Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body and plays an integral role in over 300 metabolic activities. Currently 80-90% of the population is deficient. This is due to a diet that is low in magnesium, and a lifestyle that is high in stress. Additionally, most of us eat too much processed foods, and consume alcohol and caffeine which act to deplete the magnesium in the body. Could you be deficient in magnesium? (hint: probably!) Do you know what to symptoms could mean you're deficient. Read more to find out!
Magnesium: The Root Cause of the Deficiency
Where do we get magnesium from? There are high levels in nuts, seeds, beans, seaweed and green leafy vegetables. The soil that our vegetables are grown in has been depleted of valuable minerals and nutrients, including magnesium, due to years of intensive factory farming. This means that the vegetables we are eating today have a much lower level of these valuable nutrients than they did hundreds of years ago.
Our modern lifestyles result in a rapid depletion of magnesium. Excessive use of alcohol, salt, and caffeine can deplete magnesium. In addition, so can prolonged stress, medications, and chronic intestinal infections. With the hustle and bustle of modern society it is hard to find someone who isn't sleep deprived and consuming either processed foods, alcohol or caffeine to even further deplete their stores.
In addition to the alarming depletion in our food and the rapid utilization due to lifestyle there are also important cofactors that may be deficient. In order for magnesium to be absorbed it needs enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium. Just like magnesium , these vitamins and nutrients are commonly depleted in modern society. If you are deficient in these coactors, it will not matter if you increase the magnesium in your diet because it will have no way of being absorbed.
Do you have low magnesium?
The consequences of extremely depleted magnesium in the body has long since been known. It is given in the hospital for several life-threatening disorders including asthma exacerbations, cardiac conditions, and pre-term labor. However, even small deficiencies can cause symptoms including:
"Excessive use of alcohol, salt, and coffee can deplete magnesium rapidly. As can prolonged stress, medications, and chronic intestinal infections."
How do you test for a magnesium deficiency?
Testing for magnesium can be difficult and is not always accurate. The basic blood test that a general practitioner will order is called a serum level. This serum level only measures extra-cellular levels (the amount of magnesium outside the cells). The majority of our magnesium (99%) is inside our cells. So you can see there could be an issue with a test that is only able to measure 1% of magnesium in the body. There is another test that measures the magnesium inside the cells called the Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium Test. If a test is ordered for diagnosis or monitoring it should be a RBC magnesium In general, a functional medicine practitioner can diagnose a deficiency based on symptoms alone.
Not all magnesium supplements are created equally
There are so many different types of magnesium it can be hard to know which ones to buy. Be sure to read your supplement’s active ingredients! Magnesium sulfate, gluconate and oxide are poorly absorbed. These ones are inexpensive so they are commonly used in supplements you find at pharmacies and online.
The most absorbable forms of magnesium are: citrate, glycinate, or aspartate. There are types of magnesium that are involved in the Krebs cycle including malate, succinate and fumarate that help to support energy production and clearance of lactic acid, (good for athletes). Lastly, there is an exciting new type of magnesium coming out in supplements known as L-threonate. This is the only magnesium that is proven to cross the blood brain barriers in animal studies.
The RDA (recommended daily minimum) is about 300mg per day. In the functional medicine community we find that most people will require 400-1,000mg a day to notice an improvement. Please consult a licensed medical provider prior to initiation, especially if you have any known kidney or heart disease.
What can you do today to help improve your magnesium levels?
1) Eat foods high in magnesium: kelp, nuts, whole grains, garlic, avocado, beans and green leafy vegetables
2) Consider supplementation with magnesium: The RDA (recommended daily minimum) is about 300mg per day. Some people will require 400-1,000mg a day to notice an improvement. Please consult a licensed medical provider prior to initiation, especially if you have any known kidney or heart disease or are pregnant
3) Limit coffee, sugars and alcohol
4) Practice relaxation or meditation
5) Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. They could be causing you to lose magnesium
Set up an appointment today to determine if you need magnesium supplementation and which one is right for you! Our practitioners are skilled in identifying signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency and can help to correct the problem while providing the proper supplementation.
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