How much thought do you give to your natural mineral levels? Odds are, you haven’t given magnesium deficiency much consideration over the course of your life.
This might be more of an oversight than you realize, as magnesium is vital for your body to function properly. There are over 300 biochemical reactions every second that magnesium is directly linked to in your body, including protein synthesis, nerve and muscle functioning, energy production and hormonal balancing.
Without enough daily magnesium, you will encounter problems with the functioning of your immune system, muscles, nerves, bones and even heart. In fact, some of your most inexplicable health symptoms might be traced back to a chronic magnesium deficiency.
How can you know for sure? Let’s look at some of the facts behind magnesium deficiency to find out.
What is Magnesium Deficiency ?
Magnesium might not be as familiar of a mineral as iron, calcium, or zinc, but your body is highly dependent on it for healthy functioning.
Most adult bodies contain about 25 grams of magnesium: roughly half stored in the bones, half stored in soft tissue, and just one percent stored in the blood. This mineral is abundant in healthy bodies and naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that between half and three-quarters of Americans are getting less than half of the magnesium they need each day. Roughly two percent are suffering from hypomagnesemia, the medical term for severe magnesium deficiency. The symptoms of magnesium deficiency might seem subtle, but they can significantly impact your quality of life. In fact, some experts are beginning to claim that magnesium deficiency is the most significant underreported health problem in the world today.
So what causes this silent epidemic, and how can you know if you are at risk? Understanding the cause of magnesium deficiency will answer these questions for you.
What Causes Magnesium Deficiency?
There are numerous ways that you can develop a magnesium deficiency. Not eating a magnesium-fortified diet is one way, but other possibilities include health problems like diabetes, poor nutrient absorption, and even excessive alcohol consumption.
However, while most of us aren’t getting enough magnesium from our diets, that alone won’t cause you to have a magnesium deficiency because your kidneys will naturally regulate your levels. Even so, a magnesium inadequacy can still lead to health problems.
Why is magnesium deficiency so widespread today? The problem might be linked to the soil. When land is overfarmed or too many synthetic fertilizers are used, soil’s natural magnesium levels can be depleted.
This means less magnesium ends up in the food being grown. Chemicals like fluoride and chlorine also impact your absorption rates because they make magnesium less bioavailable in water. Even seemingly innocent substances like caffeine and sugar can deplete your magnesium stores.
What are the Signs of Magnesium Deficiency?
Severe magnesium deficiency might still be rare, but that doesn’t mean your levels are anywhere near where they should be. The lower your magnesium levels fall, the more likely you are to experience some (or all) of the following symptoms.
1. Muscle Twitching and Cramps
Some of the most reliable signs of a magnesium deficiency are inexplicable twitches and tremors in your muscles. In extreme cases, they can even become seizures. These tremors are likely caused by an overabundance of calcium in the nerve cells, which over stimulates them. Magnesium is vital for muscle relaxation, meaning that a magnesium deficiency can lead to spasms. However, these twitches can also be caused by numerous other health issues like too much stress or caffeine, so you can’t rule out other health issues.
2. Cravings for Chocolate
There might be something more sinister than your sweet tooth at play when you experience a craving for chocolate. Cravings are your body’s way of telling you when you need a nutrient, and dark chocolate is a high-quality source of magnesium. Just one square can provide as much as a quarter of your daily requirements, so nibbling on a piece or two might do wonders for maintaining your magnesium levels.
Keep in mind that milk chocolate doesn’t qualify here because it contains too little cocoa to be beneficial. Instead, seek out chocolate that is at least 65-70 percent cocoa.
There is more in common between your tension headaches and muscle cramps than you might think. Tense muscles cause most headaches, and a magnesium deficiency might be to blame. Studies show that chronic migraine sufferers often have lower levels of magnesium, and bringing their levels back up leads to long-term relief.
4. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness
Fatigue is a cause of both physical and mental exhaustion, and magnesium deficiency can lead to both. Because fatigue is such a general symptom, it can be hard to attribute to a shortage of magnesium. However, severe, inexplicable fatigue is often a sign that something is going on physically besides general exhaustion. Magnesium deficiency also triggers myasthenia, which is a form of muscle weakness caused by a loss of potassium in muscle cells.
Mental fatigue is another condition linked to magnesium deficiency. Emotional numbness, depression, and apathy are common, and delirium and even comas are possible in extreme cases.
5. High Blood Pressure
Too little magnesium in your bloodstream may lead to elevated blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease. Animal studies show that magnesium deficiency can raise blood pressure levels, though the reasons why are still not fully understood. The evidence shows that consuming magnesium-rich foods regularly and/or taking supplements can lead to healthier blood pressure levels.
6. Irregular Heartbeat
One of the most serious, yet under-reported symptoms of magnesium deficiency is an irregular heartbeat. Though symptoms are often mild, some people experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and erratic pauses between pulses. In extreme cases, an irregular heartbeat can lead to a stroke or heart failure.
This irregularity is likely caused by an imbalance of potassium levels within the heart muscles, which is often triggered by magnesium deficiency. Past research has shown that patients with congestive heart failure tend to have lower magnesium levels than the general population.
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep might be linked to your magnesium levels. Even a minor deficiency in magnesium can make a difference in the quality of your sleep each night because it can prevent your brain from shutting off. This is because of magnesium’s prominent role in your central nervous system and its ability to keep things relaxed so that you don’t over-trigger the neural passageways within it.
Best Ways to Treat Magnesium Deficiency
Are you concerned that you may be dealing with symptoms surrounding a magnesium deficiency? The good news is that the problem can be easily treated!
Eat a Magnesium Rich Diet
A safe and satisfying way to keep your magnesium levels in check is by filling up on foods naturally filled with magnesium. The general rule is to try to fill up on about 300 mg of magnesium per day. By eating dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, bananas, tofu, black beans, and even dark chocolate on a regular basis, you can keep your levels high. A serving of almonds alone provides well over 200 mg of magnesium, or two-thirds of your daily amount.
Even some processed foods like breakfast cereal are high in added magnesium, meaning that getting enough shouldn’t prove difficult with a little effort.
Take an Epsom Salt Bath
Another way to incorporate magnesium into your life is to absorb it through your skin in a hot bath infused with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). While the overall amount you absorb will be minimal compared to getting magnesium from your diet, taking a bath may be a better way to reduce magnesium-related muscle aches and pains.
Take a Magnesium Supplement
If you have a medical condition like diabetes or Crohn’s disease that makes it difficult for you to absorb the nutrients in your food fully, a regular magnesium supplement might be a good idea. It’s crucial to find supplements that bind magnesium with another substance. Otherwise, your body isn’t able to process it. Popular options include magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium lactate.
It is important to note that too much magnesium can be just as dangerous as too little, so it’s highly recommended that you talk with a functional medicine doctor before you begin taking supplements.
Is Excessive Magnesium Possible?
While it’s almost impossible to overdo it on magnesium from diet alone, it’s possible to make your concentration too high from supplements. Taking too much can even lead to highly unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, cramping, and even an irregular heartbeat (similar symptoms to magnesium deficiency!)
For this reason, it’s a good idea to always meet directly with a functional medicine doctor if you experience the symptoms of magnesium deficiency so that they can recommend the best treatment option for moving forward.
Magnesium Deficiency Diagnosis at The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine
Are you concerned that a magnesium deficiency may be the cause or a contributing factor to your health problem?
Please make an appointment at The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine. I will work with you to evaluate your overall health, run some diagnostic tests, and determine what needs to be done in order to improve your magnesium levels.
I am pleased to offer a Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Session for all first-time patients. Throughout this session, we will discuss your health goals and how your health can benefit from a functional medicine approach. To make the process as convenient as possible for you, this session can take place over the phone or in person at the clinic.
Please schedule an appointment today! I look forward to working with you.
Dr. John Dempster
The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine