Magnesium - the Elephant In the Room
There are many elephants (or perhaps ‘best kept secrets’) in our society. When it comes to wellbeing and health, to know our stuff is crucial. An article about magnesium has been brewing in me for a while (for several years) by now but I finally had to urge to write it.
I recently spoke to a customer who had been dealing with fatigue, troubles with sleeping, constipation, heart palpitations, osteoporosis and had been diagnosed with ‘thick blood’. She had been prescribed blood thinners, something for the palpitations and a calcium/vitamin D2 supplement for her bones, yet she was feeling worse than ever. She had been avoiding all green vegetables and any dark coloured fruits so she would not consume vitamin K (which naturally aids in blood clotting). As a result she also developed anaemia.
All her treated symptoms are typical signs of magnesium deficiency. Even problems with calcium absorption can be to do with magnesium deficiency. This elderly lady is not the first customer I have spoken to who is quite obviously magnesium deficient. And as this crucial deficiency goes on, there will be more problems arising, sadly.
Once a customer wanted to know a lot of detail about the CBD oil we sell in the shop. It turned out he worked as a GP and wanted to prescribe something different to his patients with tremors. I suggested tremors were to do with magnesium deficiency. He looked at me, exasperated: ‘Lady, 90% of all my patients are magnesium deficient! I can’t prescribe magnesium to them all, now can I?’
I wanted to ask ‘why not??’…
And so the story goes.
I had another elderly lady visiting the shop a few years ago. She was struggling with sleeping, very high blood pressure, aches all over and chronic constipation. She looked very fragile and was on very high dose of blood pressure meds which were giving her severe headaches. I suggested beetroot concentrate and a magnesium supplement. When I saw her in a few days’ time she thanked me for helping her – she felt so much better. Then I didn’t see her for months. The next time I saw this lady again, she looked terrible – more fragile and shaky than ever. She told me she had fainted and they diagnosed her with very low blood pressure. They didn’t take her off the blood pressure medication (!!) but told her not to do anything that would reduce her BP so much…
Honestly, is this not utterly tragic? The problem was not in the lady’s BP but rather it was a magnesium deficiency. With such strong medication a patient should be re-assessed often with the possibility of coming off the medication. Do you know that most of the prescribed meds are only meant for a short time – weeks, maybe months? Yup, most medications have a written warning about this. Yet, I have spoken to so many people who stay on these powerful drugs for years and end up with new problems all the time, arising from the side effects.
I do believe that strong medication has its place, especially when it comes to very acute, severe conditions. However, I dare say that the majority of people taking medication to suppress some symptom or other, don’t need the medication. They may need a better diet, a gentler lifestyle, or taking supplements, or all of those.
Now, let’s think about those pesky symptoms. The body cannot arrange a conference to discuss its affairs with us, write a letter or give us a call. The body can only communicate through symptoms. Symptoms are NOT bad – they are the only way we can get to understand our body. By suppressing them (without investigating properly first) we are stating quite arrogantly that whatever the body has to say, we don’t care...
Magnesium is a major mineral that is responsible for over 350 functions on a daily basis. In an ideal case our calcium and magnesium levels are 50/50. Magnesium is also one of the four electrolytes which keep us hydrated.
Thus when low in magnesium we may end up feeling extremely thirsty, despite drinking loads.
Magnesium is a relaxant – on all levels, body and mind. The more physical or mental activity we do in the day, the more magnesium we need to unwind and relax in order to sleep. Stress, lack of sleep, exposure to screens (blue light), pollution and loud noise also deplete our magnesium levels. People with unbalanced blood sugar and diabetics are notoriously depleted in magnesium.
Lack of magnesium will show through tightness and stiffness, cramps, twitches and even frequent sighing. Although magnesium is a relaxant, it also plays a role in creating energy. It has a lot to do with all kinds of neurological processes and can be a huge help with anxiety, depression, autism, even hyperactivity.
The richest source of magnesium are dark greens, seeds, nuts and organ meats. Epsom salt baths are another great way to increase our magnesium intake. Eating sea vegetables (seaweeds) and using sea salt will boost all our minerals, not just magnesium.
However, despite including all these things on a daily basis we may still end up being deficient. Our society is chronically depleted in magnesium.
Because of our modern lifestyle we need higher levels of this vital mineral, yet foods contain less and less of it due to the depleted soils. It is a vicious cycle.
You may also remember from my Stomach article that in order to absorb magnesium we need strong stomach acid. If our digestion is in any way compromised, we may really struggle absorbing this mineral.
Many commercial foods have added calcium, even tap water gets treated with calcium. Yet, not much is being said or done about magnesium (the elephant in the room). If deficient, the more calcium we consume, the lower we push our magnesium.
What happens if we have calcium dominance? We end up with stones and calcifications.
Calcium alone doesn’t know where to go – it needs co-factors to guide it into the bones and teeth. So although most people have enough calcium in their body, they still end up with osteo problems (osteo relates to the bone and the problem with absorbing calcium into the right places) because of lack of magnesium, vitamin D (from sun exposure or D3 supplement) and K2. Vitamin C is considered a co-factor for calcium absorption, too.
So, you see, taking calcium supplements to increase bone density after the menopause is quite futile…
Surely, we can have our magnesium levels checked from our blood or urine? We can. And virtually nobody would be showing deficiency. How come? As this crucial nutrient is needed for all those vital functions every single day, our body pulls it out of the muscles (thus muscle cramping), even teeth and bones (cavities and all those osteo problems). So our serum levels would show perfectly normal, yet we can be very deficient.
The best way to tell if somebody is deficient is simply by those symptoms. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, frequent headaches, heart palpitations, stones anywhere in the body – those are all tell-tale signs.
Magnesium supplementation is very safe when taking the RDA (between 200 and 400mg a day). Some people may require a lot more, of course, which is best assessed by a professional.
There are many different forms of magnesium supplements available – some more expensive than others. Magnesium oxide is a cheap laxative which contains only about 2% of bioavailable magnesium, so it’s better to avoid it (unless you need the laxative effect, of course). Magnesium citrate is fairly cheap, also lightly laxative but much more bioavailable. If you have a sensitive tummy I suggest to avoid the oxide and citrate versions.
There are also magnesium chloride, malate, glycinate, taurate and threonate. You may find that one form suits you better than other. It is worth trying out a few different makes and see how you feel.
If you have a magnesium deficiency I suggest you buy a supplement in your local health shop and start taking it straight away. After a few days at the recommended dose (which is usually 200-400mg) you should feel the difference. It is such a simple fix yet can be totally life changing.