Magnesium called the ‘master mineral’, plays a vital role in close to 600 reactions in the body. It plays an important role in maintaining the health of heart, brain and various muscles of the body. It also plays a critical role in maintaining memory and cognitive health. Magnesium is required by every cell in the body and its deficiency can affect nearly every system of the body.
Magnesium prevents Alzheimer’s by removing various heavy metals from the brain and creating new neural connections termed as brain plasticity thus enhancing your ability to learn and remember. Magnesium also helps prevent diabetes by controlling the blood sugar levels.
Magnesium reduces the release of stress hormone cortisol. Excess cortisol is the reason for memory loss, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.
In addition, magnesium is necessary for:
- Stimulating muscles and nerves
- Creating energy by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
- Helping digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
- Serving as an important building block for RNA and DNA synthesis
However, it has been found that magnesium deficiency is quite common leading to many physical and mental health issues. According to experts, magnesium deficiency is the largest health problem in our world today. Magnesium deficiency can cause depression since it’s essential in the formation of brain chemical serotonin responsible for elevating the mood. Studies have found correlations between low magnesium and anxiety, aggression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, and schizophrenia.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium depends on age but is about 400 mg for men and 360 mg for women.
Persons who lack sufficient quantity of magnesium become irritable, highly-strung, and sensitive to noise, hyper-excitable, apprehensive and belligerent. If the deficiency is significant or prolonged, they may develop twitching, tremors, irregular pulse, muscle weakness, jerkiness, insomnia and leg and foot cramps.
Magnesium is more important than calcium, potassium or sodium and regulates all three of them.
Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Magnesium deficiency also results in low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia).
As significant amounts of calcium are lost in the urine when magnesium is deficient, the lack of this nutrient indirectly becomes responsible for tooth decay, lack of proper bone development, osteoporosis and slow healing of broken bones and fractures. Magnesium also helps combat memory lapses associated with aging.
Sources of magnesium
The most magnesium rich foods are fruits, sea vegetables, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Seaweed and green leafy vegetables can be excellent sources of magnesium, as are some nuts, beans, and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Avocados also contain magnesium. However, taking vegetable juices is an excellent option to ensure you’re getting enough of magnesium in your diet. Chocolate is also a good source of magnesium.
Why is there a reduction in magnesium content?
Many factors deplete magnesium — diet, age, stress, medications, and other health conditions. Magnesium is found insufficient in the modern diet even when eating seemingly healthy foods.
This huge decline is in part due to poor food choices. Refined foods have in them very little magnesium.
But even the healthiest foods will be low in magnesium if grown in nutrient-depleted soil.
Another dietary factor is our drinking water. Water was a good source of magnesium, but current methods of purification remove much of it. High doses of the mineral zinc can also interfere with magnesium absorption.
Aging often reduces magnesium levels. As we age, our intake and absorption of magnesium usually go down, while excretion goes up considerably. And besides that, many elders are on at least one medication known to deplete magnesium. Chronic stress is another magnesium thief.
Magnesium is farmed out of the soil much more than calcium. A hundred years ago, we would get 500 mg of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we are likely to get just 200 mg
Industrial agriculture depletes the soil of nutrients. We now know that significant use of fertilizers to create artificial fertility has had an adverse effect on natural soil fertility.
Depleted soil conditions mean that plants (and meat from animals that feed on these plants) are lower in magnesium. Chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine in the water supply make magnesium deficient in water since these chemicals can bind to magnesium. Common substances like caffeine and sugar, also deplete the body’s magnesium levels…So does stress.
Certain foods can influence body’s absorption of magnesium. If you drink alcohol in excess, for instance, it may interfere with the body’s absorption of vitamin D, which plays an important role in magnesium absorption. If you consume excess sugar, this can cause the body excreting magnesium through your kidneys, “resulting in a net loss”. The following factors are also associated with significantly lower magnesium levels:
Excessive intake of soda or caffeine
Certain medications including diuretics, some antibiotics (such as gentamicin and tobramycin), corticosteroids (prednisone or Deltasone), antacids, and insulin.
Underlying health conditions increase the need for magnesium
Some medical conditions like diabetes, alcoholism, and anorexia deplete the body of magnesium. Gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease, IBS, Crohn’s disease, or intestinal flora imbalance prevent magnesium absorption. High doses of the mineral zinc can also interfere with magnesium absorption. Also an unhealthy digestive system impairs your body’s ability to absorb magnesium (Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, etc.)
Why is magnesium hard to detect?
Unfortunately, doctors rarely check for magnesium deficiency. Most of the body’s magnesium stores are tied up in bones and organs, so even a serum magnesium test is unfortunately not very reliable since only 1% of your body’s magnesium is in your blood.
