Magnesium is needed for over 300 enzymatic functions in the human body. Functions run the range from nerve function, bone health, muscle function, making proteins, female reproductive system health, metabolism, blood glucose regulations and even blood pressure control.
This vital nutrient is overlooked by public health campaigns, the general public and many practitioners. Magnesium deficiency increases risk for several health conditions. According to the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, if you end up magnesium-deficient in ICU, you’re half as likely to survive, Dr. Mark Hyman reported in the Huffington Post.
Even more alarming is that about 50 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, according to the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CNN reported. This is not factoring in the percentage of people who are deficient in vitamin D, which you also need to absorb magnesium.
Magnesium deficiency is hard to detect because the human body does whatever it must to keep magnesium in a healthy range for pumping the heart, at the expense of all the other tissues in the body that need it. Thus a blood test can give a false positive.
Dietary assessment proves to be one of the best tools of detection. If you’re not consuming enough magnesium on a regular basis, you’re pulling it from your bones and other tissues. How often are you eating magnesium-rich foods: seeds, nuts and beans?
Having your blood levels of vitamin D drawn will help further assess your magnesium situation, as magnesium is dependent on vitamin D for absorption.
Signs, Symptoms & Condition Associated with Magnesium Deficiency
- Irregular, painful menstrual cycle
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Painful muscles, bones and joints
- Trouble sleeping
The list goes on ...
Who is at risk for magnesium deficiency?
- Anyone suffering from chronic pain, inflammation, headaches and/or migraines
- Individuals under stress
- Individuals with intestinal disorders such as IBS or Crohn's disease
- Overweight and obese individuals
- People who drink large amounts of caffeine
- Those with high salt intake
- Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
- Women with severe, painful menstrual cycles
What foods have magnesium?
It’s easy to remember how to get your magnesium! Think baby plants. Baby plants refers to anything that could be planted in the ground and would someday grow up to be a big plant: seeds, nuts and beans. Think creatively about seeds: cucumbers, zucchini, raspberries, strawberries and bananas all have edible, magnesium rich seeds.
Dark green, leafy vegetables and many spices are nutrient powerhouses, rich in magnesium. Chocolate lovers rejoice! Dark chocolate is LOADED with magnesium.
What about magnesium supplementation?
Magnesium is a rock. It’s understandable that it would cause an upset stomach. Magnesium is also an important electrolyte. That's a mineral involved in water balance and nerve conduction. Big, sudden shifts in electrolytes can affect heart rate, and can cause diarrhea.
If you choose to supplement with magnesium, and have had it verified that it won’t interact with any of your medications, there are several options that both you and your digestive tract will enjoy.
One option is to look for a supplement that is magnesium PLUS a couple other minerals. Minerals compete for absorption, and this prevents a flood of magnesium into the bloodstream that would affect water balance.
Make sure the other minerals don’t affect your meds. You’re now asking your stomach to take on two or three kinds of rocks. To prevent feeling like there’s a Rocky Balboa boxing match in your bowels, take with the last meal of the day.
Another option is to look for magnesium glycinate, a form of magnesium that is absorbed well, and is easier on the stomach. It’s pricier, however you’re getting more magnesium here than you will with the cheaper versions.
Yet another option is having a small-dose magnesium supplement and/or a liquid form to take throughout the day with meals and snacks. It's easier on your stomach, rear and heart than taking on a mega-dose. Minerals take time to absorb. This gives your body more time and more opportunity to do its job.
Whatever supplement you choose, it is important to make sure that it has NO ARTIFICIAL FOOD DYES. These toxic chemicals cause inflammation, and there are no studies showing how they interact with medications or nutrient absorption.
Handling magnesium deficiency
If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, speak with your health care provider. In the meantime, if you’re not already, start taking a multivitamin with magnesium and vitamin D. Add magnesium-rich foods to your diet several times throughout the day.
Magnesium. National Institutes of Health. Accessed August 24, 2015.
Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: Are health consequences underestimated? Nutrition Review. Accessed August 24, 2015.
Magnesium, an Invisible Deficiency that Could Be Harming Your Health. CNN. Accessed August 24, 2015.
Magnesium. University of Maryland Medical Center. Accessed August 24, 2015.
Magnesium: The Most Powerful Relaxation Mineral Available. Huffington Post.
Accessed August 24, 2015.
Reviewed August 26, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith