It’s Heart Month at Beyond Health. We recently wrote about magnesium and the heart—that magnesium is essential for a healthy heart, and that magnesium deficiency is often the real cause of cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attacks.
Unfortunately magnesium deficiency is epidemic today!
It has been estimated that 3/4 of the US population doesn’t consume the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium. So 75% of us may not even be getting enough magnesium in our diets to prevent severe deficiency disease, let alone achieve optimal health. But add to that the many factors that prevent full utilization of the magnesium we consume (see article below) and you’ve got a real problem that affects almost everyone.
But how can you tell if you’re deficient? The blood test most doctors will give you won’t tell you very much. The body does everything it can to keep blood levels consistent, and will keep pulling magnesium out of your bones and other body stores to do so. So by the time your blood magnesium levels are low, you are in seriously bad shape.
Functional medicine doctors go a step better and measure magnesium levels within red blood cells, but since magnesium levels vary from minute to minute depending on stress and many other factors, the best way to tell if you’re deficient is by listening to your own body and its distress signals.
Do you get a lot of muscle cramps? Calcium contracts muscles and magnesium relaxes them, so if you haven’t got enough magnesium, especially not enough magnesium relative to calcium, you will get muscle spasms and twitching, especially leg and foot cramps. Although this could also be caused by dehydration, it’s very often a sign of magnesium deficiency. Menstrual cramping and various body aches, including chronic neck and back pain and fibromyalgia, can also be signs. Chronic constipation due to defective peristalsis is another. Also remember that the heart is a muscle, which is why severe magnesium deficiency could just cause a heart attack!
Calcium and magnesium have similar opposite effects on your nerves—calcium makes you tense; magnesium calm. So if you’re irritable, high strung, sensitive to noise, apprehensive, can’t relax, get anxiety or panic attacks, suffer from insomnia or restless sleep, it may be due to magnesium deficiency or imbalance with calcium. Headaches (including migraines), grinding teeth and depression are other indications of possible deficiency.
In magnesium deficiency, membranes can become irritable; if these are in your heart, you get an irregular heartbeat. If they’re in your blood vessels, you can experience high blood pressure.
Magnesium is involved in almost every energy-producing chemical reaction in the body. Feeling fatigued? Weak? Hypoglycemia can even be a symptom since magnesium is required for the manufacture and action of insulin.
If you’re troubled by any of these symptoms, an experimental trial of magnesium in the way we suggest below would be worthwhile and could prevent more serious problems in the future.
- Combs GF & Nelson FH. Chapter 8. Health significance of calcium and magnesium: Examples from human studies. In Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water: Public Health Significance. World Health Organization, p. 85.
- Seelig M. The Magnesium Factor: How One Simple Nutrient Can Prevent, Treat, and Reverse High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and Other Chronic Conditions. NYC, NY: Penguin Group, 2003.