Why Ignoring Magnesium Can Ruin Your Health

By Josh Axe, www.DrAxe.com
November 8, 2019 Updated: November 8, 2019

It’s the gateway to beating stress.

Magnesium is arguably the most important mineral in the body.

According to Norman Shealy, MD, PhD, an American neurosurgeon and a pioneer in pain medicine, “Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency and it’s the missing cure to many diseases.” Not only does Magnesium help regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, but magnesium is essential for cellular health and is a critical component of over 300 biochemical functions in the body.

Unfortunately, most people are not aware of this, and millions suffer daily from magnesium deficiency without even knowing it.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

(Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock)
(Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock)

Once thought to be relatively rare, magnesium deficiency is more common than most physicians believe. Here’s why:

  • Soil depletion, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the chemicals in our food have created a recipe for disaster. As minerals are removed, stripped away, or no longer available in the soil, the percentage of magnesium present in food has decreased.
  • Digestive diseases, like leaky gut, can cause malabsorption of minerals, including magnesium. Today, there are hundreds of millions of people who aren’t absorbing their nutrients. Also, as we age, our mineral absorption tends to decrease, so the probability of having a deficiency increases across the board.
  • Chronic disease and medication use is at an all-time high. Most chronic illness is associated with magnesium deficiency and lack of mineral absorption. Medications damage the gut which is responsible for absorbing magnesium from our food.

Should you worry about magnesium deficiency?

It all depends on your risk factors and presenting symptoms (see below). Also, approximately 80 percent of people have low levels of magnesium, so the chances are that you are probably deficient.

Take note: Only 1 percent of magnesium in your body is in your bloodstream, so often you can have a deficiency, and it would not even be discovered by a common blood test.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms 

(Shutterstock*)
When you are magnesium deficient, often you are also low in calcium and tend towards hypertension or high blood pressure. (Shutterstock*)

Many people may be magnesium deficient and not even know it. But here are some key symptoms to look out for that could indicate if you are deficient:

1. Leg Cramps

Seventy percent of adults and 7 percent of children experience leg cramps on a regular basis. But leg cramps can more than a nuisance — they can also be downright excruciating! Because of magnesium’s role in neuromuscular signals and muscle contraction, researchers have observed that magnesium deficiency is often to blame.

More and more health care professionals are prescribing magnesium supplements to help their patients. Restless leg syndrome is another warning sign of a magnesium deficiency. To overcome both leg cramps and restless leg syndrome, you will want to increase your intake of both magnesium and potassium.

2. Insomnia

Magnesium deficiency is often a precursor to sleep disorders such as anxiety, hyperactivity and restlessness. It’s been suggested that this is because magnesium is vital for GABA function, an inhibitory neurotransmitter known to “calm” the brain and promote relaxation.

Taking around 400 milligrams of magnesium before bed or with dinner is the best time of day to take the supplement. Also, adding in magnesium-rich foods during dinner — like nutrition-packed spinach — may help.

3. Muscle Pain / Fibromyalgia

A study published in Magnesium Research examined the role magnesium plays in fibromyalgia symptoms, and it uncovered that increasing magnesium consumption reduced pain and tenderness and also improved immune blood markers.

4. Anxiety

As magnesium deficiency can affect the central nervous system, more specifically the GABA cycle in the body, its side effects can include irritability and nervousness. As the deficiency worsens, it causes high levels of anxiety and, in severe cases, depression and hallucinations.

5. High Blood Pressure

Magnesium works partnered with calcium to support proper blood pressure and protect the heart.  So when you are magnesium deficient, often you are also low in calcium and tend towards hypertension or high blood pressure.

6. Type II Diabetes

One of the four main causes of magnesium deficiency is type II diabetes, but it’s also a common symptom. U.K. researchers, for example, uncovered that of the 1,452 adults they examined low, magnesium levels were 10 times more common with new diabetics and 8.6 times more common with known diabetics.

7. Fatigue

Low energy, weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Most chronic fatigue syndrome patients are also magnesium deficient.

8. Migraine Headaches 

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraine headaches due to its importance in balancing neurotransmitters in the body. Double-blind placebo-controlled studies have proven that 360–600 milligrams of magnesium daily reduced the frequency of migraine headaches by up to 42 percent.

9. Osteoporosis

The National Institute of Health reports that, “The average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones.” This is important to realize, especially for the elderly, who are at risk of bone weakening.

Thankfully, there’s hope! A study published in Biology Trace Element Research uncovered that supplementing with magnesium slowed the development of osteoporosis “significantly” after just 30 days. In addition to taking magnesium supplement, you will also want to consider getting more vitamin D3 and K2 to naturally build bone density.

Best Magnesium Supplements

Some experts says lab-made pills aren't as effective as supplements that come from whole foods. (Valentina G/iStock)
(Valentina G/iStock)

If you think you might be more severely magnesium deficient, and you want to improve your levels more quickly, you may consider taking an all-natural supplement.

I recommended taking one of the following magnesium supplements:

  1. Magnesium Chelate — a form of magnesium that bonds to multiple amino acids and is in the same state as the food we consume and highly absorbable by the body.
  2. Magnesium Citrate — is magnesium with citric acid, which has laxative properties, and is often taken for constipation.
  3. Magnesium Glycinate — is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide high levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency.
  4. Magnesium Threonate — is a newer, emerging type of magnesium supplement that appears promising, primarily due to its superior ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane, and may be the best magnesium supplement on the market.
  5. Magnesium Chloride Oil — this form of magnesium is in oil form. It can pass through the skin and into the body. For those who struggle with digestive issues like malabsorption, this is the best form of magnesium to take.

Magnesium Side Effects

Just as a reminder, when taking 600 milligrams or more of magnesium, 20 percent of people taking magnesium as a supplement can experience diarrhea.

My recommendation is to hover around the 300–400 milligrams amount and consult your natural health physician if you experience any disturbances in your GI tract.

Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored Eat Dirt” and “Gut Repair Cookbook,” and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at DrAxe.com

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