Magnesium is one of the more important nutrients for our brains, arteries, and bodies. However an estimated 2/3 of Americans are not getting enough magnesium in their diets (other studies suggest that up to 3/4 have a mild magnesium deficiency, while 2/3 are severely deficient).
Magnesium is not easily measured by blood tests since it is mostly present in cells, so doctors rarely check magnesium levels.
What Causes Magnesium Deficiency?
While several genetic disorders can cause magnesium deficiency, most people just don’t get enough in their diets, or are losing magnesium through common lifestyle choices that are both bad and good.
What’s also important to note is that it can take months to overcome magnesium deficiency as magnesium is slow getting into the brain (hospitals can more quickly administer magnesium through IV, but prevention is better than the health conditions that lead to this scenario).
What may cause magnesium deficiency:
- Age can cause almost any vitamin or mineral deficiency as the body loses it’s ability to absorb and process nutrients.
- Carbonated Beverages like soda pop
- Too much alcohol
- Vomiting or Diarrhea
- Vigorous exercise can cause the body to expel magnesium or move it into bones, consequently athletes should include magnesium in their supplements to avoid magnesium deficiency.
- Medications, especially heart medications, can deplete magnesium. Unfortunately, magnesium is important to both the heart and arteries!
- Brain injuries can cause magnesium loss from the brain (potentially complicating the effects of the injury!)
- One sign of magnesium deficiency is dehydration, unfortunately, a lot of water (as through IV) can further dilute magnesium levels and cause increased complications.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Some or all of these may be a sign of magnesium deficiency:
- Mental fog (fatigue or depression)
- Headaches (tension headaches are usually NOT caused by magnesium deficiency)
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Seizures (in extreme cases)
What Does Magnesium Do?
- Related to lower levels of insulin resistance, most diabetics have some degree of magnesium deficiency.
- Magnesium is an important regulator of neurotransmitters in the brain, preventing over-excitement that can cause damage.
- Discourages inflammation (especially in the heart and arteries, as well as the brain).
- Encourages heart health.
- An important component of energy supplying enzymes.
- Babies, especially preemies, who receive enough magnesium in utero are less likely to have neurological conditions.
Prevention Is Best With Magnesium Deficiency!
Magnesium is often administered before and after surgery since patients have been shown to have better results (especially with brain surgery). Since it’s slow to get magnesium into the brain, this is one example where prevention (ensuring a diet full of magnesium or taking magnesium supplements) can have a strong positive effect.
Magnesium rich foods include nuts like almonds and cashews, grain-meals/flours like corn and buckwheat, and vegetables like spinach.
Some people are higher at risk for magnesium deficiency, and may benefit more from magnesium supplements, including African Americans, diabetics, and the elderly.
Although many problems arise due to magnesium deficiency, that doesn’t mean excess magnesium is good for you! Diet, exercise, and other vitamins and minerals are all part of a healthy lifestyle. Magnesium alone is not a substitute!
Have you had success with magnesium supplements?