Signs of magnesium deficiency:
According to Dr. Norman Shealy, “Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency” and that, “magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body. A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.
Signs of magnesium deficiency include
- Brain fog
- lack of focus and concentration
- trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep
- never feeling rested even after a good night’s sleep
- frequent muscle cramps
- dark circles under the eyes
- inability to handle stress
- salt cravings
- addiction to caffeine
- easily startled
- anxiety or panic attacks
- feeling weak and tired after exercise
- low blood pressure
- low blood sugar
- frequent headaches, including migraines
- heart palpitations
- dizziness upon standing up suddenly
Magnesium Deficiency can also result in the following problems:
- Behavioral Problems
- Chronic Fatigue
- Anxiety or Poor Reactions to Stressors
- Muscle Spasms and Cramps
- Trouble Swallowing
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Stomach Cramping
- Morning Sickness
- Arterial Calcification
- Hair Loss
- Cold Hands & Feet
- High Blood Pressure
Magnesium is also often used to help with pregnancy related hypertension and muscle cramps, to help ward off preterm labor and to alleviate headaches.
It is often called the ultimate relaxation mineral. Magnesium helps relax the body and the mind, which both contribute to restful sleep. Additionally, magnesium is needed for proper function of the GABA receptors in the brain, and GABA is the neurotransmitter that allows the brain to transition to a restful state.
In cases of magnesium deficiency, the bones suffer in multiple ways:
Magnesium is needed for Vitamin D to turn on calcium absorption- this is why it is also important to get enough magnesium when taking Vitamin D (or magnesium levels can become even more depleted)
Magnesium is needed to stimulate the hormone calcitonin which draws calcium out of the muscles and soft tissues and into the bones. This helps explain why magnesium helps lower the risk of heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis and kidney stones
Though the symptoms seem ominous, magnesium deficiency is actually a relatively simple deficiency for the body to resolve with the right form of magnesium. Many of the magnesium supplements on the market are pills or solutions taken internally. These can be effective, but can also cause digestive disturbances or stress the kidneys.
By using magnesium trans-dermally, the body can absorb what is needed without absorbing to much. It is similar to soaking in an Epsom salt bath or in the ocean. A solution of magnesium can be sprayed on the skin and the body can absorb what is needed at a much faster rate. The magnesium moves directly into the blood and tissues, replenishing the body’s needed magnesium stores more quickly and bypassing the kidneys.
Multiple studies have also shown that higher magnesium intake is associated with a higher bone mineral density in both men and women, and research from Norway has even found an association between magnesium in drinking water and a lower risk of hip fractures.
Magnesium may even help lower your risk of cancer, and a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher intakes of dietary magnesium were associated with a lower risk of colorectal tumors.
Approaches for overcoming magnesium deficiency
There are two approaches for overcoming magnesium deficiency: food and supplements.
Magnesium deficiency is very common, even for those eating a healthy diet. It’s one of the reasons so many people feel exhausted even with little work.
When looking for foods high in magnesium, you would like to look for total magnesium per serving.
As per the National Institutes of Health database, the top food sources of magnesium are:
- green leafy vegetables
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
- dried figs
- dark chocolate
Mineral water that comes from natural springs around the world is also rich in magnesium.
Magnesium salts and uses
Magnesium citrate is considered the best all-purpose magnesium supplement. Magnesium threonate is a relatively new and more effective form of magnesium supplement. However, one of the most popular forms of magnesium is an old standby, magnesium sulfate — the kind found in Epsom salts.
While magnesium sulfate makes a great soak for sore feet and muscles, it is too harsh to take internally.It can cause sudden diarrhea and disturb your electrolyte balance, leading to a serious condition known as hypermagnesemia.
Curative properties of various magnesium salts
Magnesium carbonate — constipation
Magnesium chloride — GERD and other problems associated with digestion
Magnesium citrate — most popular all-around magnesium supplement
Magnesium malate — fatigue, fibromyalgia, CFS, insomnia
Magnesium oxide — acid reflux, constipation
Magnesium sulfate — found in Epsom salts, is good for soaking muscles in pain (NOT for internal use)
Magnesium taurate — heart problems, including arrhythmia
Inexpensive magnesium supplements use forms of magnesium like magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate which are well-known for their laxative effect. However, they will have you running to the bathroom but do little else when taken internally.
Besides taking a supplement, another way to improve your magnesium is to take Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate that can absorb into your body through your skin. Magnesium oil can be used for topical application and absorption.
Note: Whatever supplement you choose, avoid any containing Magnesium Stearate, a potentially hazardous additive.