11 signs of magnesium deficiency and what to eat to fix it
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for our health. It plays a part in over 300 metabolic and biochemical processes in the body, and is most important for our heart and muscle contractions. Lack of magnesium in the body is a serious problem which can cause heart problems that can have a fatal outcome.
Besides the contraction of our muscles, magnesium is also important for protein synthesis, energy production, blood pressure, glucose levels, bone development and glutathione synthesis, as well as for the production of RNA and DNA. In general, the average adults should have 25 gr. of magnesium in their body, with 60% of this amount stored in the soft tissue and bones. The usual serum concentration is 0.75-0.95 mmol/L – if the number drops below 0.75, your body will enter a state called hypomagnesemia.
The common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include dizziness, weakness and fatigue, diarrhea, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting. If the lack of magnesium is severe, it may lead to low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, seizures and even personality changes. Leaving the problem unaddressed can result in low calcium and serum potassium levels, which can have a significantly negative outcome on your health.
What’s causing magnesium deficiency?
The lack of magnesium in our bodies is mainly caused by the lack of the mineral in the soil. In the past, our soil had a variety of nutrients including magnesium, but the modern farming techniques are leaving it barren, which means that we need to up our intake of the mineral through dietary sources. Additionally, magnesium deficiency may be caused by aging, insulin resistance and diabetes, Celiac disease, Chron’s disease and alcohol abuse as well.
Another big factor for the global epidemic of magnesium deficiency is the standard western diet. We eat processed foods with no nutrients at all on a daily basis, and we rarely include vegetables and healthy foods in our meals. Even when we do eat fruits and veggies, most of them are sprayed with chemicals and pesticides which destroy the nutrients inside, essential making them empty calories.
As we already mentioned, magnesium deficiency is a serious problem which can lead to several ailments. Here are the health problems associated with lack of magnesium:
As we already mentioned, magnesium is in control of all our body muscles including the heart. Keeping your magnesium levels in check is vital for proper heart rhythm, and one study showed that low magnesium serum levels are related to increased risk of heart disease.
Magnesium regulates the amount of insulin production and blood glucose levels, which means that lack of it may lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. This is why it’s very important to keep your magnesium levels in your body in check in order to prevent further problems.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease which occurs due to low calcium and magnesium levels. Magnesium is important for proper bone development and vitamin D synthesis, and plays a big part in the proper health of our bones.
Lack of magnesium has been associated with headaches and migraines as both conditions are related to blood vessel contractions which are regulated by them mineral. People with painful migraines have been found to have seriously low magnesium serum levels in their blood, although further research on the matter is needed.
Besides these 4 health problems, magnesium can also cause hormonal imbalance, sleeping disorders, other nutrient deficiencies, anxiety, depression, artery calcification and pregnancy problems as well.
How to test for magnesium deficiency?
Due to the fact that most of the mineral is in the soft tissue and bones, and the fact that magnesium deficiency doesn’t really manifest through specific symptoms, testing for low magnesium levels can be a challenge. In general, doctors should measure your magnesium tolerance, the amount of magnesium in your stool, the concentration of the mineral in the saliva, urine and erythrocytes as well as the ionized magnesium in the plasma, serum and blood.
The best way to resolve magnesium deficiency is through dietary sources. There are plenty of options to pick from, but the best are leafy green veggies, nuts and seeds as well as whole grains. Of course, consuming processed foods is out of the question if you want to keep the levels of magnesium in your body intact.
Here are the best magnesium-rich foods:
• Baked potato;
• Black beans;
• Low-fat yogurt;
If you’re considering taking magnesium supplements, you should consult with your doctor first. There are different supplements based on different version of the mineral, and many of them can interfere with the action of some medications. Excessive magnesium supplementation can lead to diarrhea and stomach cramps, which is why you should consult a professional before taking supplements.
There’s no question that our body needs magnesium in order to function properly. It’s a co-factor in over 300 enzyme systems that regulate a variety of biochemical reactions in our bodies, so you could say it is a vital mineral for our health. (1)
The Role of Magnesium in the Body
Without magnesium, our bodies would cease to function. The mineral is involved in the processes of nearly every nerve and muscle in your body. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to control our muscles, including the ever-important, life-giving muscle that is our heart. The role of magnesium in the body includes:(1)
• Protein synthesis
• Energy production (especially in oxidative phosphorylation and glycolisis)
• Structural development of bones
• Synthesis (aka production) of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant Glutathione
• Active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes: This is critical for muscle contractions, regular heart rhythms, and nerve impulse conduction
• Blood glucose control
• Blood pressure regulation
Without magnesium, none of these processes would occur, so you can imagine what havoc low levels of magnesium can have on your body and overall health. (1)
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include:(1)
• loss of appetite
• nausea and vomiting
As deficiency continues and becomes more severe, symptoms can include:(1)
• abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms
• muscles twitches, spasms, or cramps
• numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness
• low blood pressure
• personality changes
Extremely severe magnesium deficiency disrupts our body’s mineral balance and can cause hypocalcemia (low serum calcium) and hypokalemia (low serum potassium). (1)
Why do people become Magnesium deficient?
