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Magnesium Deficiency: Why It’s Important

An image of magnesium rich foods arranged in a circle around a sign for magnesiumEven though severe magnesium deficiency rarely occurs, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2005-2006 concluded that many Americans suffer from too little magnesium in their diets. This vital mineral helps you maintain good health.

Hypomagnesemia, or magnesium deficiency, often continues undiagnosed as a health problem. Obvious signs and symptoms of such a deficiency don’t become visible until the condition reaches an advanced point. Therefore, the importance of knowing about magnesium deficiency becomes greater.

Why Do You Need Magnesium?

This important mineral and electrolyte play a major role in several bodily processes. Those processes include:

  • Proper functioning of muscles
  • Nerve function
  • Energy production for your body
  • Replication of DNA
  • Teeth and bone structure
  • Synthesis of protein and RNA

What Is Magnesium Deficiency and Some Risk Factors?

In order to understand magnesium deficiency, you first must know the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) established by the National Institutes of Health. For example, for people ages 19 to 30, the RDA suggested:

  • 310 mg for females and 400 mg for males

For people over 30 years of age:

  • 320 mg for females and 420 mg for males

Teenagers between 14 and 18 years of age require more magnesium, as do females who become pregnant. Children under 14 require less.

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of developing magnesium deficiency. They include the following:

  • Suffering from Type 2 diabetes
  • Hospitalization
  • Older Americans
  • Those who become pregnant and lactating mothers
  • Consuming diets low in magnesium
  • Those with parathyroid disorders or hyperaldosteronism
  • Losing excessive amounts of magnesium through some genetic disorders or alcoholism
  • GI disorders like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
  • Ingesting some medications like proton pump inhibitors, antibiotics, and diuretics

As a result of the difficulty in accurately determining the amount of magnesium in the body, assessment of magnesium deficiency comes through an evaluation of dietary intake.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

The most common causes of this condition include:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Burns that cover a large area of the body
  • Excessive urination such as encountered in uncontrolled diabetes
  • Overuse of alcohol
  • The condition in which too much aldosterone is released by the adrenal glands:
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • Malnutrition
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney tubule disorders
  • Conditions that result in malabsorption of nutrients, such as celiac disease and IBD
  • Certain medications

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Symptoms that show up early in this condition include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

With a progression of the condition, more serious symptoms may occur. These include:

  • Hypocalcemia, or low levels of calcium in the blood
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes
  • Numbness and tingling of extremities
  • Muscle cramps and contractions
  • Hypokalemia, or low levels of potassium in the blood
  • Coronary spasms
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Long-term deficiency in magnesium can lead to some serious illness conditions, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis

A Closer Examination of Some Symptoms in Relation to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response

In order to understand how magnesium deficiency can relate to AFS and NEM, an overview of the two stress-related processes follows. AFS occurs when the adrenal glands become overloaded and fatigued due to chronic stress. When stress hits your body, your adrenals release cortisol and other stress-fighting hormones to deal with the effects. But increased stress can overwhelm the adrenals to the point where they can no longer release sufficient cortisol. However, another stress-fighting mechanism, the NEM, becomes activated at this point.

Regarding magnesium deficiency and its effects on AFS, the reduced amount of ATP available for energy production overall can lead to increased feelings of fatigue. In addition, magnesium plays a crucial role in lowering stress overall and helping you to relax. Likewise, low levels of magnesium can negatively affect the amount of cortisol your adrenal glands can produce and release.

In addition, magnesium affects glucose metabolism. In order for your body to get enough energy to function effectively, glucose must get into your cells to produce ATP. Therefore, with imbalanced magnesium levels, the insulin produced by your pancreas won’t transfer glucose from the bloodstream to the cells for energy.

This can lead to blood sugar levels that get out of control. And, difficulty controlling blood sugar becomes a significant source of stress that adds to the burden placed on your adrenals with AFS. Therefore, dealing with magnesium deficiency becomes necessary in order to decrease stress.

To sum up, lower levels of magnesium means more depletion of energy for your body. As a result, the severity of AFS symptoms becomes greater.

The NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress Response

The NEM consists of six inter-related circuits made up of three organs or organ systems that help your body maintain homeostasis and deal with stress. This inter-relationship of these circuits means that what affects one will also affect the others. However, this mechanism can also become overwhelmed, leading to serious physical symptoms.

The following paragraphs show the relationship between some symptoms of magnesium deficiency and the NEM.

Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

An image of a thin man crossing his arms across his chest as he stands in front of a chalkboard with muscular arms drawn behind himSevere or persistent fatigue often comes with a deficiency of magnesium. And, it also makes up the most significant symptom of AFS. Fatigue, a non-specific symptom, becomes hard to identify unless another symptom accompanies it. In magnesium deficiency, this other symptom is often muscle weakness. Much of the time, muscle weakness occurs due to a lack of potassium in muscle cells. And, loss of potassium comes with deficiencies in magnesium.

Relating fatigue to the NEM, your thyroid must come into consideration. The thyroid makes up a part of the Hormone circuit. So, when it becomes affected by the dysfunction of this circuit, fatigue becomes evident. In addition, the adrenal glands are included in this circuit. Dysfunction that affects them also causes fatigue.

High Blood Pressure

Research with animals shows magnesium deficiency leads to high blood pressure. It is also one of the risk factors for heart disease. There is a lack of extensive research evidence that it is a direct cause of heart problems in humans. However, observational studies indicate blood pressure may increase with low levels of magnesium or low intake of magnesium-rich foods. In addition, a number of reviews of literature show magnesium supplements to lower blood pressure in adults with high blood pressure.

