Magnesium- are you deficient?
One of the most widespread but little recognized deficiencies in Americans today is this critical mineral that is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in your body. This mineral often referred to by the saying, the relaxation mineral, is Magnesium. It is estimated that half of Americans are suffering from a magnesium deficiency and do not even know it. Most people are familiar with Epsom salts and taking Magnesium for constipation but this mineral does so much more for your health. So, let’s talk a bit about what it does, how you can get more, and how to tell if you need it.
First, what does Magnesium do? We already mentioned it is involved in enzymes in your body. Enzymes are special proteins which help your body efficiently do all the biochemical jobs it needs to do. It is like having the right key for the lock or the right tool for the job. Sometimes you can do the job without it. We have all used a butter knife to tighten a screw when we don’t have a screwdriver, right? It’s not just me! But over time when the body doesn’t have the right amount of magnesium, we can get all sorts of dysfunction. Things like: muscle cramps, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, sensitivity to loud noises, autism, add, headaches, angina, constipation, migraines, chronic fatigue, asthma, kidney stones, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, PMS, high blood pressure, the list goes on and on. In fact, there are over 3,500 medical references for magnesium deficiency.
One of the main reasons we are so deficient in this mineral is because of our diets. Many of us base our daily meals around white flour, meat and dairy. Yes, you, as you eat that sandwich! All those foods contain little to no magnesium. Foods like sea vegetables, nuts, greens and beans are great sources of magnesium. Seaweed, anyone? And then magnesium is depleted when we consume alcohol, coffee, cola, and medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and other drugs. Add to this that magnesium is often poorly absorbed but easily lost from our bodies and we have the perfect setup for magnesium deficiency.
Ok, so don’t rush out and start popping magnesium supplements, because, not everyone needs magnesium. On the other hand, most people will benefit from adding a supplement to your daily routine. If you are on medication it is best to check with your doctor or pharmacist especially if you are taking diuretics, antibiotics, antacids, bisphosphates, digoxin, gabapentin, high blood pressure or diabetes meds like Sulfonylureas, anti-clotting meds, or muscle relaxants or if you have kidney disease. Now that those warnings are covered let’s chat about how to find out if you are one of those people that could benefit. There are a couple of blood tests that are used to measure Magnesium. Serum Mg levels check what is dissolved in your blood and is a good indication of what your dietary magnesium consumption is like but you can tell that by seeing how many of these foods you are eating: kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic. A much better marker is red blood cell magnesium or RBC Mg for short. This will show you how much magnesium your body is absorbing for use inside its cells, where the real action is happening! This is a simple blood test most doctors will order. If you aren’t on any medications, kudos to you, but are suffering from some symptoms of deficiency you can safely add some magnesium to your routine. Be advised that even though magnesium is relatively inexpensive there are a lot of cheap supplement out there that will land you in the bathroom before they help relieve you of your discomfort. Magnesium Citrate is great if you need relief from constipation because it likes your colon and goes there and relaxes it but not so good if that is not your problem. Cheaper forms of magnesium you will want to avoid are carbonate, sulfate and oxide. They are not easily absorbed and are a waste of your money. The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate, taurate or a chelated form such as malate. Each form is helpful in a different way in the body and can help with different symptoms. A simple and relaxing way to get magnesium is by taking an Epsom salt bath because magnesium is easily absorbed through your skin. So, draw yourself a nice hot bath and enjoy some relaxing magnesium!!
This article was also published in the Batavia Daily News- Health and Wellness July 2019