But a certain one stands out from the others because a deficiency could be deadly.
Here’s the scoop on all that magnesium does for you, why you may be low in it (most people are) and what you can do about maintaining a healthy level in your body.
Magnesium—the magnificent mineral
Healthy bones, teeth, and muscles
Magnesium helps hold calcium in your tooth enamel to keep your teeth strong and supports healthy bone growth in your entire skeleton.
As a matter of fact, magnesium deficiency is just as much of an osteoporosis concern as being low in calcium!
Magnesium and calcium are partners for your muscles too. Calcium causes your muscles to contract, then magnesium makes them relax. The most obvious example of this is your heart beating—the lub-dup, lub-dup is calcium and magnesium in action.
But when you have too little magnesium, it can cause irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, tremors, cramps, twitching and even convulsions!
In addition, calcium levels in your bloodstream are regulated by magnesium, so too little magnesium means that too much calcium can build up in your blood.
When this happens, your body deposits the excess calcium in areas such as your gallbladder, joints, kidneys and artery walls. This can lead to gallstones, joint degeneration and bone spurs, kidney stones and atherosclerosis.
Strong immune function
Magnesium deficiency can weaken your immune system and make you much more susceptible to infections, viruses, and disease.
Brain and nerve health
Magnesium is critical for proper cell energy production—so lacking in it can cause fatigue.
Your body also uses magnesium to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin—your natural “feel good” hormone. So it’s not surprising that magnesium deficiency is common in people with depression.
Magnesium deficiency has also been tied to symptoms such as confusion, delirium, sleep disturbances and schizophrenia.
And there’s even more!
Over 300 different enzymes in your body need magnesium in order to function.
Magnesium is also needed for digestion and for building RNA and DNA molecules, as well as proper insulin production (an important note for diabetics—since November is Diabetes Awareness Month).
Magnesium deficiency is also tied to the development of menstrual problems such as lower back pain and cramps.
We’re running low!
Studies have shown that only about 25 percent of US adults are at or above the recommended magnesium levels, so deficiency is very common.
Deficiency is often difficult for a doctor to diagnose. The initial signs of magnesium deficiency--loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue -- are also common symptoms of many other health conditions, making it difficult to pinpoint. Plus blood tests are of limited benefit since most of your body’s magnesium is in your muscles.
Magnesium Deficiency Checklist
Here are signs of magnesium deficiency:
______ Behavioral disturbances
______ Irritability and anxiety
______ Lethargy; fatigue
______ Impaired memory and cognitive function
______ Anorexia or loss of appetite
______ Nausea and vomiting
______ Muscle weakness, spasms, cramps
______ Tics, twitches, tremors
______ Impaired muscle coordination (ataxia)
______ Involuntary eye movements and vertigo
______ Difficulty swallowing
______ Elevated blood sugar
______ Irregular heartbeat
______ Parkinson’s disease
______ Sleep problems
______ Blood clots
______ Type 2 diabetes
Why could YOU be running low?
The most common causes of magnesium deficiency include:
1) Insufficient dietary sources of magnesium
2) Drinking beverages that interfere with magnesium absorption—soda, caffeinated beverages and alcohol
3) Drugs that impair magnesium absorption--diuretics, antibiotics and birth control pills
4) Poor blood sugar balance
5) Harmful bacterial overgrowth in the gut (dysbiosis) and intestinal permeability (leaky gut) that lead to poor nutrient absorption
Help turn it around
The good news is that you can help overcome a magnesium deficiency and see some dramatic changes in your health as a result!
In addition to avoiding the medications that cause it (diuretics, antibiotics, and oral contraceptives) as much as possible (ask your doctor about alternatives) and reducing stress in your life, here are four ways to make sure your body is getting and keeping the magnesium it needs:
Eat your magnesium
Dietary sources of magnesium include:
- Milk and other dairy products
- Blackstrap molasses
- Leafy greens
- Sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Avoid the foods and beverages that impair magnesium absorption including refined carbs, processed foods, fast food, soda, caffeinated drinks and overconsumption of alcohol.
Supplement with probiotics
Proper digestion and absorption of nutrients depend on having a healthy gut flora balance.
In addition to having a healthy diet of nutritious whole foods, supplementation with a top-quality probiotic formula can help ensure your gut flora population stays in a health-supporting balance.
Consider a multi with magnesium
Getting your nutrients from food sources should always be a priority, but if you want to make sure all of your nutrient bases are covered, (or if you “slip up” with your diet more often than you’d like) a full-spectrum multi-vitamin and mineral formula can help fill in the blanks where you may be running low.