When I was practicing, the most common nutritional deficiency I encountered was magnesium in both adults and children. So in this weeks post I thought I’d discuss this important mineral and ways to optimise your health by ensuring you magnesium levels are optimal.
Who’s at risk and why does deficiency develop?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. Every cell in your body contains it and needs it to function. A 2006 report from the World Health Organisation, estimated that 75% of adults consume a diet that is deficient in magnesium.
A 2018 Study states that most cases of magnesium deficiency are undiagnosed. ‘One study found that 10 out of 11 apparently healthy women were magnesium-deficient’.
“Because of chronic diseases, medications, decreases in food crop magnesium contents, and the availability of refined and processed foods, the vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency.” I would add poor gut health, a restrictive diet due to allergies and intolerance and the fast paced life many of us lead, are also factors that predispose us to developing a subclinical magnesium deficiency.
The role of magnesium
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in your body, including the contraction and relaxation of muscles and regulation of the brain and nervous system. It’s also essential for a healthy cardiovascular system, for strong bones, for balanced blood sugar levels, it aids in the production of energy and protein, and is also important for healthy gene expression.
Signs and symptoms that may indicate deficiency
There are many reasons I would prescribe magnesium. When assessing the body holistically I ask a LOT of questions about all systems of the body and from this, it is often obvious that a magnesium deficiency is apparent. Signs and symptoms include:
- Cramps, and/ or complaining of muscle tension, soreness, weakness or muscular irritability, tics, tremors, or numbness
- Mood disturbance including low mood, irritability, anxiety, poor coping mechanisms, feeling uptight and stressed, insomnia, migraine headaches, PMT
- Abnormal heart rhythms (especially tachycardia) and hypertension
- Persistent fatigue, low energy and poor appetite and nausea
- Osteoporosis, blood sugar imbalance (including diabetes), asthma and in children, a failure to thrive
Testing for deficiency
Testing for deficiency is difficult as most of the bodies magnesium resides in the cells, bone and tissue (not blood). Whilst it is thought that average Western diet should provide enough magnesium to avoid frank deficiency, experts argue it is unlikely to maintain high-normal magnesium levels and provide optimal risk reduction from chronic disease. This means that sub-clinical deficiency is much harder to detect, as magnesium deficiency can be present, despite normal serum (blood) magnesium levels (as the magnesium content of the plasma is an unreliable guide to body stores). Some authorities also challenge that the current range of ‘normal’ level in blood tests saying it is ‘statistically incorrect’ and that the serum magnesium levels at the lower end of normal, is likely to suggest marginal magnesium deficiency.
Ways to ensure adequate magnesium
Real food first
You’ve guessed it, eating a whole foods diet with lots of nutritional variety is the best way to prevent any deficiency. Foods that are particularly high in magnesium includes oatmeal, quinoa, nuts, seeds and whole grains (especially when activated or sprouted), leafy green vegetables, many legumes, fish, meat, chicken and cacao to name a few.
In addition, supporting your gut function is essential to ensure nutrient absorption is optimal.
Targeted and professionally prescribed supplementation is often required to restore magnesium levels. If you suspect magnesium deficiency, please seek the help of a qualified naturopath or nutritionist.
Soak it up
The skin is the largest organ in the body and as magnesium can be absorbed transdermally, you can soak it up, literally. The most plentiful source of biologically available magnesium is in oceans and rivers. Of course you can also add mineral salts to your bath water, though I’d recommend naturally sourced salts as the best option.
The healthiest pool system around
I consider myself really lucky to have a Mineral Swim pool in my backyard. It’s a magnesium rich pool system that uses minerals sourced direct from the Dead Sea which are combined with ozone water purification to provide a truely therapeutic alternative to normal pool salt.
The high levels of Magnesium make the water feel soft and moisturising which is great for our sensitive skin and the kids can swim for hours without goggles (or needing to rinse off afterwards).
Magnesium is such an important mineral for anyone living in this modern, fast paced world we live in. I hope this post has helped inform you, please post any questions in the comments below.
Please always seek the advice of your health care professional before supplementing. Please consider, whilst I would love to help each and every one of you, I am not able to offer individual health, supplement or medical advice.