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Magnesium Deficiency and Foods Rich in Magnesium
- Magnesium is by far one of the most important substances within the human body, yet a lack of accurate measuring technology, and a general absence of awareness about the crucial nature of magnesium has contributed to an epidemic of magnesium deficiencies across the globe.
- Magnesium is responsible for a range of crucial bodily functions, including energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and nerve function, and some experts believe that magnesium deficiency has a role to play in almost every disease or illness.
- In recent years, the amount of magnesium deficiencies in the modern world has skyrocketed, due to soil depletion sapping nutrients from the fresh produce we eat, an increased number of digestive disorders, and an over-reliance on modern medication.
- The common signs and symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can include migraine headaches, cramping, osteoporosis, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, muscle pain, fatigue, and even type 2 diabetes.
- There are various foods that can help us to naturally improve our internal levels of magnesium, but the presence of preservatives and chemicals may mean that turning to supplemental solutions is essential for those with severe deficiencies.
- Though supplements can help with magnesium deficiencies, they are not all created equally, and the best forms may include things like tropical magnesium oils and gels, Epsom salts, magnesium threonate, and magnesium chelate.
When you consider the minerals and nutrients that are most important to the natural function of your body – do you take the time to consider the value of magnesium? Most people don’t. Yet, magnesium is a mineral that has been proven to be used in every organ of the body – especially the heart, kidneys, and muscles. Many experts agree that if you experience a number of symptoms – from abnormal heart rhythms to regular muscle spasms – low magnesium levels could be at fault.
Unfortunately, while research suggests that 68-80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, this problem goes largely undiagnosed. The reason is that magnesium isn’t always checked by a practitioner. Also the magnesium blood test is only looking at one percent of the magnesium present in your body. This means that standard samples from serum magnesium tests are unreliable, and often inaccurate. The majority of the magnesium in your system is stored within organs and bones, where it can be accessed for various biological functions including:
- Energy metabolism
- Production of glutathione (a powerful antioxidant)
- Blood sugar control
- Nerve function
- Neurotransmitter release
- Protein synthesis
- Blood pressure regulation
If magnesium is so important, then why do we pay so little attention to it when thinking about the supplement and dietary nutrition we need to thrive? Perhaps it’s time to address the problem of magnesium deficiency more comprehensively – and look for ways to enhance health through magnesium-rich dietary choices.
Understanding Magnesium Deficiency
If you’re still unsure about the value of magnesium, Norman Shealy – a neurosurgeon and American pioneer in pain medicine is quoted to have said:
“Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency, and it’s the missing cure to many diseases”.
While it would be tough to prove that every illness can be linked to magnesium in some way, it’s worth noting that this substance has a large part to play in the way that we feel, and the way our bodies operate. Not only does magnesium regulate potassium, calcium, and sodium, but it ensures cellular health. In fact, magnesium is responsible for around 300 biochemical functions within the human body.
Though often considered to be the primary mineral for the bones and heart, researchers have discovered 3,751 different magnesium binding sites in the human body. In other words, the function that magnesium has within the human body has historically been hugely underestimated.
What Causes Magnesium Deficiencies?
Magnesium deficiencies were once thought to be a rare problem within the human body – but we are now discovering that our reasons for believing that were false. It turns out that we weren’t measuring magnesium in the way that we needed to. Now that we know more about the way this substance works within the human body, we’ve been able to establish that it is drastically absent from the human diet, and deficiencies are becoming increasingly common around the world, thanks to a number of different reasons, including:
- Soil depletion: Magnesium used to be far more available within fresh foods, but recent years has seen less natural substances contained within foods as farming processes and growing cycles change. Studies show that the nutritional benefits of the produce that we eat today provide only a fraction of the benefits offered by the food that we ate only sixty years ago. Everything from genetically modified organisms in our food to an abundant use of chemicals have stripped nature’s foods of their nutrients, leading to a huge decrease in magnesium.
