It is estimated that 80% of adults are deficient in magnesium. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is difficult to diagnose. Magnesium is required for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body including energy production, detoxification, muscle relaxation, neurotransmitter (serotonin and dopamine) production, nerve communication, calcium balance, bone integrity, stress response, blood sugar regulation, and hormone production. With so many functions depending on this nutrient, insufficient amounts can adversely affect numerous body systems and contribute to diseases.
There are a number of factors that reduce the availability and the absorption of magnesium.
- Common chemical fertilizers deplete the soil of magnesium and therefore reduce the amount of magnesium in the food we eat.
- Food processing such as milling grains and roasting nuts devitalize the food and cause magnesium loss.
- Diets high in sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and chemical additives tax our detoxification pathways and increase the demand for magnesium.
- Medications like diuretics, the birth control pill, antibiotics, and corticosteroids cause the body to release magnesium via urine.
- Excessive sweating from strenuous exercise secretes magnesium.
- Stress, both mental and physical; require increased amounts of magnesium for stress hormone production and nervous system function, which can lead to reduced blood levels of magnesium.
- Poor digestion due to imbalanced gut microbial or digestive conditions like IBS or Crohn’s disease can reduce magnesium absorption.
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Fatigue and low energy
- Sleep disorders
- Restless leg syndrome
- Muscle cramps and spasms
- Headaches and migraine headaches
- Menstrual cramps
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia
The good news is there are ways that you can increase your magnesium intake daily to achieve the recommended levels (400 mg for men, 320 mg for women).
Here is a list of top food sources for magnesium:
- Swiss chard
- Sesame seeds and tahini
- Pumpkin seeds
- Oats (whole)
- Black beans
- Navy beans
- Cashews (raw)
- Almonds (raw)
- Soy beans (edamame) and tofu
- Dark chocolate
Supplementation, in addition to eating magnesium rich foods, can be helpful in improving levels and reducing symptoms. Magnesium supplements bind the mineral with an organic molecule to aid digestion. I typically recommend magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate. Magnesium citrate can reduce constipation and magnesium glycinate is easily absorbed and tolerated by those with sensitive digestion. Recommended dosage of supplements is 150 - 200 mg with food two times per day.
Focusing on increasing magnesium through food first and then with supplementation, if needed, may help you to feel more energized and balance throughout your day.
Have you seen results when you increased magnesium in your diet? Share your comments below.
Peace and good health,
CNN – Magnesium, an invisible deficiency that could be harming your health
Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute – Magnesium
National Institute of Health - Magnesium
University of Maryland Medical Center - Magnesium
The Weston A. Price Foundation – Magnificent Magnesium
Worlds Healthiest Foods - Magnesium