Magnesium is an essential mineral for our bodies since it has extreme biological significance. It takes part in a variety of biochemical processes in the human organism and it is responsible for the function of all nerves and muscles. Without this mineral our muscles wouldn’t be able to function properly, including the most important one – the human heart.
Apart from this, magnesium has other significant roles too:
• Energy production
• Protein synthesis
• Synthesis of the antioxidant Gluthation and the production of DNA and RNA.
• Structural bones development
• Regulation of the blood tension
• Blood glucose control
• Active transport of potassium and calcium which is important for muscle contractions, nerve impulse conduction and regular heart rhythms
The normal levels of magnesium in adults should be around 25g with 60% present in the bones and soft tissues. Normal magnesium concentrations in the serum range between: 0.75 (mmol/L) and 0.95 (mmol/L). If the magnesium concentration in the serum is lower than 0.75 (mmol/L), then it may lead to hypomagnesemia.
These are the early symptoms indicating that your body lacks magnesium:
• Appetite loss
• Weakness, fatigue
• Vomiting and nausea
Severe magnesium deficiency symptoms:
• Personality changes
• Low blood tension
• Coronary spasms and abnormal heart rhythms
• Tingling, muscle weakness and numbness
• Cramps, muscle twitches and spasms
If the deficiency is left untreated, it may lead to serious body’s mineral imbalance such as low serum potassium (hypokalemia) and low serum calcium (hypocalcemia).
What are the reasons for magnesium deficiency?
Magnesium is normally found in the topsoil and therefore in our food. However, nowadays farmers use modern farming techniques that involve use of fertilizers and chemicals which reduce the levels of magnesium in the soil.
The excessive loss of magnesium and the inability of the body to absorb it are usually triggered by:
• Alcohol abuse
• Gastrointestinal issues such as Celiac’s disease, Chron’s disease and regional enteritis
• Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
The main reason for magnesium deficiency is the standard American diet, which includes processed foods full of preservatives, additives and chemicals that destroy the digestive system and deprive our organisms of the necessary nutrients. This diet also includes low intake of veggies and healthy foods. Unfortunately, even the fruits and vegetables that we consume contain pesticides and chemicals which affect their nutritional value.
Moreover, scientists associate the amounts of calcium with the magnesium deficiency. Namely, when we get too much calcium through the food, we lose magnesium. This causes the calcium to enter the cells and cause calcification.
Health problems caused by magnesium deficiency
There is a correlation between some serious health issues and the lack of magnesium. The number of these diseases in America is rising proportionally with the low intake of healthy and unprocessed foods which usually results in:
1. Cardiovascular diseases
As we have previously mentioned, magnesium is in control of all the muscles in the human body, including the life-giving muscle, the heart. Therefore it plays major role in the prevention of blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders. According to a study done by ARIC (The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities), the risk of heart disease is associated with the low serum magnesium levels. Namely, it was discovered that people with higher magnesium levels in their serum had about 38% lower risk of cardiovascular diseases than those with magnesium deficiency.
2. Type 2 diabetes
Magnesium regulates the glucose in the body which means that if you suffer from its deficiency you may experience insulin resistance, which later leads to diabetes. However, the worst thing is that diabetes causes further loss of magnesium, especially through the urine. Unfortunately, this exacerbates the deficiency and affects the function and secretion of insulin, which makes the disease harder to control.
Magnesium is important for the bone development as well as for the concentrations of the parathyroid hormone and the active form of vitamin D. This implies that this mineral is essential for the bone density, so its low amounts increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Magnesium is also linked to the release of neurotransmitters and the headache-promoting factors that are involved in the constriction of blood vessels. According to the researchers, people who usually suffer from migraines have low magnesium levels in the serum and tissues. However, further research is required regarding the correlation between magnesium supplementation and the prevention of migraines.
Other health problems that may occur include:
• Calcification of the arteries
• Anxiety and depression
• Hormone problems
• Pregnancy complaints
• Sleep disorders
• Other mineral deficiencies
Magnesium deficiency testing
Magnesium status is difficult to be assessed, since its highest amounts are inside the bones and cells.
Considering that magnesium deficiency symptoms are non-specific and may be mistaken for other health issues, there are number of tests that can detect this deficiency. These tests include:
• Measuring the concentrations of magnesium in saliva, erythrocytes and urine.
• Testing magnesium in the stool
• Magnesium tolerance test
• Measuring ionized concentrations of magnesium in the serum, plasma and blood
Foods rich in magnesium
The best way to increase the amounts of magnesium is through food, since the supplementation is not enough. Make sure you increase the intake of legumes, green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grains.
Avoid the consumption of processed foods and instead increase the intake of organic food. It will not only provide your body with magnesium but it will also supply your organs and tissues with other minerals and vitamins.
Magnesium-rich foods you should include into your diet:
• Baked potato
• Low fat yogurt
• Breakfast cereals
• Cooked halibut
• Roasted chicken breast
• Black beans
• Brown rice
If you opt for magnesium supplements, make sure you consult your health care provider first, since it may interact with certain medications.
What’s more, if you don’t consult a professional about how long you should take the supplements, it may cause excessive amounts of magnesium in your body resulting in diarrhea and abdominal cramping. This may further lead to magnesium toxicity especially if your kidneys are affected.
Whatever solution you choose, make sure you seek medical health to treat this deficiency and prevent further health disorders which may have serious complications.