How Common Is Magnesium Deficiency?
A medical review states that magnesium deficiency is a public health crisis with about 50% of Americans consuming less than the estimated average requirement of magnesium each day. That’s a lot of people who might be unknowingly suffering from a deficiency of this important mineral.
And if you have a blood test for low magnesium, it may not show the full picture of your magnesium status. This is because the level of magnesium in your blood does not reflect the magnesium levels in your cells and bones which makes up over 99% of total magnesium in your body.
Magnesium concentrations can also be measured by using saliva or urine samples, however none of these test methods is considered to be 100% accurate. The result of this means most cases of magnesium deficiency are going undetected.
A magnesium deficiency may also go undiagnosed as the obvious signs often don’t appear until your levels become severely low.
Additionally, because of medication use, decrease of magnesium in foods and over consumption of processed food the majority of people in modern societies run the risk of being magnesium deficient.
What Are The Signs Of Low Magnesium In The Body?
5 magnesium deficiency symptoms women can experience include:
- Anxiety And Depression- Magnesium has a calming effect on your central nervous system. It helps calm your body and improve your outlook in general. A study shows how a deficiency of magnesium helps create anxiety due to dysregulation of the HPA axis.
- Insomnia – When taken before bedtime, magnesium can help you get a good night’s sleep. A clinical trial showed that magnesium supplementation improves both sleep quality and sleep duration.
- Muscle Twitching, Cramps, Weakness and Stiffness – Magnesium plays a role in brain/muscle signalling helping with muscle contraction.
- Fatigue – Most chronic fatigue syndrome patients are magnesium deficient and I was one of them. Weakness, fatigue and low energy are common symptoms that show up when you are low in magnesium.
- Migraines/Headaches – A deficiency of magnesium has been linked to migraine headaches. This is thought to be due to its role in neurotransmitter balancing. Strong data supports the role of magnesium in migraines and headaches.
These symptoms can be bad enough, but what is perhaps more important is that a prolonged deficiency of magnesium can contribute to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
A study found magnesium deficiency in a whopping 84% of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Not only are calcium and Vitamin D important components of good bone health, but it seems magnesium also plays a role.
And another study of pregnant women receiving magnesium supplementation, showed the frequency of complications in pregnancy was reduced compared to groups not taking a supplement.
Magnesium deficiency during pregnancy has been shown to be linked to a higher risk of premature labor, lower birth weight and preeclampsia.
5 Reasons You Are At Risk Of Developing A Magnesium Deficiency
Since the 1940’s the microdensity of our foods has been declining. And one of these declining micronutrients is magnesium. In our modern day lives it is not so easy to obtain magnesium sources due to depleted soil conditions which result in less magnesium being available from the plant foods we eat.
1. Soil depletion, results in minerals being no longer available and the percentage of magnesium in our food sources has decreased. In turn less magnesium is available in our meat sources due to animals feeding on these magnesium deficient plant sources. The loss of magnesium in foods can also be attributed to food refining and processing.
2. Also, exposure to chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride in our water supply makes magnesium naturally less available as these chemicals bind to magnesium preventing it’s availability for our bodies.
3. To make matters worse, many of our common dietary habits like drinking coffee and the over consumption of soft drinks and sugar filled foods deplete the body’s levels of magnesium.
4. Common digestive diseases like leaky gut, so prevalent nowadays, can lead to the inability to absorb minerals which includes magnesium. And as we get older our mineral absorption capabilities tends to decline leading to a higher possibility of a deficiency.
5. The proliferation of chronic illness and medication used for symptom relief nowadays is high. Many chronic illnesses are linked with magnesium deficiency and a decrease in mineral absorption. If you take medications regularly they can damage your gut and add to malabsorption issues. Medications such as diuretics can also cause the kidneys to excrete magnesium via the urine.
What Is Magnesium’s Role In The Body?
Magnesium plays an important role in the body and is involved in more than 600 enzymatic processes. It is an essential ion supporting mineral for maintaining good health, in fact, all of your cells need magnesium to function well.
Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function and maintains a normal heartbeat. In conjunction with other vitamins and minerals it helps keep your bones strong and it also assists with building a healthy immune system. It helps with the production of protein and energy and helps keep blood glucose levels on an even keel.
8 Ways Your Body Uses Magnesium
- MUSCLES – Helps in the movement, contraction and relaxation of muscles.
- NERVES – Helps maintain normal nerve function.
- BRAIN – Has a critical role in regulating neurotransmitters, brain function and mood.
- IMMUNE SYSTEM – Supports a healthy immune system.
- BONES – Helps bones remain strong.
