People with type II diabetes — Partly due to increased urination, type II diabetics and people suffering from insulin resistance are known to struggle with proper magnesium absorption. Lowering glucose concentrations in the kidneys through natural diet changes can be extremely helpful for these patients.
- The elderly — For several reasons, as people age their magnesium levels drop. First and foremost, studies have shown that the elderly simply don’t eat magnesium-rich foods as they did when they were younger. This is relatively easy to correct. The uncontrollable risk factor, however, is that as we age we naturally experience reduced magnesium intestinal absorption, reduced magnesium bone stores and excess urinary loss.
- People struggling with alcohol dependence — Alcoholics often experience magnesium deficiency because of a combination of the reasons above. The easiest way to understanding this is to see alcohol as an “anti-nutrient.” It literally sucks the nutrients out of your cells and prevents proper absorption/utilisation of the vitamins and minerals that you consume. I would even go one step further and suggest that regular recreational alcohol use, not just alcohol dependence, can lead to magnesium problems. Consuming one to two glasses of wine a week is fine for most people, but much more than that is highly taxing on your liver. Alcohol can also deplete the minerals in your body because it causes dehydration, gut floral imbalance, immune system compromise, disturbed sleep patterns and premature ageing.
Final Thoughts on Magnesium Deficiency
- Magnesium a vital mineral for the body, and according to research, a magnesium deficiency is associated with just about every illness.
- Causes of magnesium deficiency include soil depletion, GMOs, digestive diseases and chronic disease.
- Magnesium deficiency symptoms include cramps, insomnia, muscle pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatigue, migraines and osteoporosis.
- People with GI complaints, diabetes and alcohol dependence, along with the elderly, are at greater risk of becoming magnesium-deficient.
Types of Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium is naturally present in some foods, synthetically added to other food products and available as a dietary supplement. Additionally, it’s found in some over-the-counter medicines, such as antacids and laxatives.
Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms. The absorption rate and bioavailability of magnesium supplements differs depending on the kind — usually types that dissolve in liquid are better absorbed in the gut than less soluble forms.
It’s believed that Magnesium Glycinate is the number one as it is highly absorbable then comes Magnesium in citrate, chelate and chloride forms are absorbed better than magnesium supplements in oxide and magnesium sulphate form.