Do you have this “invisible deficiency?”
Health Benefits of Magnesium
Anxiety and insomnia. Depression. That annoying eye twitch. Muscle spasms and cramps. Migraines. An irregular heartbeat. Fatigue. Tremors. Dizziness. Even seizures...
These symptoms, severe and small, could be due to a magnesium deficiency — sometimes called the “invisible deficiency” by experts because it can be so hard to peg down.1
What is magnesium and why do we need it?
Magnesium is an essential mineral for human function — in fact, every single organ in the body needs magnesium to operate, and a recent study in BMC Bioinformatics found that the human body has 3,751 magnesium binding sites.2
Beyond that, magnesium plays a critical role in more than 600 biochemical reactions in the body, including everything from normal nerve and muscle function to regulation of blood pressure, metabolism, and blood sugar control.3
This crucial mineral’s also required for the synthesis of glutathione, a master detoxifier that protects the human body from damage on the cellular level.4
Magnesium is also important brain food, and has such strong implications for fighting depression and anxiety that it’s been called “the original chill pill.”5
As you can see, this mineral is a heavy hitter in terms of both survival and quality of life.
“Magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body,” says Dr. Normal Shealy. “A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.”6
Unfortunately, depleted magnesium levels are one of the foremost nutritional deficiencies among American adults...
According to the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), half of the U.S. population wasn’t getting enough magnesium, but nowadays many health experts believe the situation is even worse and estimate that upwards of 75% of the population is deficient.7 8
Factors, habits, and medications that rob your body of magnesium
Our modern-lifestyle is the enemy of magnesium — starting with the soil. Over the last 100 years, average mineral levels in agricultural soils have dropped drastically worldwide, with the worst depletion (85%) being seen in North America.9
It’s not only a question of depletion, but addition...
For instance, flouride has been routinely added to public drinking water for over 70 years — but flouride binds to magnesium, making magnesium less bioavailable inside the body.10
Caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and soda (refined sugar in general) are also magnesium thieves. So is stress — magnesium is essential to our body’s stress mechanisms, but when dealing with an excess of stress this essential mineral is passed through urine and stores are depleted.11
Modern diet and supplementation also tends to be heavy-handed in terms of calcium intake vs. magnesium. This improper ratio not only adds to magnesium depletion, but can be a contributing factor in atherosclerosis, or calcification of the arteries.12
Certain diseases, like diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome also prevent proper magnesium absorption.
Finally, hundreds of medications can also block magnesium absorption. These drugs range from over-the-counter antacids like Tums and Mylanta to prescription blood pressure medications, heart medications, oral contraceptives, antibiotics, and even ADHD drugs.13
If you’re concerned about your magnesium levels — talk to your doctor first and focus on food. Incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diet is the best and safest way to increase your magnesium intake, as our bodies are smart enough to distinguish between food sources and supplementation:
“Your body has built-in mechanisms that don’t allow it to overdose from food, but that doesn’t exist for supplements.” says Dr. Danine Fruge.
The National Institute of Health provides the following guidelines:
25+ Magnesium-filled foods
Leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are loaded with magnesium.
Other solid vegetable sources are okra and avocado.
You’ll also find many nuts and seeds chock-full of magnesium, including pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, edamame, pine nuts, flaxseed, and Brazil nuts.
Magnesium-filled fruits include figs and bananas, and you’ll find it in cultured dairy products like yogurt and kefir.
Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, and lentils are also good sources of magnesium, and in terms of grains, you’ll find it in brown rice and quinoa.
You’ll also find it in fatty fish like mackerel, tuna, and salmon.
If you need a sweet fix, you’ll also find plenty of magnesium in a square of dark chocolate.
Best Wishes for Wellness,
Editor, Health Wire
Aimee's health writing career began in Philadelphia under the instruction of award-winning medical journalist Susan Fitzgerald. Since then, she's had the opportunity to interview doctors, naturopaths, and even Navajo medicine men. She's a firm believer in natural medicine and its philosophy of treating the whole person.