- Digestive diseases: Conditions such as leaky gut can represent a significant problem when it comes to absorbing minerals into the bloodstream and body – including magnesium. Today, there are millions of people all over the world who are simply unable to absorb nutrients properly. What’s more, as we get older, our ability to consume nutrients diminishes, meaning that problems of deficiency become more likely.
- Medication and chronic disease: Today, medication use and chronic illnesses are at an all-time high. Since some medications can damage the gut, this can prevent us from absorbing the necessary nutrients from our food – including magnesium.
So who is most at risk of magnesium deficiencies? The national institute of health suggests that different people may be more prone to this issue than others. Magnesium deficiency can be genetically inherited, and diets that are low in high-magnesium foods, and external factors like stress can all work to remove magnesium from the body. The most at-risk groups include:
- People suffering with type 2 diabetes
- The elderly
- People who suffer with alcohol abuse
- People with GI complaints
Common Signs of a Magnesium Deficiency
People lacking in magnesium at a cellular level can experience a number of terrible symptoms and bodily responses. For instance, you might find that your cellular metabolic function begins to deteriorate – leading to additional issues throughout your entire body. From serious migraine headaches, to chronic issues like fibromyalgia, cardiovascular disease, and depression – magnesium deficiency can present itself in a wide variety of different ways. Those with severely low levels of magnesium in their system may suffer from any combination of the following symptoms.
Magnesium deficiency is commonly linked to an onset of migraine headaches. This is because the mineral is responsible for helping to balance neurotransmitters within the body. Studies have shown that between 360 and 600 milligrams of magnesium per day could help to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches in participants by as much as 42%.
Because magnesium has a role to play in sending neuromuscular signals and promoting healthy muscle contraction, researchers have found that magnesium deficiency can be responsible for excruciating leg cramps. When it comes to treating issues like restless leg syndrome and chronic cramping, many health professionals have begun to prescribe magnesium supplements to their patients.
According to information taken from the National Institute of Health, the average human body contains about 25 grams of magnesium – fifty percent of which is located in the bones. This can mean that a deficiency in magnesium could promote a higher risk of bone weakening diseases like osteoporosis. Studies have recently found that supplementary magnesium has been used to help slow the development of osteoporosis within a period of thirty days.
If you’re struggling with the task of getting a good’s night sleep – the reason may be magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can be a precursor to many sleep disorders, including anxiety and restlessness. Part of the reason behind this is that magnesium is crucial for GABA function – a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.
Speaking of GABA – a deficiency in magnesium can also have a part to play when it comes to causing emotional distress and anxiety. As a magnesium deficiency worsens, it can lead to higher levels of anxiety, and may even lead to more serious symptoms of hallucination and depression.
Weakness, lack of energy, and fatigue are all common symptoms that doctors and health experts could associate with magnesium deficiency. In fact, the majority of people who suffer from “chronic fatigue syndrome” are actually magnesium deficient. As part of a study into this connection, the University of Maryland Medical center discovered that between 300 and 1000 milligrams of magnesium per day can help to promote higher energy levels.
Fibromyalgia and Muscle pain
Studies published in “Magnesium Research” have considered the role that this substance has to play in fibromyalgia symptoms. This research has discovered that increasing magnesium intake could reduce tenderness and pain in those suffering from muscle pain.
High Blood Pressure
In the human body, magnesium can work alongside calcium to protect the heart and promote the proper flow of blood. When you don’t have enough magnesium in your system, you might find that you also struggle to absorb calcium, and may experience instances of hypertension and high blood pressure. A study undertaken by the Clinical Nutrition Journal of America discovered that foods rich in magnesium could reduce the chances of a stroke by 8%.
Type 2 Diabetes
We mentioned above that one of the four primary causes for magnesium deficiency is type 2 diabetes – but this can also be a symptom too. For instance, researchers in the UK found that of the 1452 adults they examined, magnesium levels at a lower level were ten times more likely with new diabetics, and 8.6 timers more common with known diabetics. Because of this, diets that are rich in magnesium have been shown to help with significantly reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes – because the substance has a crucial role to play in sugar management.