- BLOOD GLUCOSE – Assists in adjusting blood glucose levels.
- ENERGY – Aids in the production of energy from food.
- GENES – Helps in the creation and repair of DNA.
What Food Is Highest In Magnesium?
The good news is there are several good food sources of magnesium you can include in a natural healthy diet. Nuts and seeds are the richest sources, however whole grains, legumes and leafy green vegetables are also good natural sources of magnesium
Adding more of the following foods regularly will increase your magnesium levels:
- SEEDS – Pumpkin seeds, Flax seeds, Sunflower seeds.
- NUTS – Hazelnuts, Cashews, Almonds.
- LEGUMES – Black beans.
- WHOLE GRAINS – Oats, Quinoa.
- COCOA – Dark chocolate, Raw cacao.
- VEGETABLES – Avocados, Spinach, Chard.
- OILY FISH – Salmon, Mackerel.
As you can see from this food list there are lots of yummy foods high in magnesium that can be easily incorporated into your diet. And many of these food types can be incorporated to make inexpensive meals and snacks. A handful of raw nuts or seeds with a piece of fruit each day makes a healthy magnesium rich snack.
And topping up your magnesium levels is a guilt free reason to enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate regularly. I had a friend who during pregnancy had uncontrollable cravings for chocolate which pre- pregnancy she didn’t eat.
Unfortunately, she gained a substantial amount of pregnancy weight probably from all the sugar in the chocolate bars she was regularly chowing down on. If only I had known about magnesium then, it might have helped with her cravings and avoiding all that extra weight she struggled to shift after the birth.
Try a hearty and healthy lentil and tomato soup.
Or make a poke bowl with quinoa as a base and add some beans, avocado and tofu. A green salad of spinach and chard on the side will add even more magnesium power
Morning oatmeal is also a good magnesium source and keeps you full until lunchtime. Scatter some nuts and seeds on top to amp up the magnesium content even further.
Try this recipe for gluten free almond seed crackers which incorporates nuts and seeds in a tasty and crunchy low carb cracker. Try them with some hummus for an easy way to add magnesium into your healthy snacks.
How Much Magnesium Do You Need Each Day?
Relative to other nutrients, our bodies require only small amounts of magnesium. But our stores of magnesium need to be topped up each day as the body uses it in normal daily activities like producing hormones, maintaining our heartbeat and when using our muscles for exercise and as go about our normal routine each day.
As well as being an important mineral, magnesium is also an electrolyte with the kidneys controlling the levels of magnesium by excreting it along with other electrolytes. Magnesium helps regulate many different biochemical reactions along with other electrolytes in the body.
The table below from the National Institutes Of Health shows the recommended Daily Allowances for magnesium. As you can see the general guide for women is 320 per day mg increasing to 360 mg a day during pregnancy.
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
Magnesium Supplements Do You Need One + Which Types Are Best?
If you eat a healthy diet do you need to take a supplement? Obviously the first thing to do is check your diet and make adjustments to ensure you are including plenty of natural food sources of magnesium in your daily diet.
But, if you feel you may be deficient in magnesium and are unable to get enough of this important mineral from your diet, supplementation can help enormously.
My own experience has shown me that I do better by adding a magnesium supplement despite the fact I eat a healthy and magnesium rich diet. It helps me sleep better, and assists with leg cramps, restless legs and tight neck and shoulder muscles. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people have higher requirements for magnesium than others.
The type of magnesium supplement you choose is important as they aren’t all created equal. The way different types of magnesium supplements are absorbed varies. In general, forms of magnesium easily dissolved in liquid are shown to be better absorbed by your gut.
Studies find that magnesium oxide and magnesium sulphate are more poorly absorbed. While magnesium chloride, lactate, citrate and aspartate are better absorbed and therefore more readily bioavailable.
But, one thing I’ve personally experienced about magnesium supplementation is some forms can be harsh on your system causing unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.
After trying various different types, the best form of magnesium supplement I’ve found is magnesium lysinate. This type is often used instead of others as it is a super easy form your body can readily absorb and use. It is also gentle on the stomach and unlike other forms of magnesium doesn’t cause any nasty upset stomach or loose stools.
Putting It All Together
A surprisingly high percentage of people could unknowingly have a magnesium deficiency. Check if you have any of the symptoms listed here. If you think magnesium deficiency could be a cause, adding more magnesium rich foods into your regular diet is a logical step.
For detailed information on the nutrient content of foods and foods with their magnesium content you can find details at the USDA’s Nutrient Database site.
A magnesium supplement may be necessary and if so it is important to take one which can be easily absorbed and used by your body and that doesn’t cause stomach upset.
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