Magnesium was primarily found in the topsoil and hence found its way into our food. New and modern farming techniques, and the use of chemicals and fertilizers has rendered the soil devoid of magnesium. (1)
In addition to the population’s habitually low dietary magnesium intake, excessive losses and inability to properly absorb the mineral are also caused by: (1)
• GI disorders (Crohn’s Disease, Celiac’s Disease, regional enteritis, leaky gut)
• Those with Type II Diabetes and insulin resistance
• Alcoholism and alcohol dependence
The standard American diet is a primary cause for low magnesium levels in the population. Most of us eat too many overly processed foods filled with chemicals, preservatives, and additives that destroy our digestive systems, and not enough vegetables or other whole foods. On top of that, the vegetables, fruits, and whole food products that we are eating are harvested long before they are ready, sprayed with chemicals and pesticides, and are shipped from thousands of miles away, leaving them much lower in nutritional value than the locally grown foods that used to make up the majority of our diets. (1)
Long-term Effects of Magnesium Deficiency
There are some pretty scary health problems that are correlated with the magnesium in our bodies. It’s not surprise that these diseases, which are on the rise in North America, correlate with the decrease in nutritional value of our food, and therefore a decrease in magnesium intakes and absorption, as mentioned above. (1)
1. Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease
Magnesium’s role in heart rhythms and blood pressure control put it right in line with CVD. The Athlerosclerosis Risk in Communities assessed risk factors for heart disease and serum magnesium levels in over 14,000 African American and Caucasian women and men, aged 45 to 64, and then conducted a follow-up after 12 years. They found that those with the highest serum magnesium levels had a 38% reduced risk of heart attack than those with the lowest. (1, 2)
This is just one of many studies done on the link between heart disease and magnesium, all which concluded that proper intakes of magnesium may reduce your risk of hypertension, stroke, and hear disease. (1, 2)
2. Type 2 Diabetes
Magnesium has a critical role in the metabolism and regulation of glucose, meaning that low levels of the mineral can cause insulin resistance, the precursor to this rampant disease. To make matters worse, Diabetes causes increased losses of magnesium through urine. This not only exacerbates the deficiency, but also effects the secretion and function of insulin in the body making Diabetes harder to control. (1, 3)
Several studies have been done that show the connection between magnesium deficiency and type two Diabetes. However, there is currently still inconsistent evidence that supplementing with magnesium will improve Diabetes control for those who already have the disease. (1, 3)
Magnesium is not only important for the formation and building of bones, but it also has an effect on osteoclasts and osteoblasts (involved in bone formation and healing), concentrations of parathyroid hormone (for bone rebuilding/repair), and the concentrations of the active form of vitamin D. All of that means that magnesium has a hand involved with bone mineral density, and when that is low, we are at increased risk of developing Osteoporosis. (1, 4)
In short: Low magnesium = low bone mineral density = high risk for Osteoporosis.
Headache-promoting factors such as vasoconstriction (the constriction of blood vessels) and the release of neurotransmitter are closely tied to magnesium. Research has found that people who experience migraines have low serum and tissue levels of magnesium. Currently, however, there needs to be more research done on the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation and migraine prevention. (1, 5)
Testing for Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency symptoms, like most deficiencies, are non-specific and could signal any number of nutrient deficiencies and health problems. If you have some of the symptoms mentioned above, how do you know if you are deficient?
Unfortunately, there is no real reliable test to determine magnesium levels in the body. Most often, a blood test is taken, however considering 50-60% of the body’s magnesium is stored in our bones, serum levels don’t provide a true picture of total body or specific tissue levels. (1)
Other tests include:
• Measuring magnesium concentrations in erythrocytes, urine, and saliva
• Measuring Ionized concentrations in the blood, serum, and plasma
• Magnesium-loading or tolerance test: Clinically, this involves parenteral infusion of a large dose of magnesium and testing urinary outputs.
• Magnesium Stool test: Involves testing the amount of magnesium in your stool. This test is for diagnostic purposes only and is not approved for use in all states. (1, 6)
Due to the typical North American diet and the way our food system works, chances are you are not reaching adequate intake levels of magnesium each day. While supplementing can have its place, especially for highly active individuals and anyone suffering from preciously mentioned ailments, using pure magnesium oil and increasing the amount of magnesium-rich foods is a safe, natural way to boost your levels.
Foods High in Magnesium
There are so many magnesium-rich foods that you can include in your diet every day. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains the most magnesium-containing foods. (1, 7)
Do you best to buy local and organic whenever possible, as these foods will not only have higher amounts of magnesium, but other vitamins and minerals as well, without the added toxins and chemicals that take away from the nutrient value of our food. (1, 7)
Foods with the Most Magnesium
Include as many of these foods in your daily diet to ensure adequate dietary intake of magenesium: (1, 7)
• Pumpking or Squash Seeds (317mg per quarter cup)
• Brazil Nuts (133mg per quarter cup)
• Salmon (92mg per 2.5k ounce fillet)
• Dry roasted Almonds (80mg in 1 ounce)
• Spinach (83mg per half cup, cooked)
• Black Eyed Peas (80mg per half cup)
• Swiss Chard (80mg per half cup, cooked)
• Tempeh (77mg per half cup)
• Dry roasted Cashews (74mg in 1 ounce)
• Oil Roasted Peanuts (63mg per quarter cup)
• Quinoa (63mg per half cup)
• Black Beans (60mg per half cup)
• Edamame (52mg per half cup)
• Avocado (44-55mg per 1 cup, cubed)
• Baked Potato with skin (43mg per 3.5 ounce potato)
• Brown Rice (42mg per half cup)
• Plain, Low fat Yogurt (42mg per 8 ounces)
• Instant Oatmeal (36mg per packet)
• Kidney Beans (35mg per half cup)
• Medium Banana (32mg)
If you do decide to go the supplementation route, be sure to talk to your doctor or health care provider before you start taking anything, in case of any possible interactions with medications. They can also help you to determine the amount you should be taking for your unique needs