In the US, research suggest between 80%-90% of Americans are magnesium deficient. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for magnesium intake is 400-420 mg/day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women. This widespread problem is extremely high and I can’t stress enough how important magnesium is for our health.
Let’s talk about it.
Why is Magnesium Important?
Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium impacts blood pressure, metabolism, immune functions, bone health, maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, keeps theartbeateat steady, and many other aspects of health.
Some experts claim that magnesium deficiency is the single largest health problem today.
Why is There Magnesium Deficiency so Common in the US?
There are many reasons that magnesium deficiency is so widespread even though our ancestors were not deficient.
One reason is due to soil depletion. Soil depletion is the removal of nutrients, biological diversity, or structural quality due to improper extractive practices. Uses of chemicals like fluoride and chlorine in the water supplies make magnesium less available in water since these chemicals can bind to magnesium.
Other harsh and toxic chemicals like pesticides also contaminate our soils and our plants. The plants that we consume and other animals consume are naturally decreasing magnesium.
Common substances that many of us consume on a daily basis such as caffeine and sugar, also depletes the body’s magnesium levels. Also, stress will also deplete magnesium uptake.
Too Much Calcium
Consuming excess calcium is part of the magnesium deficiency epidemic while contributing to many health issues.
While we don’t get enough magnesium, many of us get too much calcium. Calcium is added to many processed foods, dairy products, and non-dairy alternatives, and orange juice.
When calcium becomes a problem, calcification occurs. Each cell in the body has a sodium:potassium pump that controls the balance of minerals inside and outside of the cells. Magnesium deficiency keeps this pump from properly functioning. Calcification is thought to be a major factor in heart disease when your body is over-calcified.
The magnesium/calcium ratio in the body and the function of the sodium:potassium pump, magnesium deficiency can lead to the following:
Calcification of the Arteries
Though this is usually not the first symptom of magnesium deficiency, it can be one of the most dangerous. Calcification of the arteries from low magnesium levels may lead to coronary problems like heart disease and heart attack. Many heart attack patients receive an injection containing magnesium chloride which helps to stop the blood clotting and calcification.
Muscle Cramps and Spasms
This can be the most noticeable symptom of magnesium deficiency. Stiffening of the muscle tissues will lead to cramps and spasms just like calcification causes stiffening in the arteries. If you get frequent cramps, it may be due to a lack of magnesium. It’s best to check with your doctor to see if you should be supplementing magnesium.
Anxiety & Depression
Research shows that magnesium deficiency has a major roll on mental health. Magnesium can be found in the synapse between two neurons along with glutamate and calcium. Glutamate and calcium in excess are toxic.
They activate the NMDA receptor and magnesium sits on the NMDA receptor without activating it, like a guard guarding a gate. So, if we are deficient in magnesium, there’s no guard. Therefore, calcium and glutamate are constantly activating the receptor.
In long term, this damages the neurons which eventually leads to cell death. When this occurs in the brain, it is not easy to reverse or remedy.
Hormone Problems in Women
In women, the higher the estrogen or progesterone levels in the body, the lower the magnesium. This is why it’s common for pregnant women to experience more leg cramps, muscle complaints and PMS in the second half of their cycles.
Crave chocolate? Chocolate is a decent source of magnesium, and there has been a speculation that when you crave chocolate, it’s actually a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Muscle cramps relating to the menstrual cycle may also be related to low levels of magnesium. Women who have bad cramps or PMS should look into taking magnesium early in their cycles before the symptoms begin.
High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
This might be the most well-studied area for magnesium deficiency. A study conducted at Harvard with over 70,000 participants concluded that those who had the highest magnesium intake had the healthiest blood pressure numbers.
Another study conducted at the University of Minnesota revealed that the risk for hypertension was 70% lower in women with adequate/high magnesium levels.
Having Low Energy
Magnesium is required for the reaction to produce ATP energy in the cells.
Don’t remember what ATP is? Let’s take a flash back to high school biology. ATP or adenosine triphosphate, is the main source of energy in the cells and it must bind to a magnesium ion in order to be activated.
Without adequate magnesium, you will have no energy on a cellular level. This shows up as fatigue, low-energy, lack of drive and other problems.
Magnesium levels can drastically affect pregnancy health and mood. Magnesium is often used to help pregnancy related muscle cramps, hypertension, alleviate headaches, reduce morning sickness and to ward off preterm labor.
The impact can be a noticeable difference when some individuals start taking a magnesium supplement. It is said that magnesium is a relaxation mineral. Magnesium helps relax the mind and body which will contribute to a restful sleep.
Furthermore, magnesium is needed to properly function the GABA receptors that are in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that allows the brain to transition to a restful state.
Most of us probably think that calcium is the most important mineral for bone health, when in fact magnesium is just as important.
Your bones can suffer in multiple ways in cases of magnesium deficiencies.
- Vitamin D Absorption: Magnesium is needed for vitamin D to activate calcium absorption- this is the reason why it is important to get enough magnesium when taking vitamin D (if not magnesium levels will deplete).
- Calcium Usage: Magnesium is needed to help stimulate the hormone calcitonin which in turn draws calcium out of the muscles and soft tissues and into the bones. This further explains why magnesium helps reduce the risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, arthritis, and heart attack.
Other Mineral Deficiencies
Many vitamins and minerals work together for you body to properly function. Magnesium is needed for the proper utilization of potassium, calcium, sodium, vitamin K, vitamin D, and other nutrients.
By using magnesium externally, or across the skin, the body can absorb what is needed without absorbing too much because it doesn’t go through the digestive system.
The Solution for Building Up Your Magnesium Levels
Though the negative symptoms seem threatening, magnesium deficiency is relatively simple to resolve with the right form of magnesium. So, how can you build up your body’s stores of magnesium and improve those low magnesium symptoms? Well, the best place to start is your diet.
Now, you might be wondering just how much magnesium you should be getting each day.
According to the National Institutes of Health, adult men should aim for 400-420 mg of magnesium, while adult women should be getting 310-320 mg. And with healthy, intentional eating, it’s entirely possible to get these recommended amounts of magnesium.
Many magnesium supplements or pills that are taken internally may be effective but, can cause digestive disturbances or stress the kidneys. You can always talk to your doctor first, before taking any over -the-counter supplements or pills.
Using Topical Magnesium
A topical solution can be sprayed over the skin and the body will absorb what is needed. The magnesium travels straight through the bloodstream and tissues, replenishing the body’s needed magnesium stores more quickly and bypassing the kidneys.
Foods That Are Particularly High In Magnesium
This leafy green is packed with magnesium.
One cup of cooked spinach provides 157 mg, while one cup of raw spinach will give you 24 mg. Spinach is also loaded with vitamin A — a powerful antioxidant.
Mom always said, “Eat your broccoli.”And she was right. This nutritious staple is packed with magnesium. Half a cup of cooked broccoli will provide you with 51 mg … that’s ⅓ to ¼ of your daily magnesium needs.
Want an easy take-along snack? Try some walnuts. A half cup of will give you an astounding 92 mg of magnesium. A great source of protein and vitamin B-6, walnuts will also help you maintain energy throughout your day.
Want to cook with walnuts? Combine walnuts with Brussels sprouts for a delicious magnesium-packed side dish at dinner.
Who says eating healthy has to be boring? You might already know that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, but did you know it’s also a great source of magnesium?
A mere ounce of dark chocolate (70-85 percent cacao) will give you nearly 64 mg of magnesium
Add a little color to your salad! Beets provide 31 mg of magnesium per cup, and they’re also a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Learn more about beets here.
Green bananas are a great for an on-the-go snack. And they’re also good for you. And it’s not just potassium. One large green banana will give you a very respectable 37 mg of magnesium.