Magnesium isn’t something many people think of too often when it comes to nutrition. Everyone’s heard of iron deficiency, but have you ever considered you could be magnesium deficient? Magnesium is just as important as any other nutrient, but it doesn’t quite get the press it deserves.
A true magnesium deficiency is a serious medical disorder which requires immediate attention. It’s estimated that around 2% of the population has a serious magnesium deficiency. This deficiency can be caused by poor diet, certain medications, Crohn’s disease, or excessive alcohol intake.
It’s also estimated that as much as 75% of the population fail to regularly meet their recommended daily intake of magnesium, meaning a large number of people probably have low magnesium levels. If low magnesium is left unaddressed for a long time, it can eventually become quite serious.
The only true way to determine whether or not you are deficient or low in magnesium is to have a blood test carried out by a doctor. However, you can run some checks on yourself to gauge whether or not you could have an issue.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s worth bringing it up with your doctor at your next visit:
1 Muscle spasms or twitches
Do you have irritating twitch you just can’t stop? Low magnesium levels can trigger twitching eyelids or painful hamstring spasms. Every muscle in your body is bound to twitch or spasm occasionally, and most of the time it can be considered completely harmless. However, if you develop a localized twitch or spasm that repeats frequently and lingers for weeks or months, definitely mention this to your doctor.
While something as simple as an extra cup of coffee can cause prolonged muscle spasms, so can magnesium deficiency – so it’s best to rule it out.
2 Excessive fatigue
It’s important to understand the difference between regular fatigue (which everyone experiences from time to time) and excessive fatigue. Excessive fatigue can be characterized by extreme difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, still feeling tired despite extended periods of rest and sleep, muscle weakness, and becoming winded after relatively simple tasks. A true magnesium deficiency can cause excessive fatigue, and it should be addressed by your healthcare provider.
3 Irregular heartbeat
An irregular heartbeat can be difficult to diagnose on your own, as some arrhythmias are not felt by the sufferer at all. Other arrhythmias can be felt very profoundly such as palpitations which are sometimes described as ‘skipped beats’, or ‘extra beats’. Very severe arrhythmias may be accompanied by feelings of nausea, lightheadedness, or even chest pain. Obviously, these should be treated as a medical emergency.
Most arrhythmias are caught on routine medical examinations. However, if you begin noticing that you are experiencing palpitations, bring it up to your doctor. Low magnesium may be the cause, or there may be something else at work. It’s always better to get checked out.
4 Poor appetite or nausea
Something as simple as the common cold or 24-hour stomach bug can suppress your appetite and cause lingering nausea. However, if you notice an extended period of time where you are having difficulty eating – or have lost interest in eating altogether, this should be brought to the attention of your doctor. A magnesium deficiency can cause you to feel quite sick, preventing you from eating. As you can probably guess, the situation can spiral out of control quite quickly, because the less you eat, the less magnesium you’re likely to take in.
5 High blood pressure
There are many causes of high blood pressure: a family history, poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, certain medications, stress or partially blocked arteries. However, magnesium deficiency is also a possibility. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, be sure to ask your doctor whether he thinks that upping your magnesium intake may help address the issue.
Osteoporosis is a serious condition where bones become brittle and much more susceptible to breaks and fractures. There are many possible causes of osteoporosis, and among them is a true magnesium deficiency. Osteoporosis can only be diagnosed by a medical professional, so if you have concerns, it’s worth checking in with your healthcare provider to set up the necessary tests. If magnesium deficiency is the cause of the osteoporosis, your doctor will come up with a treatment plan for you.
Scientists are still unclear about the exact link between magnesium deficiency and asthma, but it’s been noted that individuals with asthma tend to have lower magnesium levels than those without asthma. It’s also the case that inhalers which contain magnesium sulfate can help open the airways. If you’re being treated for asthma, you should talk to your doctor about the possible role magnesium may play in your treatment.
Fitting more magnesium into your diet
As mentioned in the intro, a serious magnesium deficiency is quite rare, but unless your diet’s carefully balanced, it’s also very likely that you’re not meeting the recommended daily allowance.
Getting your RDA is relatively simple if you know what to eat. The best sources of magnesium are whole foods like nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and oats. Consume at least one of these daily, and you should have nothing to worry about.
Some people like to take supplements to boost their magnesium levels, and this can be even more beneficial if you choose a supplement which includes both magnesium and calcium.
However you choose to fit more magnesium into your diet, stay alert for the warning signs that you’re not getting enough – and try to eat a diet which is as varied as possible. This is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t become deficient in any essential nutrients your body needs.