Making Dietary Changes to Support Magnesium
So how can we start fighting back against the problem of low magnesium? Many experts suggest that diet is the answer. Leafy green vegetables like Swiss Chard and spinach have been found to be excellent sources of magnesium, along with certain nuts, seeds, and beans. What’s more, juicing your vegetables is a good way to ensure that you’re getting as much of this useful substance into your diet as possible.
However, as we noted in a previous section, many of the foods that are grown today are deficient in minerals and magnesium – meaning that you can’t simply eat magnesium-rich foods taken from any source. While a century ago, it might have been possible to get around 500 milligrams of magnesium in our diet, today we’re lucky to get even half of that. Even if you consume a diet that is completely organic and GMO-free, you’re still at risk of suffering from a magnesium deficiency because of common farming practices. Herbicides can block the uptake of minerals within various foods grown today. Processing and cooking foods further depletes the natural levels of magnesium in produce. At the end of the day, it’s tough to find a truly magnesium-rich food source anywhere.
On top of all of this, lifestyle choices and various other factors can influence the way your body absorbs magnesium. For instance, if you drink a lot of alcohol, your body may struggle to use vitamin D properly, which helps to promote magnesium absorption. If you eat a diet that is rich in sugar, you might excrete more magnesium through your kidneys. Besides adapting your diet, then, you will also need to think about the presence of other negative factors, including:
- Excessive caffeine or soda intake
- Unhealthy digestion caused by leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, and other conditions that limit the body’s ability to absorb magnesium
- Exposure to various medications including antibiotics, diuretics, and corticosteroids
- Old age
Foods with High Levels of Magnesium
In spite of negative changes to the way we grow and consume foods, changing your diet remains to be one of the best ways to improve your internal levels of magnesium. Stick to foods that you can grow organically, or foods from your local farmer’s market for the best magnesium levels. When you’re shopping, it’s also worth remembering that green leafy substances aren’t the only foods rich in magnesium. Following are some of the foods you should consider adding to your diet:
- Bananas – One medium banana contains 8% of your daily requirement, or 32 milligrams
- Dark chocolate – One square of dark chocolate contains 24% of your daily requirement, or 95mg
- Figs – One half of a cup contains 13% of your daily requirement, or 50mg
- Avocado – One medium avocado contains 15% of your daily requirement, or 58mg
- Black beans – One half of a cup contains 15% of your daily requirement, or 60mg
- Almonds – One ounce contains 20% of your daily requirement, or 80mg
- Kefir or yogurt – One cup contains 13% of your daily requirement, or 50mg
- Pumpkin seeds – 1/8 of a cup contains 23% of your daily requirement, or 92mg
- Chard – 1 cup contains 38% of your daily requirement, or 154mg
- Spinach – 1 cup contains 40% of your daily requirement, or 157mg
Other Ways to Boost your Magnesium Intake
If you’re concerned that you can’t get enough magnesium into your diet with food, then supplements may be the best option. Magnesium supplements can help to improve your levels of magnesium quickly – but they’re not all equal. The best magnesium supplements available include:
- Magnesium Chelate, which bonds to multiple amino acids and can be absorbed easily by the body.
- Magnesium citrate, which includes citric acid, and can be taken to reduce the problem of constipation.
- Magnesium Glycinate which is a chelated form of magnesium which promotes high levels of absorption.
- Magnesium Threonate, which has a superior ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane and solve deficiencies quickly.
Different forms of magnesium promote different responses. Tropical magnesium oil or gel can be applied to tight muscles to help you relax, while Epsom salts can be used in an evening bath to promote relaxation. In fact, using magnesium in oil form can be particularly useful because it can lead to faster absorption rates.
Remember, if you consider taking more than 600mg of magnesium in one go, you might experience diarrhea, so it’s important to be careful about your dosage. If you’re concerned, consult a natural health physician to avoid disturbance within the digestive system.