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 (see below). 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 400 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 (100 milligrams/day) lowered the risk of diabetes by 15 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 Center reports that 300–1,000 milligrams of magnesium per day can help, but you do also want to be careful, as too much magnesium can also cause diarrhea.
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 360–600 milligrams of magnesium daily can reduce the frequency of migraine headaches by up to 42 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 realize, 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.