Every organ in your body, and especially your muscles and heart, needs magnesium to function properly. In fact, magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical processes. That’s a pretty tall order, so you definitely want to be sure you are getting all you require. But there’s a good chance you are actually deficient in magnesium. Why do I say that? Because up to 75 percent of Americans don’t even meet the minimum daily requirement for this mineral, which is 310 to 320 milligrams for women and 400 to 420 milligrams for men. Since only 1 percent of the magnesium in your body is found in your bloodstream, getting a blood test is not a good way to determine if you have insufficient levels.
The reason why most people are deficient in magnesium has a great deal to do with diet. Even if you eat lots of foods rich in this mineral (e.g., dark leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, bananas, beans, dried fruit, avocados), you can be excreting much of the mineral if you also eat refined sugar, caffeinated beverages, soft drinks, and/or alcohol.
Other reasons you could be deficient in magnesium include older age (absorption declines with age), use of certain medications (e.g., diuretics, antacids, insulin, corticosteroids, certain antibiotics), and gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or leaky gut.
Signs you are deficient in magnesium
I’ve already given you a hint concerning how you can correct a magnesium deficiency, but what are the signs of one? That list can be quite extensive, but the more common signs are listed below. The first six are those typically seen during the early stages while the latter seven are associated with an ongoing deficiency.
- Muscle signs such as foot pain, muscles twitches (including under-eye twitching), and foot or leg cramps;
- Loss of appetite;
- Nausea and/or poor digestion;
- Low energy or fatigue;
Signs of ongoing or severe magnesium deficiency
- Abnormal heart rhythms, which can include premature atrial contractions (extra beats), premature ventricular contractions (skipped heartbeats), atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm), and tachycardia (rapid heart rate), among others;
- Coronary spasms, a temporary, sudden narrowing of a coronary artery, resulting in a slowing or stopping of blood flow;
- Tingling and numbness because of the impact on the deficiency on the peripheral nervous system;
- Muscle cramps and contractions (more severe than experienced in the early stage of deficiency);
- Personality changes, such as irritability, tantrums, panic attacks, depression;
- Chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders;
If you suspect you may be deficient, you can ask your doctor for a magnesium test. The serum magnesium blood test is the most common but is not accurate. Instead, ask your doctor for an RBC magnesium test, which can measure the amount of magnesium in our cells. Two other tests that are even more accurate than the RBC are the ionized magnesium test and the EXA. It is difficult to find doctors and labs that can perform either of the latter two tests, but it is worth asking.
In addition to eating more foods rich in magnesium and limiting or avoiding refined sugar, soft drinks, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, you also could take a magnesium supplement. Because magnesium must be bound to other substances in order for you to reap the mineral’s benefits, you will see names such as magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium glycinate, among others, on supplement labels.
When choosing a magnesium supplement, Andrew Weil, MD recommends magnesium citrate, chelate, and glycinate. It is important to note that magnesium oxide is not well absorbed and can cause loose stools.
No nutrients work solo, and this is also true of magnesium. You should balance your intake of magnesium with calcium (a 1:1 ratio), vitamin K2, and vitamin D. All four of these nutrients work together. Take a personal inventory and weigh the possibility that you are magnesium deficient. Then take steps to correct it by changing your diet, considering a supplement, and discussing your plans with a knowledgeable health professional.
[Editor's Note: Pure Essence Ionic Fizz ™ Magnesium is our favorite ways to supplement magnesium when we aren't getting enough magnesium from our food.]
Image via Cathy Russell
CNN. Magnesium deficiency
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