Magnesium is arguably the most important yet under-appreciated mineral in the human body. It plays several important roles in maintaining the health of bones and muscles including the heart and brain. It also helps to keep your blood sugar levels and blood pressure in check.
Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this, and many of us suffer daily from magnesium deficiency without even knowing it. When you’re not getting enough of magnesium, many aspects of your body and mind will go off course. Here are 10 signs to look out for that could indicate if you are deficient:
1. Chocolate Cravings
An uncontrollable craving for sugar could indicate a lack of certain nutrients in your body. For many people, an intense sugar craving in the form of chocolate could mean a lack of magnesium.
While the cacao in chocolate is indeed an excellent natural source of magnesium, the sugar content in chocolate could actually contribute to other serious health issues. Instead of chocolate bars, you may want to reach for magnesium-rich foods that contain little or no sugar, such as nuts, seeds, and beans.
2. Muscle Twitches and Cramps
If you suffer from muscle cramps regularly, low magnesium levels may be to blame. One of many health benefits of the mineral is helping your muscle relax by moving blood sugar into your muscles and disposing of lactic acid, which can build up in muscles and cause pain. So when you lack magnesium, your muscles may pulse or contract and just can’t relax, causing mild or extremely painful spasms.
Keep in mind that involuntary muscle twitches may have many other causes. For example, they may be caused by stress or too much caffeine.
3. Weak Bones
About 60 percent of the magnesium in your body is found in bones. Sufficient intake of this mineral helps your bones maintain their strength and firmness. This is because magnesium plays a key role in the absorption and metabolism of calcium, the main building block of bones and teeth. Being deficient in this mineral lowers the blood levels of calcium, making your bones are more prone to fractures.
Heartburn happens when acidic gastric fluid flows backward into the esophagus, the tube connecting the throat with the stomach. You may experience a sour taste in your mouth, a burning sensation in the chest, or feel like food is coming back up your throat.
Magnesium deficiency is one of the causes of heartburn, because magnesium helps the sphincter at the bottom of the stomach relax, allowing the contents to go down instead of moving up.
5. Irregular Heartbeat
Sufficient magnesium is necessary for maintaining a steady heartbeat and normal blood pressure. It’s involved in transporting electrolytes, such as calcium and potassium, into cells. These electrolytes help trigger and conduct the electrical impulses in your heart.
Electrolyte levels that are too high or too low cause heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. The symptoms of arrhythmia are usually mild. However, in some people, it may cause heart palpitations, which are scary pauses between heartbeats. In the most severe cases, arrhythmia may increase the risk of stroke or heart failure, which could mean instant death.
6. Trouble Sleeping
As mentioned earlier, low levels of magnesium can lead to muscle cramps. This causes restless leg syndrome (RLS), a disorder of the nervous system that causes the overwhelming urge to move your legs. It’s often accompanied by pain and throbbing that can badly lower your sleep quality.
A leg cramp can strike when you’re asleep, but it can also occur while you’re lying awake in bed doing nothing. Although the muscle may relax on its own in under 10 minutes, your leg might feel sore or tender for an entire day afterward.
7. Trouble Breathing
Some people who are low on magnesium may find themselves feeling short of breath all the time. A lack of magnesium may cause the buildup of calcium in the muscles lining the airways of the lungs. This causes the airways to constrict, making it more difficult to breath. This might explain why magnesium levels tend to be lower in those with asthma than in healthy people. Interestingly, an inhaler with magnesium sulfate is sometimes given to people with severe asthma to help relax and expand the airways.
8. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness
Everyone becomes fatigued from time to time. Typically, it simply means you need to rest. However, severe or persistent fatigue may be a sign of a health problem. In particular, a lack of magnesium can cause physical and mental exhaustion, since magnesium is responsible for activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the fundamental unit of energy within cells. Low levels of magnesium impair your body’s energy production.
A more specific sign of magnesium deficiency is muscle weakness. Scientists believe the weakness is caused by the loss of potassium in muscle cells, a condition associated with the lack of magnesium.
Magnesium has a relaxing effect on many parts of the body, including the digestive tract. When the body is low on magnesium, the intestines tend to contract more. As a result, it’s harder for waste to pass which in turn can lead to constipation. In addition, magnesium also works to pull water into the intestines. This water combines with the dry stool, making it easier to pass.
Low levels of magnesium have also been linked to anxiety and depression. In fact, one study in over 8,800 people found that among adults aged 65 and under, those with the lowest intake of magnesium had a 22 percent greater risk of this condition. One reason for this is that magnesium helps regulate your brain function and mood.
Magnesium plays an important role in relaying signals between your brain and body. It acts as the gatekeeper for what are known as NMDA receptors, preventing them from being triggered by weak signals that may stimulate your nerve cells unnecessarily. When your magnesium levels are low, NMDA receptors are more likely to be triggered, making you feel more “on edge,” impatient, or irritated.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.