Magnesium: the Most Needed Mineral
Essentially, every cell in the human body needs magnesium to thrive and function properly. It is also a very important nutrient that the human body uses in more than 600 different enzyme reactions. A magnesium deficiency can even be deadly, especially since the highest concentrations of magnesium n the human body is found in the heart and brain with importance second only to potassium. It is an essential nutrient for the electrical activity of the heart, dilation of blood vessels, nerve transmission, insulin sensitivity, and helps with reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Our teeth, bones, and hormones are also affected. ATP is the energy powerhouse in the cells, and it needs to bind to magnesium in order to be active.
Where is it found?
Magnesium is the eighth most common element in the crust of the earth, grouped as an alkaline earth element, and is plentiful in bodies of water such as oceans, rivers, and the Dead Sea.
Because it is so important in all cellular functions, it is important to make sure your body is receiving the right amount of and properly using magnesium as well as understanding the signs of magnesium depletion, also known as hypomagnesaemia.
From head to toe, headaches to toe spasms, magnesium is vital for the body.
Neurosurgeon and pain medicine doctor, Norman Shealy, MD, Ph.D., goes so far as to say:
“Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency and it’s the missing cure to many diseases.”
Magnesium deficiency affects the bones, the heart, hormones, and is used to strengthen the immune system and boost resistance against germs. When the brain is deficient in magnesium, it cannot protect itself from chemicals like MSG or aspartame.
Magnesium is also important for calcium absorption and use throughout the body. It keeps calcium dissolved in the blood so it will not form kidney stones or create other issues. It also helps regulate potassium and sodium.
Magnesium also plays a very important role in detoxifying the body as well as helping with the synthesis of glutathione, a potent antioxidant that needs magnesium to work properly.
Many factors may contribute to a depletion of magnesium, such as chronic illnesses like diabetes or metabolic syndrome which increases the need for more magnesium. Medications may also contribute to low magnesium levels. long-term antibiotic use such as tetracyclines and quinolones or diuretics such as thiazide taken for blood pressure. Diuretics will increase urine flow where magnesium can be lost. Some of these medicines and even the fluoride in drinking water actually combine with magnesium to create an insoluble “soap” which cannot be absorbed into the body and so is deposited in the bones where it will create brittleness and an increased risk of fractures. A lack of magnesium has been shown to have implications on numerous ailments, such as:
- Alzheimer’s diseases
- Angina pectoris
- Anxiety disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Congestive heart failure
- Crooked teeth or narrow jaws and dental caries
- Eating disorders
- Gut disorders
- Heart diseases
- Kidney stones
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle cramping, weakness, and fatigue
- Parkinson’s diseases
- PMS and menstrual pain and irregularities
- Primary pulmonary hypertension PPH
- Reynaud’s syndrome
- Thyroid disorders
Though, even if you are completely healthy and eat well, the food you eat may have been grown in soil that lacked sufficient amounts of magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in plants and animals as well. In plants, it is the central ion of chlorophyll. Some estimates show that the soil has depleted over the years to now produce as much as 80% less magnesium. Also, handling, refrigeration, transportation and storage of fresh produce often leads to loss in nutrients, such as magnesium.
More than 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. The World Health Organization WHO reports as many as 3 out of 4 adults in the US do not meet the FDA’s recommended daily intake of magnesium. Since only about 1 percent of magnesium in our body is present in the bloodstream, a common blood test probably won’t pick up on a deficiency.
So, who is more at risk? According to statistics, the following contribute to a high risk of magnesium depletion:
- Those with diabetes or metabolic disease
- Those who consume diets high in junk food
- Those who drink large amounts of alcohol
- The elderly population with poor absorption, chronic disease, and long-term medication use.
