Even though it is so important to proper functioning of the human organism, magnesium deficiency is not uncommon. Severe magnesium deficiency often occurs in individuals who have over stimulated nervous systems such as what occurs in stress. Individuals with magnesium deficiency will be restless, confused and suffer from palpitations. They may also be highly irritable, easily or chronically depressed and in some cases they will experience, fatigue, tiredness, tremors and disorientation in more serious deficiencies. It has been suggested that an inadequate dietary intake of magnesium may be a contributing factor to the development of coronary artery disease and can also lead to stones in the kidneys where deposits of calcium result.
What foods provide magnesium?
Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which gives green vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Some legumes (beans and peas), nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are also good sources of magnesium. Refined grains are generally low in magnesium. When white flour is refined and processed, the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed. Bread made from whole grain wheat flour provides more magnesium than bread made from white refined flour. Tap water can be a source of magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. Water that naturally contains more minerals is described as "hard". "Hard" water contains more magnesium than "soft" water. Eating a wide variety of legumes, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables will help you meet your daily dietary need for magnesium
When can magnesium deficiency occur?
Even though dietary surveys suggest that many Australians do not get recommended amounts of magnesium, symptoms of magnesium deficiency are rarely overtly obvious. However, there is concern that many people may not have enough body stores of magnesium because dietary intake may not be high enough. Having enough body stores of magnesium may be protective against disorders such as cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction.
The health status of the digestive system and the kidneys significantly influence magnesium status. Magnesium is absorbed in the intestines and then transported through the blood to cells and tissues. Approximately one-third to one-half of dietary magnesium is absorbed into the body. Gastrointestinal disorders that impair absorption such as Crohn's disease can limit the body's ability to absorb magnesium. These disorders can deplete the body's stores of magnesium and in extreme cases may result in magnesium deficiency. Chronic or excessive vomiting and diarrhea may also result in magnesium depletion.
Healthy kidneys are able to limit urinary excretion of magnesium to make up for low dietary intake. However, excessive loss of magnesium in urine can be a side effect of some medications and can also occur in cases of poorly-controlled diabetes and alcohol abuse.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures (sudden changes in behaviors caused by excessive electrical activity in the brain), personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Magnesium deficiency is also associated with low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia).
Many of these symptoms are general and can result from a variety of medical conditions other than magnesium deficiency. It is important to have a physician evaluate health complaints and problems so that appropriate care can be given.
What is the best way to get extra magnesium?
Eating a variety of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables (especially dark-green, leafy vegetables) every day will help provide recommended intakes of magnesium and maintain normal storage levels of this mineral. Increasing dietary intake of magnesium can often restore mildly depleted magnesium levels. However, increasing dietary intake of magnesium may not be enough to restore very low magnesium levels to normal.
When blood levels of magnesium are very low, magnesium supplementation is usually recommended. It is important to have the cause, severity, and consequences of low blood levels of magnesium evaluated by a practitioner who can recommend the best way to restore magnesium levels to normal. Because people with kidney disease may not be able to excrete excess amounts of magnesium, they should not take magnesium supplements unless prescribed by a physician.
Oral magnesium supplements combine magnesium with another substance such as a salt. Examples of magnesium supplements include magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, and magnesium carbonate. Elemental magnesium refers to the amount of magnesium in each compound. The amount of elemental magnesium in a compound and its bioavailability influence the effectiveness of the magnesium supplement. Bioavailability refers to the amount of magnesium in food and supplements that is absorbed in the intestines and ultimately available for biological activity in your cells and tissues. Enteric coating (the outer layer of a tablet or capsule that allows it to pass through the stomach and be dissolved in the small intestine) of a magnesium compound can decrease bioavailability. In a study that compared four forms of magnesium preparations, results suggested lower bioavailability of magnesium oxide, with significantly higher and equal absorption and bioavailability of magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate. This supports the belief that both the magnesium content of a dietary supplement and its bioavailability contribute to its ability to restore deficient levels of magnesium.
Supplements are useful particularly considering that modern food processing depletes the magnesium in foods. Certain conditions which involve impaired absorption from the intestine, or when oestrogen containing medications are being taken. Oestrogen can reduce blood magnesium levels of magnesium and lead to deficiency if those taking them are not receiving enough magnesium through dietary sources. The recommended intakes of magnesium varies widely, but the common agreement among professionals seems to be 500 milligrams daily.