Stressed? Tight muscles? Got a migraine? Can’t sleep? Anything that is irritable, cramped and tense – whether a body part or your mood – is likely to be due to magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia).
As the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, it is critical to good health, and more than 350 essential biochemical reactions in the body. For example, magnesium and calcium work together at very precise ratios to ensure your heart functions properly. The list of conditions related to magnesium deficiency is long – there are more than 3500 medical references.
Because fast-acting magnesium is a more powerful relaxant than pharmaceutical drugs, some hospitals include it on their emergency crash cart. For example, intravenous magnesium is administered to people with life-threatening arrhythmia (irregular heart beat); high doses are given to women in pre-term labour, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) or with seizures; and milk of magnesia or liquid magnesium citrate is used to empty the bowels.
More commonly, it is taken as an antidote to stress, migraines, tight muscles and insomnia, although some general practitioners only prescribe pharmaceutical drugs. Not so during the 2012 TV ONE 10-part series Is Modern Medicine Killing You?, where magnesium was the most commonly prescribed mineral – to almost every patient.
Although severe magnesium deficiency is not common, any slight deficiency usually goes undetected because its subtle manifestations are many and varied. As magnesium is stored in the tissues, leg cramps, foot pain or muscle twitches are usually the first signs. Insomnia and migraine headaches are also common.
“Not all headaches are produced by mineral imbalances, but we now know that 50 to 60 percent of migraines are magnesium-linked. And that's probably why no prescription therapy on the market successfully treats headaches across the board. They're simply not treating the cause,” said State University of New York, Health Science Center, professor of physiology and medicine, Dr Burton Altura.
The reason we lack magnesium is obvious: A highly-processed, refined diet based on white flour, meat, and dairy, does not contain magnesium.
Foods high in magnesium include baked potatoes (with skin), bananas, beet greens, black beans, blackstrap molasses, broccoli (raw), chocolate, halibut, legumes, nuts, oysters, raw plantain, rockfish, scallops, seeds (pumpkin and squash), seaweed, soy milk, spinach, tofu, whole grain bread, whole grain cereal (raw or cooked) and numerous herbs and spices.
A child, one to three years, needs 80mg magnesium a day, whereas a pregnant woman needs the same as an adult male, 400mg.
Half a fillet of halibut is 170mg, one cup of black beans is 120mg, one cup of cooked spinach is 157mg, one cup of soy milk is 47mg, and one slice of whole grain bread is 24mg. – The USDA Nutrient Database for Standard References
So you see, it would be impossible for people with unhealthy diets, and most people with healthy diets, to eat the recommended daily dose, but we can take magnesium as a mineral supplement.
Magnesium levels are also decreased by excess alcohol, salt, coffee, phosphoric acid (industrial acid in foods or soft drinks with a sour or tangy taste), profuse sweating, prolonged or intense stress, chronic diarrhea, excessive menstruation, diuretics, antibiotics and other drugs, and some intestinal parasites.
Signs of magnesium deficiency
If you have low energy, confusion, reduced memory/learning capacity, fatigue, PMS or hormonal imbalances, insomnia, weak bones, muscle tension/spasms/cramps, abnormal heart rhythm, headaches, anxiousness, nervousness, irritability, or kidney stones, you may be lacking in magnesium.
Magnesium is also used to treat:
Asthma. Arrhythmia and heart failure. Depression. Diabetes. Fibromyalgia. Hallucination/disorientation.High blood pressure. Migraine headache.Noise-related hearing loss.
Osteoporosis.Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).Restless legs syndrome. Vertigo.