Approximately eight out of ten Americans are deficient in magnesium. Sadly, they probably don’t realize the extent of health conditions caused by this deficiency. Cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, migraine headaches, ADD, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia, obesity, depression, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, among others, are linked to magnesium deficiency. I’m passionate about sharing this information since magnesium is one of the most important, yet overlooked minerals.
Why We Need It: Magnesium is a cofactor for approximately 350 enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for DNA/RNA synthesis, energy production, and the antioxidant glutathione. It’s involved in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes which is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. Magnesium also prevents damage in the brain that can occur with injuries from contact sports.
Sources: Nuts, seeds, cacao, avocados, leafy green vegetables, and milk products are just a few of the foods containing magnesium. Supplemental magnesium comes in various forms including lactate, malate, citrate, glycinate. Epsom salt, used primarily for plants and soaking, contains magnesium sulfate.
Amount Recommended: The daily RDA for adults is 310-420 milligrams depending on age and gender. Increased amounts often indicated for various conditions should be based on individual needs and tolerance. When adding supplemental magnesium, the guidance of an experienced healthcare professional is recommended.
Maximizing Absorption with Vitamin B6: The active form of B6 is pyridoxal-5’-phosphate (P-5-P). B6 enhances bioavailability because it is a cofactor for magnesium.
Measuring Levels: Serum levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels since most magnesium is inside the cells and bones. Although saliva, urine, and erythrocytes can be used, no single method is considered satisfactory (ods.od.nih.gov). Clinical assessments are often the most useful.
Why Is Deficiency So Common?
1. High-Stress Levels: Magnesium helps control and limit damage from the stress hormones, epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol, and aldosterone. This means that the more stress we have the more magnesium we need. Author and heart specialist, Dr. Dennis Goodman, MD, (Magnificent Magnesium, 2014) explains, “When your body is flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones, magnesium is quickly expended in an effort to bring levels down to normal. Without magnesium, your stress levels stay elevated for an extended period of time. The result of chronic stress, therefore, is chronic magnesium deficiency.”
2. Fewer Nutrients in Food: Synthetic fertilizers, topsoil erosion, and farming practices are responsible for the diminished mineral content of the soil. American soil now has approximately one-sixth of the mineral content compared to what it was in the 1950’s. Food grown on these soils now have reduced mineral content. Plants cultivated by selective breeding and genetically modified (GM) foods also have lower concentrations of nutrients. The commonly applied herbicide (Roundup) prevents plants from absorbing magnesium and other nutrients from the soil.
3. Poor Diet: NIH studies show the majority of people in the U.S. fail to meet 75% of the dietary reference intakes for essential minerals. Processed and refined foods which lack minerals and other nutrients are consumed regularly while fresh foods are neglected. Magnesium helps neutralize excess acid and maintain proper pH balance so magnesium stores in the body are depleted when acid-forming foods are eaten. Soda depletes magnesium due to its high phosphoric acid content. Alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated beverages affect magnesium stores due to their diuretic effects. Alcohol interferes with the ability of magnesium to be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and contributes to loss of magnesium in the kidneys.
4. Poor Absorption: Many people suffer from impaired digestion due to enzyme deficiencies, insufficient stomach acid, food allergies, imbalanced gut flora, and other gastrointestinal conditions. Phytates and oxalates which occur naturally in nuts, grains, legumes, and many vegetables bind with magnesium and other minerals, preventing them from being absorbed.
5. Cofactor for Calcium/Vitamin D: Being their cofactor means magnesium is required to activate their benefits. Free magnesium binds to calcium and vitamin D as they’re taken in. When magnesium levels are low, the other biochemical reactions that depend on magnesium are short-changed. The recommended ratio of calcium to magnesium is 1:1, the same ratio that occurs naturally in food groups richest in these minerals. The previous, now outdated recommendation was 2:1. The bottom line is that excess magnesium enhances the absorption and storage of calcium while excess calcium blocks magnesium from being absorbed.
Other magnesium deficiencies may be due to calorie restriction, pharmaceutical drugs, diarrhea, and sweating. (Strenuous exercise increases magnesium requirements 10-20 %.)
Deficiency Warning Signs:
• High Blood Pressure
• Irregular Heartbeat/Racing Heart/Palpitations
• Chest Pain/Pressure
• Muscle Twitches/Cramps/Spasms
• Muscle Tension/Weakness
• Impaired Coordination
• Back and/or Neck Pain
• Fatigue/Low energy
• Migraine/Cluster/Tension Headaches
• Insomnia/Difficulty Staying Asleep at Night
• Memory Problems/Impaired Cognitive Function/Confusion
• Menstrual Cramps/PMS
• Unexplained Respiratory Problems/Asthma
• Exaggerated Responses to External Stimuli
Cardiovascular Benefits: Magnesium acts as a gatekeeper to make sure excess calcium doesn’t enter the interior of the cell so is considered a natural calcium channel blocker similar to the class of blood pressure medications. Without adequate magnesium, excess calcium creates electrolyte imbalances which often leads to serious heart conditions.
Stroke Prevention: Magnesium improves cerebral blood flow, especially in the microvessels. Since staying hydrated is an essential measure of stroke prevention, Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD, recommends taking magnesium along with fluids to improve blood flow. This helps reduce platelet adhesiveness which helps prevent the formation of blood clots.
Magnesium After Stroke: The article “Nutrition Limits Stroke Damage” from the Blaylock Wellness Report (March 2016) explains how magnesium protects the brain after a stroke. Studies have shown that magnesium administered soon after a stroke can improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, raise blood glutathione levels, and stimulate energy production through neurons. One of the newest studies showed that magnesium was most effective when administered within two hours of a stroke.
There’s so much more to tell you but I’ve used my 1000 words, so let’s continue this discussion at my workshop on November 15th!
Dr. William H. Karl, D.C., is a Brimhall Certified Wellness Doctor with over 35 years of experience helping people obtain optimal health. Attend Dr. Karl’s FREE workshop on November 15th @ 7 pm on “Magnesium: The Magic Mineral.” Visit www.KarlWellnessCenter.com for more information. Please RSVP workshop: 734.425.8220.