Magnesium Deficiency: Could You Be Suffering From It?

There could be more to those chocolate cravings than you may think. Magnesium is often an overlooked but incredibly essential mineral that can be found in the body. It is involved in over 300 of the body’s biochemical reactions, playing key roles in supporting the immune system, nerves, muscles and heart and bone health. It’s also been linked to lowering the risk for a number of chronic diseases. That being said, a deficiency can be quite detrimental to one’s health. According to various research, not enough people are meeting their recommended intake when it comes to this mineral. Moreover, a deficiency can often go underdiagnosed as symptoms rarely appear until levels become extremely low. These are the possible causes of magnesium deficiency:

  • Soil depletion

As a result of current farming practices, the levels of minerals found in the soil have drastically decreased. Various studies have found that the produce we consume today is severely lacking in nutritional quality compared to foods produced decades ago. Thus, if you’re doing your best to consume organic, non-GMO foods, you’re still at risk of eating foods that have had their percentage of magnesium stripped away.

  • Old age

As a result of ageing, magnesium levels do slowly decline due to reduced magnesium intestinal absorption, reduced magnesium bone stores and excess urinary loss.

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

For those who consume alcohol in excess, the liquor can act as an anti-nutrient, preventing proper absorption of vitamins and minerals.

  • Digestive problems

As large amounts of magnesium is absorbed in the intestine, digestive problems such as leaky gut and celiac disease can lead to the malabsorption of magnesium.

  • Chronic diseases

Chronic diseases such as those suffering from type II diabetes are at a risk of magnesium deficiency due to the fact that insulin resistance increases urination thus increasing the urinary excretion of magnesium.

It’s important to note that apart from being conscious of several risk factors, only 1% of magnesium in the body is in the bloodstream. Thus a common blood test can often not pick up a deficiency therefore it’s important to also look out for other symptoms.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms

1. Muscle twitches and cramps

Although involuntary muscle twitches may have many other causes, such as stress, these twitches and muscle cramps can be signs of magnesium deficiency. Some
deficiencies may even cause seizures. Magnesium works as a muscle relaxant and with calcium, it helps to regulate muscle movement. If you’re magnesium levels are low yet your calcium levels are high, the muscle nerves can get overexcited, involuntarily contracting and causing painful spasms. The occasional cramp can be normal but it’s important to visit your doctor if the twitches and spasms persist.

2. Mood swings

More reason as to why eating dark chocolate can elevate your mood. Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters in the brain and these neurotransmitters can affect one’s mood. One such neurotransmitter is the happy hormone serotonin. One study found an association between low levels of magnesium and an increased risk of depression.

3. Osteoporosis

Though it’s influenced by many other factors, a magnesium deficiency may increase the risk for osteoporosis. Although calcium is the most essential mineral for bone health, magnesium is needed by vitamin D, which in turn encourages calcium absorption. Furthermore, magnesium is also needed to stimulate a hormone that transports calcium out of the muscles and soft tissues and into the bones. Although studies have yet to be done in humans, an animal study done in rats found
that dietary magnesium depletion results in reduced bone mass.

4. Fatigue

Magnesium is needed in the reactions that create ATP (the main source of energy) in the cells. The absence of magnesium translates to lack of energy on a cellular level. This is characterised by fatigue. Although fatigue is common from time to time, chronic fatigue is often a sign if an underlying health problem. Ironically, as magnesium helps the body and mind to relax, it can encourage a good night’s rest. Low levels can cause insomnia.

5. Hypertension

A magnesium deficiency may increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your blood pressure. Although studies are still currently observational, there have linked low magnesium levels with raised blood pressure. This can be linked to the fact that magnesium works with calcium to support proper blood pressure, help relax blood vessels as well as protect the heart. However, more research is needed to properly establish the link between the deficiency and high blood pressure.

6. Irregular heartbeat

As magnesium is essential for muscle relaxation, depleted levels can affect the heart’s capability in maintaining a normal rhythm. This can result in irregular heartbeats – medically known as arrhythmia. Other signs associated with arrhythmia include lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and chesseeds such flax seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds, and oats. If it is revealed that consuming foods with magnesium do little to ease symptoms, you can opt for supplements. Just be sure not to over-supplement. If you believe that your heartbeat is irregular, be sure to visit your doctor.

8. Migraines/ headaches

As it plays a role in regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, low levels of magnesium in the body can cause migraine headaches. Increasing magnesium levels
In order to get the recommended amount of magnesium that you need- 300mg a day for men aged 19-64 years and 270 mg a day for women aged 19-64 years- you can start to increase your consumption of both plants and animal-sourced foods. Foods that are extremely rich in magnesium include dark chocolate, leafy green
vegetables such as spinach, nuts such as cashew nuts and hazelnuts, whole grains, and seeds such as flaxseeds and chia seeds. If you feel that the foods do little to relieve your symptoms, then you can always opt for supplements- just be sure to not to over do it. Click here to know more.

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