Are you starting to feel a little different than normal, with no real explanation why?
You might consider yourself a very healthy person, with no history of serious illness. Yet lately, you just feel off.
You may have even gone to the doctor about your symptoms. When you received medications and tried taking them, they seemed to have no real effect. You still feel like something’s up, but nothing you do does anything to help.
Your doctor tells you to drink more water and to get more sleep. Maybe he or she even recommends you take a vacation and relax. Come back next month for a follow-up, your doctor advises.
But none of those things work. By the time you go back for a follow up, you’re at your wit’s end. Because no matter what you do, you still feel a mixture of exhausted, agitated, sore, and in some cases, seriously ill.
After you’ve been referred to endocrinologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists, rheumatologists, and immunologists, you still feel like medical science has hit a brick wall when it comes to figuring out exactly what is wrong with you.
So what could this be?
Well, you just might be suffering from a frequently overlooked disorder called a magnesium deficiency.
What is a magnesium deficiency?
Magnesium is an essential mineral your body cannot make on its own, relying instead on the foods you eat to obtain it. It can be found in every cell type in every organism.
It is used in a huge number of bodily processes, responsible for over 300 biochemical enzyme reactions. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy to the cells, must be bound to magnesium in order to function properly.
There are a whole barrage of complications that can arise from such a deficiency, an issue that often goes undiagnosed by experts. The scary part is, it’s often difficult to detect with current diagnostic techniques.
Magnesium is used especially by your heart, liver, and kidneys. You might think your doctors would be able to recognize a deficiency after you undergo a blood test, but because only 1 percent of the body’s magnesium is present in the blood, this can prove troublesome.
Most of the magnesium in your body lies in your organs and bones, operating on a cellular level by accumulating in organ and nerve tissue.
For this reason, low magnesium levels are often called the “invisible deficiency” . When people experiencing health issues find out they have a lack of some nutrient, they usually up their fiber or iron intake without ever considering magnesium.
A 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that at least half of the United States population had inadequate regular magnesium intake. Some experts now believe we should be receiving at least twice the amount we’re getting now.
What are the causes of magnesium deficiency?
Diet plays a considerable role in magnesium deficiency, but not because the foods you eat are particularly low in magnesium. Rather, it’s because the foods you eat are actively preventing your body from being able to use the magnesium properly.
This is largely due to the unhealthy modern American diet. We consume an abundance of carbs, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol on a regular basis. Regular consumption of these is linked to at least some level of magnesium deficiency.
Drinking alcohol in excess interferes with the way the body absorbs vitamin D, which aids in magnesium absorption. Eating loads of sugar regularly forces your body to dump magnesium into your kidneys and excrete it as waste. Caffeine, acting as a diuretic, flushes your body of all sorts of nutrients.
If you have a chronic disease already like Crohn’s disease or diabetes, or are simply nearing old age, your chances for developing a magnesium deficiency increases dramatically.
Magnesium acts, in many ways, as a counterbalance to other nutrients the body requires – calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D3, all rely on magnesium. It acts as a transport for these nutrients through cell membranes, making it essential to good health.
Today, most of us don’t receive a proper balance of these nutrients. We should have around a 1:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium, but it more often looks like 3.5:1.
A lack of balance between these nutrients is now associated with chronic disease and increased risk of heart attack, vitamin D toxicity, and stroke.
If you have a magnesium deficiency, odds are you’re feeling the tell-tale signs of it.
Because of how integral it is to metabolism, hormonal function, energy production, cellular membrane stability, and the neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and immune systems, if you’re running low on magnesium, you’ll suffer from some of the following ten symptoms.
There’s a reason why sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome take magnesium supplements.
Your muscle cells won’t have the highest oxidative capacity (the ability to produce ATP) without the proper levels of magnesium in your system.
Magnesium has a heavy impact on adrenal fatigue. When you’re in a constant, chronic stress state, you use up magnesium more than usual, which leads to further fatigue. Being unable to deal with the stress further drives down magnesium and can become a nasty cycle.
2. Insulin Resistance
Magnesium has a lot to do with controlling your blood glucose levels by signaling when the body should produce more insulin. When insulin and blood sugar do not interact properly, your food is processed through the body and absorbed abnormally, resulting in many gastrointestinal complications.
Without adequate magnesium levels, the body cannot properly absorb the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates you eat every day. When the body senses it isn’t getting what it needs, it starts telling you to eat more through cravings and excessive hunger.
By activating all the proper stomach enzymes, magnesium helps you get the most from your food.
Magnesium is now known to play a key role in sleep. Research has demonstrated that even a slight deficiency can lead to a lack of sleep. There’s a reason it’s known as the “relaxation mineral”.
