Around 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium, a mineral required for 300+ enzymatic reactions in the body. Are you one of them? Let’s take a closer look at magnesium deficiency and the many health benefits of this essential mineral.
Not so fun fact: I have a chronic bladder condition called interstitial cystitis that can be extremely painful.
Fun fact: I began supplementing with magnesium over a year ago and within a week felt great relief. Long story short, it was the answer I had been searching for FOR YEARS.
And after a little bit of research, it seemed that, hey, magnesium may be the answer others are searching for as well. Thousands, millions of others suffering from migraines, insomnia, anxiety, blood clots, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis…. and so the list goes on.
Let’s backtrack for just a moment — what is magnesium?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is essential for initiating more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps the heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, keeps bones strong, regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
Magnesium deficiency affects around 80% of the population and has been called “the silent epidemic.”
In the past, humans were able to get enough magnesium through a varied diet. (Oh, the simple days.) Unfortunately, modern farming methods and chemical fertilizers have stripped natural magnesium from the soil.
This, coupled with the fact that stress and certain medications (diuretics and antibiotics) decrease the absorption of magnesium, has led to what really could be considered an epidemic of magnesium deficiency.
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND — author of The Miracle of Magnesium — magnesium is very intimately connected to the following 22 facets of health and conditions:
Anxiety and panic attacks
Magnesium keeps stress hormones under control
Magnesium deficiency increases histamine production and bronchial spasms
Magnesium thins blood, much like aspirin but without the side effects
Magnesium deficiency causes constipation, potentially leading to toxicity, malabsorption of nutrients, or colitis
Magnesium deficiency can increase the frequency and severity of bladder spasms
Serotonin, which elevates moods, is dependent on magnesium
Magnesium is necessary for the natural removal of toxins and heavy metals
Magnesium enhances insulin secretion, facilitating sugar metabolism. Without magnesium, insulin is not able to transfer glucose into cells.
Magnesium is necessary for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. So when the body is magnesium-deficient and these enzyme reactions are not working properly, we can experience fatigue.
Mg deficiency is common in people with heart disease. Mg is administered in hospitals for acute myocardial infarction and cardiac arrhythmia. Like any other muscle, the heart muscle requires Mg. Mg is also used to treat angina, or chest pain.
Magnesium deficiency causes blood vessels to spasm and increases cholesterol levels, which lead to blood pressure problems.
Magnesium regulates insulin, keeping blood sugar levels constant.
Magnesium deficiency interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.
Magnesium deficiency contributes to kidney failure and throws off lipid levels.
Magnesium deficiency commonly occurs during liver transplantation.
Magnesium balances serotonin levels. Serotonin deficiency can result in migraines.
Fibrositis, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, eye twitches, cramps, and chronic neck and back pain may be caused by magnesium deficiency
Magnesium alleviates peripheral nerve disturbances throughout the whole body, such as migraines, muscle contractions, gastrointestinal spasms, and calf, foot and toe cramps. It is also used in treating central nervous symptoms of vertigo.
Female reproductive health
Magnesium helps alleviate PMS and menstrual cramping; plays an important role in fertility; helps alleviate premature contractions, preeclampsia, and eclampsia in pregnancy; helps alleviate morning sickness and pregnancy-induced hypertension. It is also given to pregnant mothers to decrease the risk of cerebral palsy and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). According to Dr. Dean, “Magnesium should be a required supplement for pregnant mothers.”
When combined with calcium and vitamin D, magnesium helps increase calcium absorption. For this reason, magnesium deficiency promotes bone loss.
Magnesium helps relax the spastic blood vessels that cause pain and numbness of fingers.
Magnesium deficiency causes an imbalance of phosphorus and calcium in saliva, which damages teeth.
So how much magnesium should we be getting?
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is between 350 and 400 milligrams per day. But this is just enough magnesium to ward off deficiency.
Twice the RDA is suggested for those suffering from the 22 conditions triggered by magnesium deficiency.
And how can we best up our magnesium intake? Diet or supplements?
Leafy greens and nuts are great sources of magnesium, but likely not enough. One tablespoon of almonds has 33 milligrams of magnesium. So you would have to eat more than 20 tablespoons to consume the suggested amount! That’s a lot of almonds.
Fortunately there are many ways to supplement magnesium: oral supplements, magnesium oil (which is really just magnesium chloride diluted in water; this may irritate some so be sure to spot-test first), and magnesium flakes which can be diluted in water to make your own magnesium oil or sprinkled in baths. Since oral magnesium supplements can have a laxative effect and are not easily absorbed, applying magnesium topically is a great way to supplement.
Everyday after showering, I spray some magnesium oil (again, not really oil so it won’t stain clothing) on my legs and arms. It absorbs completely before I dress. I consider this a critical part of my daily routine along with dry body brushing and my morning warm lemon cayenne pepper water.
Don’t go crazy now! Though it is thought to be impossible to overdose on magnesium, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Individuals with improperly functioning kidneys may not be able to handle magnesium supplementation and should consult a doctor. It can also cause loose stools. Furthermore, magnesium may interact with certain prescription medications, so be sure to do your homework!
Sources and further reading:
- US National Library of Medicine, The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
- Dr. Carolyn Dean, The Miracle of Magnesium
- WebMD, Magnesium