by THOMAS on June 12, 2014 • 9:26 am
It is estimated that up to 80% of the population of the U.S. is deficient in magnesium. Considering that the body has such a widespread need for this nutrient, it is no wonder that a whole range of health conditions can have magnesium deficiency as their underlying cause. Magnesium is important for maintaining optimal heart rhythm, blood pressure, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and brain health. In other words, magnesium is important for just about everything that occurs in the human body. Common signs of magnesium deficiency include constipation and other digestive problems, irregularities in menstrual flow and reproductive health, chronic muscle cramping and spasms, restless leg syndrome, and migraine headaches.
Food sources of magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, chard, collards, spinach, and legumes, green beans, almonds, cashews, filberts, pumpkin and sesame seeds. However, unless you eat a lot of these foods, it can be a challenge to obtain sufficient magnesium and these foods themselves may be deficient in magnesium due to the lack of magnesium present in the soils in which they are grown. This is becoming an increasing problem as more and more soils are being depleted of valuable minerals by intensive farming practices where no attempts are made to rebuild the soils.
Without sufficient levels of magnesium in the body, proper nerve and muscle function is impaired due to an excess of calcium which causes muscles to contract. Magnesium allows muscle fibers to relax. Correct mineral balance allows the muscles to cycle naturally. This is why magnesium is so important for the heart and without the proper levels in the system, heart muscle can not function normally and there is an increased risk for a heart attack. The left ventricle of the heart requires a lot of magnesium and the body will literally steal it from the bones to maintain proper levels.
Recommended daily allowance for magnesium should be on a 1:1 ratio with calcium. Unfortunately this has rarely been the case in the past as practitioners have consistently stressed the importance of a 2:1 ratio which has resulted in an increase in calcium and a tendency towards increased inflammation, one of the prime causes of heart disease. You might be getting adequate calcium from today’s diet, especially if you are consuming dairy products, nuts and seeds, and green leafy vegetables but it is much more difficult to get adequate magnesium.
Supplementation presents another problem in that the majority of supplements on the retail shelves contain forms of magnesium that are poorly absorbed. As a result, the majority of that magnesium stays in the digestive system, which is fine if you are having a problem with constipation but it does little to supply the body’s cells. The more highly absorbed forms of magnesium are also the more expensive and are generally only available from healthcare practitioners.
How do I know if I am getting enough magnesium? That is a good question because a serum blood test is not gong to tell you because much like calcium, your body will literally rob magnesium from the bones in order to maintain the necessary 1% in the blood. Some additional signs of magnesium insufficiency, other than muscle cramping include headache, heart rhythm abnormalities, loss of appetite, fatigue, numbness or tingling, and nausea.
Stress is another area where magnesium plays a significant role. Your adrenal gland uses magnesium to help keep muscles relaxed and to ward of anxiety and depression. The more tress a person is exposed to, the more magnesium the adrenal gland burns up.
People taking prescription medications are more likely than others to need magnesium supplementation. This is true of all types of medications as they have been found to deplete magnesium stores in the body. The irony in this is that prescription medications for high blood pressure are commonly calcium channel blockers and magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker. So you take your blood pressure medication and further deplete an already depleted supply of magnesium. The reason for this is that magnesium is used to support the liver in its attempts to detoxify the medications. Researchers discovered that every drug they tested elevated the serum magnesium levels, which was an indication of the body mobilizing magnesium to support liver detoxification.
When it comes to magnesium and the heart, most doctors fail to understand the link. They will often prescribe five different medications to someone who has just suffered a heart attack; three for high blood pressure, one for cholesterol, and one for high blood sugar, even if you don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar. If the patient were to ask the doctor if she can continue taking magnesium, the doctor would say no because it will interfere with the drugs. What? The magnesium will interfere with the blood pressure drug because it will help lower your blood pressure! So you won’t need the blood pressure medication. The magnesium will interfere with the cholesterol drug because it will lower your cholesterol--the same is true for the blood sugar medication. The bottom line……take your magnesium and make sure you have a highly absorbable form unless you are suffering from constipation. Once you experience the benefits of magnesium supplementation, you may decide to eliminate all of your prescription medications and adopt magnesium as your new best friend. Wouldn’t that be nice!
1. Dean C. The Magnesium Miracle. Ballantine Books, 2014
2. “A Special Interview with Carolyn Dean,” see Joseph Mercola’s interview with