One study from The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine even indicated that a long-term magnesium deficiency makes you twice as likely to die as other people.
4. Muscle and Bone Problems
Magnesium stimulates enzymes that help normalize your body’s levels of calcium, potassium, and other essential vitamins and minerals. It also serves to stop excess calcium build up in your muscle tissue.
Fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, muscle pain, and even cramps from PMS, can all be eased by taking magnesium supplements. Magnesium is most commonly known for its use in promoting proper bone and muscle tissue formation – without it, bones develop softer, and muscles are more prone to tension and twitchiness.
When mineral homeostasis is disrupted, the body can undergo quite a bit of discomfort. One of these unpleasant situations is experiencing nausea.
Nausea can be a result of just about anything else on this list, as well as being a direct result of a magnesium deficiency. You may even end up with vomiting and weakness too.
6. Apathy, Stress, or Depression
Magnesium is strongly related to proper brain biochemistry. According to this study published on Pub Med, a variety of neuromuscular and psychiatric symptoms were observed due to magnesium deficiency, and could be corrected by administering magnesium compounds.
Without proper levels of magnesium in your system, you may be more susceptible to stress. Some even go so far as to name magnesium the “stress antidote”.
Studies have indicated that magnesium treatments can lead to rapid recovery from depression. However, the antidepressant effects magnesium has on the brain are still yet to be fully understood by medical science.
7. Confusion and Anxiety
Magnesium deficiencies are associated with susceptibility to a load of mental issues, turning your mind into a bubbling cauldron of apprehension, uncertainty, and anxiety, which can lead to a considerable amount of confusion.
A lack of adequate magnesium levels can lead to serious effects on the central nervous system that can leave you twitchy and irritated. Restlessness and hyperactivity, along with a proneness to panic attacks are also common.
As magnesium levels tend to fluctuate during menstruation, women crave chocolate before their periods because the body wants more magnesium to get it through the rocky times ahead.
Seems like making use of magnesium can keep you calm and collected, even under the worst conditions.
When people suffering from epileptic seizures are placed in hospital, they are often hooked up to a magnesium-based IV drip.
Studies have shown that magnesium depletion can lead to a “marked irritability of the nervous system”, which can result in epileptic seizures.
While the exact mechanism causing seizures in the absence of adequate levels of magnesium is currently unknown, researchers continue to observe the link between the two.
9. Poor Memory
A study published in Neuron in 2010 found that increasing magnesium levels in the brain improved long and short term memory in rats.
This may be because a lack of magnesium weakens neuroplasticity – the means by which the neurons interact with one another.
Low levels of magnesium are also being linked to the contribution of heavy metal depositions in the brain. These metals are frequently related to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
10. Blood Vessel Issues
The inability to properly store magnesium forces the blood vessels to constrict, elevates blood pressure, can cause coronary arterial spasm, and can result in a heart attack. Yikes.
Studies have shown that adequate magnesium levels have “a direct effect upon the relaxation capability of vascular smooth muscle cells and the regulation of cellular placement of other cations important to blood pressure”.
If you already have high blood pressure or hypertension, studies have shown the efficacy of a balance of magnesium and calcium in treating them.
How to address your magnesium deficiency
If you have any of these unexplained symptoms, have your magnesium levels checked by asking your doctor specifically for the correct test.
Mayo Clinic suggests that women should have around 315 milligrams of magnesium a day, while men should have close to 410 milligrams.
Drinking vegetable juice, or generally increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet will soon see your magnesium levels increase. When grocery shopping, opt for organic choices, which may have been grown in more nutrient rich soils, providing more magnesium and other minerals.
Natural sources of magnesium include whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes.
Some of these include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Black beans
- Brown rice
- Oat bran
- Sesame seeds
You may also consider a magnesium supplement, but these should be taken with caution and only under the approval of your doctor.
While it’s difficult to overdose or experience adverse health complications as a result of too high an intake of magnesium, you could still experience some side effects. Diarrhea is common – however, this might come as some relief if you had been constipated due to your deficiency.
Magnesium oils and epsom salt baths are an effective means of topical absorption; your body can take in magnesium through the skin with relative ease.
Remember to cut back on unhealthy snacks, sodas, and high carbohydrate foods.
Drink as little alcohol as possible. Alcohol doubles the excretion of magnesium from the foods you eat, driving down the amount you can absorb successfully.
Magnesium is obviously extremely important to all our inner workings, and without it, we’re in a heap of trouble. So make sure to always eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
If you start feeling any of these symptoms and suspect it may be the result of a magnesium deficiency, don’t self-medicate without first consulting your doctor. And when you’re in there, ask about what else you could do to take advantage of the many benefits of higher magnesium intake.