Many minerals inhabit our fleshy bodies: Iron helps generate red blood cells; calcium builds bones; the dance of sodium and potassium ions delivers energy to cells.
Minerals fuel a spark vital to all organic life. Magnesium’s spark contributes to more than 300 enzymatic reactions—it’s a driving force behind muscle and nerve function, blood sugar balance, immunity, and more.
Despite all that magnesium does, modern medicine doesn’t pay it much mind. Magnesium tests are rare, yet most of us don’t get enough. Experts estimate that as much as 80 percent of Americans lack the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium: about 350 milligrams (mg) per day for women, and 420 mg for men.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we used to have a lot more in our diet. Just a century ago, we consumed about 500 mg of magnesium per day. Today, we’re lucky to break 200 mg.
Many things contribute to our deficit, such as drinking bottled water (which is often stripped of minerals in the filtering process), and our general aversion to magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, greens, seeds, and whole grains.
Meanwhile, we require more magnesium than ever. Stress burns up a lot of this mineral, as does sugar, caffeine, prescription drugs, and even common supplements. Our food is grown in magnesium-compromised soil. Chemical fertilizers high in potassium and phosphorus inhibit magnesium absorption. Herbicides such as glyphosate bind with magnesium in the soil, making it inaccessible to plants.
We’re starving for this mineral at every level, but most doctors are blind to it, says Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of the bestselling book “The Magnesium Miracle.”
“We never learned about magnesium in medical school,” she told The Epoch Times, “but the evidence is there if we’re willing to open our eyes.”
Dean first learned about magnesium after she graduated from conventional medical school and began taking courses in naturopathic medicine. While researching her book, Dean discovered many health problems linked to magnesium deficiency, with plenty of data to support it. Her latest edition points to over 15,000 articles on PubMed exploring the impact magnesium has on our body.
A Better Test
Because magnesium plays a role in so many bodily processes, running low can contribute to a wide range of symptoms. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, stroke, ADHD, osteoporosis, and many more may all be traced back to a magnesium deficiency.
But even if a doctor orders a magnesium test, they probably still won’t see a correlation with these diseases, because the test can be misleading. Our blood serum doesn’t accurately reflect the body’s total magnesium levels, yet this is where a standard test takes its measurement.
“If you test the serum, it’s almost always going to show a normal level because the heart muscle has to be provided with enough magnesium so it does not go into spasm or arrhythmia,” Dean said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “serum levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels or concentrations in specific tissues.”
A more appropriate test measures the body’s magnesium ions. This test was developed by professors Bella and Burton Altura in the 1990s at the State University of New York.
The Altura test is not well known, but Dr. James DiNicolantonio believes it should be. DiNicolantonio is a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Missouri and the associate editor of the British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) Open Heart. He contends that if more doctors and hospitals were familiar with magnesium ion testing, they would take this mineral much more seriously.
“Advanced testing needs to become more common,” DiNicolantonio said. “We need to realize how common this problem is and how many disease states are caused by this deficiency.”
Symptoms such as muscle cramping, heart palpitations, and anxiety may signal deficiency. The ion test can provide confirmation.
“It can be quite illuminating to see a person who has high blood pressure, insomnia, migraines … you’ll find they’re often very low in ionized magnesium,” Dean said.