Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms And Causes
Magnesium deficiency symptoms and treatment depend on the severity of the deficiency. We always talk about how minerals like Calcium and Iron are so important for our bodies. Magnesium, the 4th most common mineral in the body, is gaining a lot of attention these days. That’s because more and more people are ingesting less than the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) and hence are prone to Magnesium deficiency. [Derbyshire] Magnesium deficiency symptoms could be treated by increasing the intake of magnesium by taking magnesium supplements, including Magnesium-rich foods and correcting dietary habits. This essential mineral is very demanding and you will agree with me as you read further. Let’s learn more about Magnesium deficiency symptoms, causes, and treatment.
What is Magnesium good for?
Magnesium is needed for some of the most basic processes such as energy production and synthesis of RNA and DNA. There are over 300 enzyme systems that require Magnesium for protein synthesis, muscle contraction, blood glucose control, nerve function and many more!
How much Magnesium do I need?
As per the British Nutrition Foundation, 2016, males who are 15 years old and above need 300 mg/day. 15- 18 yr old females need 300 mg/day, while those 19 years and above require 270 mg/day.
The US FDA has set higher requirements (RDA) of magnesium.
The normal concentration of Magnesium in serum is 75–95 mmol/L. Research shows that serum levels of Magnesium less than 85 mmol/l indicate a Magnesium deficiency.
Why does magnesium deficiency often go undetected?
Serum magnesium does not amount for the intracellular magnesium i.e. magnesium inside the cell, which in fact makes up for most of the magnesium in the body. This is the reason why magnesium deficiency goes undetected in most cases. [DiNicolantonio et al.]
What are the causes of Magnesium deficiency?
Many of us are deficient in this essential mineral as a result of chronic diseases and many other reasons listed below:
- Cooking and boiling vegetables leads to loss of magnesium content in food
- Reduced levels of magnesium in processed foods
- Meat, sugar, white flour provide less than 20% of the Magnesium required daily
- Alcohol, coffee, tea, soft drinks, salt, and sugar increase the excretion of Magnesium.
- Increased excretion of Mg is seen in case heavy menstruation, excessive sweating, increased stress
- Disease involving increased Mg excretion: Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, prolonged vomiting/diarrhea, severe sunburns, hypoparathyroidism, gastrointestinal disorders such as gluten sensitivity, ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Other diseases: Cancer (increased demand for Mg), liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hemochromatosis (iron overload) etc. (leading to Vitamin D deficiency and therefore reduced Mg absorption), viral, fungal or bacterial infectious agents that cause widespread tissue death, renal transplantation, etc (depleting Mg) [S Johnson]
- Cigarette smoking reduced the plasma concentration
- Soil depletion of nutrients due to some fertilization methods and agricultural techniques
- Use of pesticides- some of the pesticides have the ability to bind minerals such as Magnesium thereby lowering its content in the soil and produce. Consider eating clean or eating organic
- Aging- another cause for reduced absorption
- Medications such as diuretics, antacids, antibiotics, etc. diminish Mg absorption. [Schwalfenberg et al.]
Yes…it is surprising how so many factors influence magnesium levels and at least one of them is bound to go wonky at some point. No wonder magnesium deficiency is becoming so common these days.
Common Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms:
Clinical signs of magnesium deficiency may not be seen in most cases as it is in the latent stage. You may experience general weakness, tiredness, leg pain, irritability and so on.
Severe Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms:
- Neuromuscular- weakness, tremors, facial twitching, muscle spasm of the hand and forearm
- Central Nervous system- increased risk of depression, agitation, involuntary eye movements (nystagmus), seizures
- Cardiac- irregular heartbeat
Benefits of Magnesium supplement:
The upper tolerable limit for Mg supplementation is 350 mg/day.
Research indicates that supplementing with magnesium can help alleviate some ailments and help improve general well-being as well. However, further research for some of the benefits is needed.
-Suppresses bone turnover (which in very simple terms means bone is broken down and re-made) in post-menopausal women and young men and can thereby prevent osteoporosis [Aydin H et al., Dimai HP et al.]
Halves the risk of eclampsia in pregnant WOMEN [The Magpie Trial Collaborative Group]:
-Eclampsia –meaning convulsions in pregnant women with high blood pressure. This is again due to the ability of Magnesium to reduce blood pressure.
Magnesium is strongly recommended for migraine-
-In this case, Magnesium citrate has been shown to be effective in migraine without aura. Whereas, Magnesium sulfate may be useful in migraine patients with aura. [Bigal ME et al.]
Reduces the risk of diabetes:
Used in Treating Depression and may help prevent depression [Derom ML et al.]
-Magnesium plays a vital role in brain health. In that, it controls the neurotransmitters which send signals throughout the body. For example, Magnesium is essential to produce Serotonin, the happy hormone.
Helps improve symptoms of insomnia:
– This is because Magnesium plays a key role in sleep regulation.[Abbasi B et al.]
– Magnesium supplementation reduced the risk of colorectal cancer. [Wark et al.]
-Magnesium helps reduce the number of cigarettes smoked. [Nechifor et al.]
-Few studies show Magnesium can actually help increase exercise capacity in athletes during periods of stress and increases oxygenation. [Golf SW et al.]
What is the best form of magnesium?