- Those with gastrointestinal conditions
- Those who use proton pump inhibitors or H2 blocker antacids which inhibit magnesium absorption
- Those with a Vitamin D deficiency
Often, a small magnesium depletion goes unnoticed. A slight magnesium deficiency may bring on overall fatigue or weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. A more pronounced deficiency may include symptoms of:
- Muscle spasms, cramps, weakness, or pain – Most of the magnesium in our bodies that are not stored in the bones are stored in the muscles and other soft tissue. Magnesium is necessary to make muscle fibers relax. If we don’t have enough magnesium, we may experience twitching or cramping which is often the first tell-tale sign that we need magnesium often experienced in the leg.
- Poor response to physical therapy or chiropractic care
- Cardiac arrythmias – Since the heart is a muscle, when calcium flows into the cells of the heart, it causes them to contract. Then magnesium causes them to relax. If you are low in magnesium, it could create an irregular heartbeat. Likewise, it could also cause poor blood vessel function. Just like the muscles of the heart need to relax, so do the walls of the arteries. Magnesium helps with this relaxation function to allow and maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure.
- Extreme fatigue, tiredness, or exhaustion
- Difficulty concentrating or memory issues
- Headaches – People who suffer with migraines sometimes have low levels of magnesium in their blood.
- Blood sugar out of control – In order for insulin to function properly within the body, magnesium is needed. If magnesium is absent, blood sugar levels will be affected.
- Osteoporosis – Since our bones rely on calcium, vitamin D and K, it is vitally important that we have enough of these minerals and vitamins. A little more than half of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in the bones. Magnesium is needed to keep calcium in the bones and not in the soft tissue.
Ongoing deficiency may lead to numbness and tingling, seizures, personality changes, and abnormal heart rhythms or coronary spasms.
Foods to Avoid
A diet high in excess sugar, alcohol, and coffee all rob the body of essential minerals. It is always best to avoid processed or refined foods such as cakes, cookies, bagels, white bread, or lunch meat. Also, cut out soy, refined or processed sugars, fructose, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Food processing, like roasting nuts or milling whole grains to make white flour or cooking greens can lead to a loss of magnesium.
Avoid the following:
- All dairy with the exception of organic butter which can be melted in a warm oven to remove the milk.
- Coffee, black tea, alcoholic beverages, pasteurized fruit juice, soda
- Hydrogenated oils
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Chemical preservatives
- Commercial Iodized table salt
Foods that Help
Magnesium is found naturally in many foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. Eat high magnesium and calcium rich foods, vegetables and fruit to maintain bone mineral density along with milk, yogurt, and some other milk products. Juicing vegetables rich in magnesium is an excellent way to deliver the mineral.
The following foods are rich in magnesium:
- black beans
- mung beans
- rice, wheat or oat bran
- squash pumpkin and watermelon seeds
- dark chocolate cocoa powder
- flax and sesame seeds
- Brazil nuts
- sunflower seeds
- almonds, mixed nuts, pine nuts
- dried herbs
- avocados are a good source as are pumpkin seeds, almonds, and sesame seeds
- when you wake up in the morning, drink a cup of water with fresh-squeezed lemon.
- dark chocolate with no added sugars or preservatives.
- eat raw nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, preferably organic. Eat sea vegetables such as dulse, nori, arame, wakame, kombu, and hijiki that are all rich in magnesium.
- use Celtic salt
- bone broth is also rich in magnesium
Magnesium deficiency could definitely have a negative influence on your mood. Anxiety, nervousness, and even depression are all possible results of not having enough magnesium. Whereas, when you have sufficient amounts of magnesium in your body, you will tend to feel more relaxed and calmer.
Herbs and Vitamins that Help
Since magnesium and calcium work hand-in-hand, it is important that both are maintained at proper levels within the body.
Herbs that are rich in magnesium include Burdock, Dandelion, Dulce, chickweed, and nettles. Use them either fresh or dry. Also enjoy organic herbal teas.
Poor vitamin D metabolism can be a result of magnesium deficiency. We need magnesium to properly metabolize vitamin D since the enzymes that activate Vitamin D in our liver and kidneys depend on magnesium to function.
