Did you know that every cell in your body needs magnesium to function? Responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions, magnesium can be traced to all of our tissues but found mainly in our bones, muscle, and brain. As the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, potassium, and sodium, magnesium is certainly one of the most critical to overall health. Studies have shown that more than half of Americans are deficient in this important mineral.
The RDA, or recommended daily allowance, for magnesium for males is 420mg/day and for females 320mg/day. According to some studies, the standard American diet contains less than 50% of that, which is contributing to this mineral’s deficiency in our bodies. The main culprits contributing to the depletion of our magnesium levels are certain drugs, like diuretics and some antibiotics, as well as excess consumption of alcohol, salt, and coffee, and chronic stress.
Some symptoms you might be experiencing as a result of magnesium deficiency include:
Muscle Twitches, Tremors & Cramps
Loss of Appetite
Fatigue & Muscle Weakness
High Blood Pressure
Irregular Heartbeat (arrhythmia)
Changes in Mood and/or Personality (depression)
Many people eat a highly processed diet that contains very little magnesium. This can be further complicated by the fact that magnesium is often poorly absorbed and easily lost from our bodies. To properly absorb magnesium, we need to incorporate a good amount of it in our diet, plus enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium.
Some foods that are high in magnesium include:
Nuts (Cashews, Brazil & Almonds)
Seeds (Chia, Flax & Pumpkin)
Legumes (Lentils, Black Beans & Chickpeas)
Fatty Fish (Salmon, Mackerel & Halibut)
Whole Grains (Wheat, Barley & Oats)
I always encourage my clients to get their vitamins and minerals through food first. However, magnesium is one mineral that I find many need to supplement. There are several different kinds of magnesium to choose from. Two of the most common forms that I suggest to supplement are: magnesium chelate and magnesium glycinate. Both are highly absorbable by the body. On the other hand, I do not recommend magnesium carbonate, gluconate, or oxide as these are poorly absorbed. Magnesium citrate tends to have a laxative effect, which works well if one is constipated! If muscle aches are your primary issue then I often suggest a warm bath with Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). I have my clients take this supplement at bedtime as it helps with relaxation and sleep. Magnesium supplementation should be done cautiously in those with any degree of kidney or cardiac disease.
Magnesium deficiency is most certainly a widespread health problem. If you believe you may have a magnesium deficiency, ask your health care provider for a “RBC magnesium” blood test. This measures not only your intake, but your body’s ability to absorb this mineral at the cellular level. This is more accurate than the standard “serum magnesium” blood test.
Getting enough magnesium is essential for good health. Without adequate levels of this important mineral, your body can’t function optimally. As always check with your health care provider before starting a new supplement or health care regimen.
Meghan Punda is a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Nutritionist. She works with women on lifestyle and dietary issues. Meghan is passionate about educating her clients so they can reach their full wellness potential.
Magnesium: Meet the Most Powerful Relaxation Mineral. Available by Mark Hyman, MD: Founder of The Ultrawellness Center and Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/20/magnesium-the-most-powerful-relaxation-mineral-available/.
7 Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency, by Atli Arnarson, BSc, PhD. Healthline, March 25, 2021.