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Is Magnesium Deficiency a Silent Epidemic?

Magnesium is possibly the most critical nutrient lacking in our diet, yet it is foundational to the chemistry of all our cells. Hundreds of enzymes require magnesium for thousands of reactions constantly taking place in the body.

It is estimated that 70% to 80% of people in the United States do not meet the lowest daily requirements of magnesium. Most people simply don’t get enough.

Spinach and chard, along with avocados, are good sources of magnesium. I like all three, but it remains quite difficult to find foods truly rich in it. Magnesium is one of the most depleted minerals in soil and fertilizers exasperate this. Food processing also causes enormous loss, like when we mill grain into flour or roast nuts and seeds.

I’ve heard magnesium deficiency described as one of our silent epidemics. Symptoms may include fatigue or weakness, muscle cramps, restless legs, facial or eye twitches, poor sleep, constipation and chronic pain.

Absorption of calcium in the body is controlled by magnesium. Unabsorbed calcium can lead to a risk that it will get deposited in the brain, joints, lungs or arteries.

Magnesium and calcium are paired minerals, and if not in balance this will cause more harm than good. Calcium is what signals our muscles to contract, magnesium causes them to relax. Imbalances can manifest as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, wrinkled skin, kidney stones, osteoporosis, tooth decay, bone spurs, and cataracts.

This mineral is necessary for creating energy in your body, and for helping digestion. Our mitochondria depend upon it to extract energy from glucose and fat. It also may be particularly beneficial in reducing your risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism.

Anxiety and times of hyperactivity may be neurological signs of low magnesium. Stress contributes to reduced magnesium and this in turn can magnify the stress reactions, worsening the problem. Both adrenaline and cortisol, hormones produced with stress and anxiety, are associated with lower levels.

Regularly drinking carbonated or caffeinated beverages decrease magnesium. So does eating refined sugars and processed foods. This mineral is considered an electrolyte, and a deficiency can affect your nervous system. Even changes in personality and sometimes depression are signs that magnesium is lacking in sufficient amounts.

After trauma and injury to the brain or central nervous system, magnesium levels drop significantly. This can lead to secondary injury as the cells are less capable of providing sufficient energy for repair and restoration.

Metabolism of magnesium may be less efficient when changes in the GI tract and kidneys contribute to malabsorption and low retention. Leaky gut, reduced stomach acid from getting older, and Chrohn’s can impair your body’s ability to absorb magnesium.

Some studies suggest supplementing magnesium with calcium in a ratio of 1:1. I agree. Keep in mind that vitamins K2 and D3 are synergistic with these nutrients and help with absorption and utilization.

Magnesium has to be bound to another substance in order to take it. I take a chelated form bound to both citric and malic acid. One side effect of taking too much magnesium is that it has a laxative effect. This can be useful at times if you feel constipated.

You can also get magnesium in an oil or lotion that is applied to your skin. This will help with leg cramps at night. Come on by and chat if you want to hear more.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug.

Photo: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

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