Magnesium can be taken in supplement form, however if you preferably consume your magnesium through food, the kidneys will generally flush out any potential excess. Always make sure any supplements or topical oils or creams are made from pure ingredients. The best options as a supplement include magnesium in the form of chelate, citrate, glycinate, or threonate. Be careful to make sure any calcium that is blended with the magnesium supplement is in proper proportions. Some magnesium supplements contain too much calcium which will perpetuate the lack of magnesium and possibly deplete your body even more.
You can also absorb magnesium by soaking in an Epsom salts bath that contains magnesium sulfate.
There is also a topical magnesium oil spray or lotion that can be applied directly to the skin for quick, efficient absorption through the soft tissue. It bypasses the intestines, so is absorbed faster. The mixture is typically a magnesium chloride and water. This form of magnesium also stimulates the DHEA production that occurs in the skin.
Digestion ailments, such as leaky gut, can cause malabsorption of minerals leaving us deficient in magnesium. Also, if we take diuretics or drink a lot of water, we will flush essential electrolytes out of our system including magnesium. Additionally, issues like celiac, Chrohn’s, or regional enteritis have a tendency to create a deficiency in magnesium.
It’s important to know that when you start to build up your supply of magnesium in the body, many experience some form of loose stools or diarrhea.
Essential Oils that May Help
Essential oils that may help alongside magnesium include eucalyptus which is commonly used for respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, coughs, infection, or sinusitis. It is a natural expectorant, antispasmodic, decongestant and antiviral.
Another essential oil that goes well with de-stressing magnesium is peppermint. Peppermint is often used for digestive help but is also good to treat respiratory issues since it is an antispasmodic.
Rosemary is not just for cooking. It has therapeutic elements that help with respiratory issues, sinus, congestion, coughing and sore muscles.
Clove oil, cinnamon bark, and sweet orange all work well for mixing with magnesium spray or lotion. The cinnamon also helps to alleviate cold symptoms while delivering a pleasant scent that makes you feel comfort. Sweet orange is anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant making it perfect to mix with the relaxing effects of magnesium. Ginger helps with digestion and circulation. Finally, vanilla is rich, sweet, and light. It offers a mild undertone.
Chamomile helps with relaxation and de-stressing as well as muscle pain and spasms or headache.
Lavender helps you relax and lowers blood pressure, helps with insomnia, nervousness, migraines, depression, and overall stress.
Mandarin is fruity and sweet with vibrant tones and offers help with de-stressing.
Geranium has been known to offer emotional stabilizing abilities. It is known to be a stabilizer for emotions and for its antidepressant qualities.
Marjoram is citrusy and known to bring comfort as well as ward off muscle aches, pains, stiffness, and cramping. It helps to soothe anxious feelings and nervousness.
Irritability, feeling anxious, and moodiness may all be a result of low magnesium. Magnesium is an important co-factor for several neurotransmitters such as GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain that modulates stress responses and serotonin, essential for a good night’s sleep.
Hormones that Affect or are Affected
PMS Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is often caused by a magnesium deficiency. Additional hormones are affected by magnesium as well. It calms the nervous system and reduces the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal HPA axis activity to reduce anxiety, decreases cortisol the stress hormone, and helps offer a better ability to cope and deal with stress. Reducing stress can then have additional positive effects on menstrual cycles in women and overall health in both men and women.
Magnesium basics, Jahnen-Dechent W, Ketteler Clinical Kidney Journal, 2012;5(Suppl):i3-i14 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455825/
Magnesium fact sheet for consumers – https://ods.od.nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer.pdf
The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, M.D. N.D.
Magnesium fact sheet for health professionals – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#h6
The Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function, Journal of American Osteopath Association 2018; 118(3):181-189, Uwitonze A, Razzaque M. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29480918
Muscle cramps and Magnesium deficiency – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8754704
Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water: Public Health Signifiance, Geneve: World Health Organization Press; 2009 – https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/publication_9789241563550/en/