Magnesium affects the entire human organism starting at cellular level, as it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Therefore insufficient levels of magnesium can lead to many kinds of health problems. Our bodies can’t synthetize magnesium, so we need to take it constantly from the foods we eat.
About two thirds of American are magnesium deficient and the statistics are most likely similar in the rest of the world. Moreover, the vast majority of people aren’t aware of their magnesium because the symptoms can lack or be subtle and often be attributed to another cause.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
Before analyzing your symptoms you must first become aware what exactly can lead to magnesium deficiency. Sadly, there are many causes and there are plenty we can’t control.
– Soft water sources, which are low in minerals can contribute to low magnesium levels.
– Some genetic and digestive illnesses.
– Certain medications can deplete magnesium like diuretics, birth control pills, asthma medications, several antibiotics and others. If you are regularly taking any kind of medication, ask your doctor if it lowers magnesium levels as a side effect
– Increased stress (for any reason including severe ilness) can also cause magnesium deficiency, because the body requires more magnesium under stressful conditions
– Aging is another factor that can contribute to magnesium deficiency. As you age, stomach acid levels become lower which reduces magnesium absorption
– Taking calcium supplements. Too much calcium in the body increases the need for magnesium, thus a balance between calcium and magnesium ratio must be maintained when taking supplements with these minerals. Ideally the ratio should be anywhere between 2:1 to 1:1
– The diet is also extremely important. Magnesium deficiency can be caused by a low-magnesium diet, but also several foods can either make magnesium become unavailable to the body (phosphates in sodas and other carbonated beverages), decrease absorption in the intestines (an excessive amount of saturated fats) or increase excretion by the kidneys (sugar, caffeine and alcohol)
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is used for more than 300 reactions in the body, so obviously the lack of it can lead to a broad spectrum of health problems.
Some symptoms of magnesium deficiency are rather obvious, others not so much and could be overlooked or blamed on another cause. Here are the most common symptoms you might experience if you have low levels of magnesium:
– Tiredness and weakness
– Muscle cramps and/or spasms
– Difficulty falling/staying asleep and insomnia
– Anxiety and irritability
– Loss of appetite
– Heart palpitations
– Cold hands and feet
– Headaches and migraines
– Back pain
– Kidney stones
– High blood pressure
– Calcium deficiency
– Nausea and vomiting
– Hair loss
If you think the list if big, you should know there are other medical conditions and symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency, these are just the most common ones. Chances are you have at least one symptom from the list. That wouldn’t tell you much but if you have at least three symptoms of the ones listed above, chances are very high that you would benefit from magnesium supplementation (be it from foods or over the counter supplements).
The most common magnesium supplements are taken orally. A more expensive, but also more effective supplement is transdermal magnesium. These come under the form of oils, gels, lotions and bath salts. Transdermal magnesium is absorbed through the skin, directly into the cells and has a more immediate effect than oral magnesium supplements that have to go through the GI tract.
While taking supplements can help you increase your magnesium intake faster than anything else, you should also focus on eating more magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, spinach, kale, fish, bananas, beans and lentils and dark chocolate.