The answer to this question is debatable. However, I will list some of the research that’s been done or is on-going.
Studies show that Magnesium citrate (MgC) has higher bioavailability as compared to MgO. A review by Rylander et al. shows more than one study supporting this fact. I found this interesting article where Anna Bolton O’Byrne talks about the study they conducted on Magnesium citrate v/s Magnesium glycinate (MgG). Their results show that MgC is better than MgG in terms of increasing magnesium concentration in blood serum and urine. MgC could help improve overall magnesium levels in the body. MgC is also beneficial in migraine without aura.[Bigal ME et al.]
Magnesium glycinate (also known as Magnesium bisglycinate) and Magnesium taurinate:
There are rumors that Magnesium glycinate (MgG) is the most bio-available. However, upon researching, I found that it lacks enough evidence to prove it. There are a few case studies discussed in this paper by Eby GA et al. which say that MgG and Magnesium taurinate (MgT) assist in recovering from depression. Interestingly, Glycine and Taurine are neurotransmitters which explain their beneficial effects on depression. Not only that, Magnesium is mostly deficient in depressed individuals. If you are stressed out, MgG may help you better as it contains Glycine which is known for its soothing effect.
(By the way, MgG is the one I use. I take it in combination with pyridoxine and it works well for me. I have found it beneficial in reducing premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, pain and abdominal discomfort.)
Magnesium chloride (MgC) has greater bioavailability as compared to MgO. It is proved to be effective in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. [Tarleton et al.] But it has gastrointestinal (GI) side-effects such as bloating and diarrhea.
This is also known as Epsom salt, which is used for a relaxing bath. Some papers talk about the intravenous use of Magnesium sulfate (MgS) in pregnancy blood pressure and eclampsia. In fact, the WHO recommends MgS for the prevention and treatment of eclampsia. There’s evidence for its use in migraine with aura. [Bigal ME et al.]
This form of Magnesium has been studied in patients with mild-to-moderate dementia. The patients showed improved cognitive abilities after 12 weeks of supplementation.
Magnesium oxide (MgO) has very low bioavailability and has GI side-effects such as diarrhea. However, it is occasionally used as a laxative.
How should I take a magnesium supplement?
In my case, taking 2 capsules at a time increases bowel movement. So, I take my magnesium supplement twice a day, one in the morning/afternoon and one at night.
Note: Please consult a physician to decide upon the dosage you need since diseases and a host of other factors come into play when Magnesium is concerned.
What should you take with magnesium?
Magnesium goes well with:
- Magnesium with Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) showed a greater effect on people under severe stress. [Pouteau et al.]
- Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin is a must for the absorption of Magnesium. It is better to get yourself checked for vitaminD deficiency and correct it.
Magnesium Rich Foods:
Hemp seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Flax seeds, and Brazil nuts are super-rich in this mineral. Almonds, Spinach, Cashews, Peanuts, Cereals, Soy-milk and Edamame are some good sources of Magnesium.
Improve Magnesium Absorption:
- High calcium intake may decrease magnesium absorption. Ideally, avoid taking calcium-rich foods or supplement 2 hrs before and after Magnesium-rich food or supplement.
- Cut down on or if possible avoid consumption of Sodas, Alcohol, Tea and Coffee
- Treat Vitamin D deficiency
- Consume raw vegetables and reduce consumption of processed foods
- Quit smoking.
- Try including “clean” or organic foods in your diet since they contain higher amounts of nutrients including Magnesium. [Crinnion WJ]
- Magnesium is essential for basic processes such as energy production and for the proper functioning of 300 enzyme systems.
- As per The British Nutrition Foundation, the requirement of magnesium is 300 mg/day, varying as per gender, age, nationality and in case of deficiency.
- The signs and symptoms of Magnesium deficiency are often unseen. They manifest depending upon the severity of the deficiency. Some of the symptoms are facial twitches, neuromuscular weakness, tremors, seizures, irregular heartbeat, depression, etc.
- Magnesium absorption and elimination are influenced by several factors including medications, gastrointestinal and renal diseases, other nutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin D, stress, some agricultural practices and cooking resulting in the foods’ Magnesium content.
- Magnesium can aid in alleviating migraine, depression, hypertension/eclampsia in pregnancy, insomnia, premenstrual symptoms, stress; reducing the risk of diabetes and cancer; improve exercise capacity and help reduce the number of cigarettes smoked.
- Among the many forms of Magnesium supplements, Magnesium citrate seems to be the most bio-available and safe. Magnesium glycinate is another great option if you are looking for relief from stress.
- Hemp seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Flax seeds, and Brazil nuts are super rich in magnesium. Almonds, Spinach, Cashews, and Peanuts are also good sources of magnesium.
- Consider consulting a physician to decide upon the dosage since magnesium metabolism is affected by a ton of other factors.
- Magnesium goes well with Pyridoxine and vitamin D.
Some Simple Tips To Increase Magnesium Levels are:-
- Leave a gap of 2 hrs before and after Magnesium-rich foods
- Treat Vitamin D deficiency
- Reduce the consumption of processed foods and have more raw veggies
- Try cutting down on sodas( soft drinks), alcohol, tea, and coffee
- Quit smoking
- Try including “clean” or organic foods in your diet