Certainly, sufficient evidence exists to indicate magnesium deficiency can ultimately lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

This risk appears to relate to the Bioenergetics circuit of the NEM. Development of metabolic syndrome because of dysregulation of this circuit involves high blood pressure among other signs. Therefore, this condition can also lead to the development of heart disease. In addition, high blood pressure also comes with dysregulation of the Cardionomic circuit of the NEM.

Mental Disorders

Mental disorders can also result from magnesium deficiency. For example, observational studies suggest a lack of magnesium can lead to increased risk of developing depression. In addition, speculation exists among some scientists that lack of magnesium also may lead to an increased risk of anxiety. However, no formal research supports this speculation. Apathy, made up of a lack of emotion or mental numbness, may also result from low levels of magnesium. In addition, a severe deficiency of this mineral may result in coma and delirium.

A review of studies suggested magnesium supplements could prove beneficial in dealing with anxiety disorders. However, the research studies lacked quality.

The Inflammation and Neuroaffect circuits appear most likely to suffer from a low level of magnesium. Dysfunction of both of these circuits can result in an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Inflammation in the brain and nervous system leads to depression. Likewise, dysregulation of the Neuroaffect circuit leads to anxiety, panic attacks, and sleeplessness.

Irregular Heartbeat

Heart arrhythmia, a very serious condition, can result from magnesium deficiency. Symptoms of arrhythmia often appear as only mild ones, and may not show up at all. However, in some people, this condition may lead to heart palpitations or pauses between heartbeats.

Arrhythmias may lead to shortness of breath, fainting, lightheadedness, and chest pain. And at their worst, they may lead to increased risk of stroke or heart failure. Imbalanced potassium levels, often accompanying low magnesium levels, may lie at the root of these symptoms.

Magnesium injections or supplements may help those who suffer from arrhythmias.

The Cardionomic circuit of the NEM may suffer most from this condition. Dysregulation of this circuit can also lead to arrhythmias, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath.

How to Get Sufficient Magnesium from Foods

The most natural way to make sure you get sufficient magnesium comes from eating the right foods. For example, eating green vegetables, fruit, legumes, cereals, and whole grains will assure you of getting enough magnesium.

Some specific foods containing high levels of magnesium include the following:

    An image of magnesium rich foods in bowels

  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Black beans
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Spinach
  • Edamame
  • Rice
  • Yogurt
  • Potato
  • Avocado
  • Fortified cereals

Other foods that contain magnesium include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Milk
  • Raisins
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chicken breast
  • Beef
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Kidney beans
  • Salmon
  • Halibut

If your magnesium level gets low, your body absorbs magnesium from the small intestine. So, some things you can do to increase your absorption of magnesium include:

  • Don’t take high doses of zinc as a supplement
  • Treat any vitamin D deficiency
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat raw vegetables when you can
  • Lower or avoid calcium-rich foods two hours before or after eating magnesium-rich food

Two common issues may contribute to the lowered absorption of magnesium. One involves the drinking of a large number of soft drinks. Another involves the enrichment of so many foods with calcium.

Soft drinks contain phosphoric acid that can combine with magnesium to make magnesium phosphate. This substance can not absorb into your body and thus becomes eliminated from your body in excrement.

High levels of calcium increase the imbalance of magnesium to calcium in your body resulting in loss of absorption of magnesium.

Supplementing with Magnesium

One thing you can do to reduce your risk of magnesium deficiencyis by taking supplements. This may prove valuable if you suffer from a condition that reduces your levels of magnesium or can’t eat magnesium-rich foods. In addition, some people do not absorb magnesium well or suffer from a condition that prevents sufficient intake of magnesium. Therefore, in these cases, supplementation can benefit them.

A word of caution: Please consult with your healthcare professional before taking magnesium supplements to make sure they won’t interfere with any medications you may take. Your healthcare professional can also advise you on whether or not you need to take supplements. But if you do not need them, supplements can either simply pass through your body or may cause you harm.

You can usually find three types of magnesium supplements:

  • Magnesium oxide, citrate, threonate, taurate, glycinate, and magnesium chloride.

The citrate and chloride types typically provide magnesium your body can more effectively absorb. However, the oxide type can prove more difficult to absorb. Magnesium taurate is more relaxing, magnesium threonate is good for the brain, and magnesium glycinate is calming.

Taking more than the recommended dose can lead to nausea, cramping, and diarrhea. And, infants, older adults, and people with reduced kidney function often see an increased risk of magnesium toxicity, especially with high-dose supplements.

Conclusions Regarding Magnesium Deficiency

Although rare, magnesium deficiency can lead to serious physical conditions. Considering the relative difficulty of measuring the amount of magnesium in your body, healthcare professionals depend on evaluating your intake of magnesium through your diet.

A range of foods containing magnesium makes it very possible to obtain the necessary amounts for good health through your diet. Generally, the best sources of magnesium involve consuming nuts and seeds. And beans, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables also contain good amounts of this vital mineral.

Supplementing with magnesium may prove necessary for some people. However, it is important to consult with your healthcare professional before supplementing to make sure you need to do it and to determine whether magnesium supplements may interfere with other medications you take.

What Can You Do?

If you suffer from magnesium deficiency, here are a few things you can do to alleviate the situation.

  1. An image of a kale salad with seeds, nuts and apple slicesIncrease your intake of leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains
  2. Consider taking supplements to increase your magnesium levels
  3. Try your best to lower your overall stress levels, especially if you suffer from AFS

Whatever course of action you decide to take, please do so with the guidance of your healthcare professional who will assess whether you need supplements, the benefits for you, and the appropriate dosages.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with magnesium deficiency, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Magnesium deficiency, although rare, can lead to serious physical conditions. This vital mineral is necessary for the production of energy for your body, is necessary for the production of cortisol and other hormones, and can lead to significant problems with your heart.

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