Magnesium: Your key to optimal health

In mainstream culture, there appears to be a new vitamin or supplement causing all the buzz every month. Through watching talk shows like Dr. Oz or The Doctors, we are exposed to the wonders of super-foods and super-nutrients such as vitamin D, raspberry ketones, turmeric, avocados, chia seeds and the list goes on. One nutrient that deserves to take home a Golden Globe Award is magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that most of us have attributed to relaxation. Most patients that come through our office have tried it as a sleep aid and even an aid to relieve constipation. Other symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor Sleep/Insomnia
  • Fatigue/Adrenal Exhaustion
  • Muscle Cramping
  • Poor Glucose Metabolism
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Asthma
  • Heart Arrhythmia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Headaches
  • Cravings for Chocolate

This essential nutrient could literally save your life. Research has found that individuals deficient in magnesium are more likely to have a heart attack. In hospital settings, intravenous magnesium has been used as an emergency intervention when a patient is suffering from a heart arrhythmia. A more common symptom is muscle cramping. Have you ever had to endure a foot cramp that seems to come on out of nowhere? This can be an indication of magnesium deficiency. While the role of magnesium in the body is broad (it is involved in over 300 processes), some of the most common functions that require magnesium include:

  • Blood Pressure Control
  • Blood Sugar Control/Diabetes
  • Protein Synthesis
  • Energy Production
  • DNA/RNA Synthesis
  • Muscle Function
  • Heart Rhythm
  • Glutathione Production
  • Nerve Conduction
  • Maintaining Healthy Bones

Testing For Magnesium

In most cases, individuals first discover they have low magnesium through a blood test typically ran by their family physician. However, this method has severe limitations. Only 1% of your total magnesium is in your blood serum. For example, if your serum magnesium comes back high, you may be dismissed with a clean bill of health. However, when magnesium in your serum is high, the body will attempt to compensate by lowering the magnesium inside your red blood cells. This can cause a heart attack even though your magnesium appears sufficient on paper. Evidently, serum magnesium does not paint the full picture.

Unfortunately, the most accurate way to test magnesium is also not an easy test to obtain. One of the most accurate ways you can test magnesium is through testing the essential minerals in your red blood cells. In other words, testing your intracellular magnesium levels is far superior to serum magnesium. This can be done through several labs and can be ordered by your functional medicine practitioner. Always play it safe if you are told your magnesium levels are “within normal range” according to a serum magnesium test. The testing that we use in our practice is done by SpectraCell Labs or the RBC mineral test from Genova Diagnostics.

Supplementing with Magnesium

Supplementing with magnesium can be highly effective as the majority of diets lack this nutrient. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for an adult over the age of 18 is approximately 400 mg. The list below indicates the amount of magnesium in certain foods. One concern many patients have with magnesium is the laxative effect. A solution is to try an easily absorbable form such as magnesium glycinate. Unfortunately, many of the cheaper magnesium containing products use poorly absorbed forms of magnesium. You can also try magnesium citrate or aspartate. Forms of magnesium to avoid are magnesium sulfate, oxide and carbonate due to their poor absorption. One other important action step is to take a B-complex or vitamin B6 with magnesium as B6 is required to absorb magnesium. Always consult with a healthcare practitioner before taking supplements for correct dosage and formula instructions.

Foods Containing Magnesium

  • Kelp (seaweed) – 760 mg per 100 grams
  • Dulse (seaweed) – 220 mg per 100 grams
  • Spinach – 150 mg per cup
  • Swiss Chard – 150 mg per cup
  • Almonds – 105 mg per ounceadrenal fatigue
  • Brazil Nuts – 80 mg per ounce
  • Cashews – 80 mg per ounce
  • Pumpkin Seeds – 180 mg per ¼ cup
  • Sunflower Seeds – 127 mg per ¼ cup
  • Flax Seeds – 70 mg per 2 tablespoon
  • Black Beans – 120 mg per cup
  • Pinto Beans – 90 mg per cup
  • Green Beans – 140 mg per cup
  • Beef – 21 mg per 100 grams
  • Chicken – 19 mg per 100 grams

Factors That Decrease Magnesium Levels

  • Prolonged Chronic Diseases
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Prolonged diuretic use
  • Prolonged Sweating
  • Menstrual Issues
  • Excessive alcohol, soda, coffee consumption

Magnesium is a powerful mineral that influences many organs and our overall physiology. We not only rely on it directly but also indirectly as a cofactor for many metabolic processes. A deficiency can cause systemic symptoms and the difficulty with getting accurate testing compounds the importance of maintaining adequate magnesium levels. This super-nutrient can do everything from preventing muscle cramps to save you from a heart attack.

Today, magnesium is used as a treatment or part of a treatment plan to treat common health ailments such as fibromyalgia, depression, asthma, diabetes, heart arrhythmias, hypertension, headaches, osteoporosis, and restless leg syndrome. Since the majority of the population does not have adequate magnesium levels, it is critical to get the message across that fixing your magnesium levels can have an immense impact on your health.

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