Magnesium is an important mineral for mood, muscle, gut health and more, but testing can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know.
Do you have frequent headaches? If so, this may be a sign that you have a magnesium deficiency. If there was an all-purpose nutrient award, it could go to magnesium. This humble mineral plays an essential role in the proper functioning of your body. Besides being a component of our bones, it is also necessary for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.
Magnesium is involved in muscle contraction, blood vessels, nerve function and the formation of neurotransmitters. It also helps ensure a healthy heartbeat. The problem is that you may not be getting enough of it, and a deficiency or just a sub-optimal level can have a huge impact on your day-to-day well-being.
The consequences of a magnesium deficiency
Magnesium deficiency first manifests as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness. It can progress and cause numbness and tingling, muscle cramps, abnormal heart rhythms and even personality changes. A severe deficiency can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, causing calcium or potassium levels to drop. The consequences of a condition like hypokalemia (low potassium) can cause symptoms like weakness and fatigue.
It’s possible that chronic magnesium deficiency, which means your levels are low but not deficient, could also create problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Suboptimal Magnesium Levels
Headaches and Migraines
Magnesium may play a role in neurotransmitters that help control or block pain.
muscle cramps on exertion
Since magnesium is an electrolyte necessary for muscle function, you may notice that you frequently experience cramps during physical activity.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or nocturnal muscle spasms
Magnesium can help relax muscles, which can reduce the uncontrollable urge to twitch or move your legs when at rest.
Anxiety or depression
Some neurotransmitters need magnesium to function properly. An imbalance of neurotransmitters can make it difficult to calm down or make you nervous, increasing the risk of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Magnesium supports muscle function in the lining of the colon and helps calm you down, both of which promote bowel movement and reduce constipation.
Magnesium plays a role in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, which is produced in the mitochondria, or the energy factory of cells.
Potential Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
Certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, can affect how magnesium is absorbed or hasten its elimination from the body, putting those who take it at risk. are at risk of deficiency. Yet true magnesium deficiency is rare in healthy people.
Some researchers disagree. The authors of one study wrote that “the vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk of deficiency” due to chronic diseases, medications (which affect magnesium levels), diets high in (which do not contain enough nutrients such as magnesium) and soil depletion due to modern agriculture. However, most cases go undiagnosed, according to the authors. (5) Medications that may increase the risk of magnesium deficiency include diuretics, antacids, and oral contraceptives.
Magnesium deficiency is often overlooked. One possible reason is that standard tests may be insufficient. Generally, your doctor may order a serum blood test if they are concerned about your magnesium levels. However, the magnesium status in your blood will remain within the normal range until you are truly deficient, which can be dangerous. Although there is controversy over the best way to analyze magnesium nutritional status, I use a red blood cell (RBC) magnesium test.
The two tests look similar, but they are different. Erythrocytes are used because they generally have a higher magnesium content than blood serum, making them a potentially preferable marker, according to previous research. However, as the researchers explain, other studies, especially long-term ones, must be conducted on this subject to determine the reliability of this test. Talk to your healthcare provider.
Your results should indicate that you are in the middle range, not the lower range of normal. A lower than normal result may mean that your body has the magnesium it needs to survive, but not to truly thrive.
If you think your symptoms or health issues may be the result of a magnesium deficiency, or your levels may not be optimal, talk to your doctor. Ask him what type of test he uses and why. Depending on the results, he may advise you to take a supplement and make a concerted effort to eat more magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, pumpkin seeds, spinach and chard, says Wagner. . It’s always best to get your nutrients from whole foods, whenever possible. Healthy men should aim for an intake of 400 to 420 milligrams (mg); healthy women should consume 310-320 mg.
If you are advised to take a supplement, start with 200-300 mg and in some cases go up to 400 mg. As magnesium is a water-soluble mineral, there is little risk of toxicity, but taking too much can lead to diarrhea. It is important to choose a high quality magnesium supplement.