Having your magnesium status assessed is difficult because magnesium resides predominantly inside your body’s cells and your bones. Tests for measuring the amount of magnesium in your body include the measurement of your serum magnesium, the concentration of magnesium in your erythrocytes (red blood cells), saliva, and urine. But none of these tests accurately portray your body’s magnesium status.
Why magnesium is important for optimal functioning of your body
Magnesium assists with over 300 biochemical functions of your body’s enzyme systems including:
- Magnesium in involved in your body’s protein synthesis, in which your cells produce new proteins to balance the loss of proteins that have become degraded or used.
- Repair of malfunctions of your muscle and nerve function that happen with exercise, aging, or disease requires adequate amounts of magnesium.
- Low magnesium levels factor into the control of your blood glucose, resulting in insulin resistance and diabetes.
- One-third of American adults have blood pressure problems. Low magnesium levels appear to be a causative factor.
- Magnesium is also necessary for the body to have and maintain optimal energy. Without an appropriate level of magnesium, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) cannot be produced. ATP is involved in the transport of chemical energy within your body’s cells. Without the appropriate amount of energy, your heart cannot appropriately contract and relax, pumping blood around your body and oxygenating your body’s cells appropriately. This can lead to a cascade of neuromuscular, metabolic and cardiac symptoms such as:
- Weakness and energy depletion
- Tremors and seizures
- Numbness, or altered skin sensations such as a feeling of burning, tickling, prickliness, or tingling (known as paraesthesia)
- Muscle spasms related to a malfunctioning parathyroid gland
- Muscle twitching (fasciculations)
- Heart arrhythmias and other abnormalities.
Magnesium is required for healthy bone development and maintenance. It is also necessary for the transport of nutrients across cell membranes and into our cells.
Causes of low magnesium levels
Early symptoms of low magnesium levels include:
- Headaches, including migraines
- Lessened appetite
- Unexplained nausea and vomiting
- Generalized fatigue
Causes of low magnesium levels vary, but for women, a drop in estrogen levels is a major cause. Additionally, the American diet is notoriously deficient in fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of magnesium and other nutrients. Further, non-organic vegetables grown for the marketplace are grown in nutrient-depleted soil treated with chemical fertilizers, rendering them less than optimal for magnesium sources.
Additional causes of magnesium deficiency include:
- Diets that are high in saturated fats reduce the ability of your intestines to absorb the magnesium in foods. Saturated fats include fatty beef, butter, whole milk, cream, ice cream, fried foods and cheese.
- Eating excessive sugar (which is in a lot of prepared foods and cereals) causes your kidneys to excrete a lot of your magnesium intake.
- Drinking a lot of sodas leads to the phosphates in the sodas binding to magnesium and impairing its usability.
- Water softening has also been found to be a cause of magnesium deficiency because the water softening agents remove a valuable source of magnesium.
- Medications such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, diuretics, certain heart medications, immunosuppressant drugs, and asthma medicines can lead to magnesium deficiency.
- Genetic diseases and digestive disorders are also implicated in magnesium deficiency.
- Excessive alcohol intake also reduces the amount of magnesium available to your body.
Not all types of magnesium are totally bioavailable to the body. Magnesium citrate is the most common supplemental form, magnesium taurate is recommended for persons with heart issues, magnesium malate is great for fatigue, and magnesium glycinate is very bioavailable and absorbable. A specific version of magnesium malate has helped many people with leg cramps, foot cramps and muscle spasms. Listen to your body to see if you need to supplement with magnesium.