Magnesium is a natural mineral that is essential for all of us. We need it for our nerves and muscles to function properly, to keep our blood pressure & blood sugar levels in check, and we also need it to make muscle and bone tissue. People who are deficient in magnesium are also at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes, and those with a severe deficiency can suffer from seizures, personality changes and an abnormal heart rhythm.
The signs of magnesium deficiency are usually subtle at first, so we've compiled a list of 7 symptoms to look out for so that you can identify and alleviate any potential risks to your health sooner rather than later:
7 Signs Of Magnesium Deficiency
Twitching or cramping muscles
If you’ve noticed you have restless legs in the evening, or regular muscle soreness or cramps (we don’t mean from too much time at the gym) it could be due to your magnesium levels being low. Muscle weakness is one of the most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency, but bear in mind that some people can also get a twitchy feeling from too much caffeine or from being stressed.
If you lack magnesium it could be harder for you to relax, and people who can’t relax often develop insomnia as a result. Magnesium helps to activate the neurotransmitters responsible for your parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the system that allows your brain to fully relax and rest in a restorative state. Insomnia can also occur from restless and twitchy muscles (see point 1 above).
Osteoporosis and bone problems
Low levels of magnesium alone can weaken your bones by affecting density, but can also cause lower levels of calcium in your blood, meaning that your body is less able to make strong bone tissue. Your risk of developing fractures increases too, even more so as you age.
Apathy or a ‘don’t care’ attitude
Although we all have days when we feel like we could stay in bed all day, if this feeling persists it could be a sign of magnesium deficiency. We know that magnesium supports your PNS (your parasympathetic nervous system), helping you relax your brain and refresh your body, so if you don’t have enough in your system you might feel anxious or more stressed, or you might feel mentally numb, as if you don’t really seem to care much about anything.
Constipation can be caused by many things including a simple lack of fibre but in the same way magnesium relaxes your brain, it also has a relaxing effect on your digestive tract, so if you are deficient in magnesium it is likely that your digestive system is sluggish and not functioning optimally.
Digestive issues like IBS and Crohn’s disease can prevent you from absorbing enough magnesium from your diet so if you suffer from digestive problems it is likely your magnesium levels will be too low.
Debilitating headaches or migraine
Magnesium deficiency can bring on severe migraines as the blood vessels in your brain expand and contract quickly, which causes severe pain.
What causes this deficiency?
Eating a typical Western diet of processed food
The primary cause of magnesium deficiency is simply not consuming enough magnesium in your food. The ‘standard’ diet for many developed nations is based on a lot of meat, dairy, refined grains and processed products, and any magnesium that might have been present before the refining begins is lost in the process. Add to that the fact that mineral levels in topsoil globally are at their lowest ever, so even if you eat foods that are typically high in magnesium (such as dark green leafy vegetables) you may still find yourself deficient.
Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or consuming too many soda drinks
When you drink certain cola drinks or any soda with caffeine in, magnesium uptake from your intestines into the body is blocked. There is also some evidence that phosphoric acid in such sodas can leach calcium and magnesium from your body making it impossible for you to make use of it.
Most people know that coffee often has a laxative effect and can be a diuretic, but they don’t always make the connection that going to the bathroom means excreting minerals like magnesium in their urine or faeces. Caffeine can also directly interfere with the absorption of magnesium and calcium from the diet. Heavy coffee drinkers are often prone to all kinds of mineral deficiencies, including magnesium.
When we drink alcohol, our bodies (namely our kidneys) get straight to work processing it, meaning that we can excrete magnesium even before we have had a chance to use it. For this reason, anyone who drinks alcohol in more than moderation is very likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency.
Constant stress, both mental and physical, depletes your body of magnesium. At the same time, magnesium deficiency intensifies stress, so it can be a vicious circle that seems hard to break. Magnesium helps to regulate our stress response, making it crucial for us to have enough in our body at all times.
What can we do about it?
It would be great if we could simply eat a diet that was rich in high-magnesium foods, such as nuts (almond and brazil nuts), leafy greens, legumes, avocados and even cocoa products (including chocolate!). But the truth is that the quality of many of those foods is decreasing. Vegetables such as spinach or chard, both of which should be good sources of magnesium, but plants can only absorb nutrients from soil that are there to begin with, and it is widely accepted that our soils are sadly in need of regeneration. Choosing organic is no longer enough, since organic pesticides and fertilizers do not allow uptake of nutrients from the soil any more than commercial products if the magnesium simply isn't there to begin with.
So when it comes to vegetables with high mineral content, the best thing to look for is a producer who uses regenerative agriculture principles (regenerative agriculture focuses heavily on soil health and the nutrient value of the food grown there). However, this is not always going to be possible so the best and simplest way for us to get enough magnesium, and in a form that we can absorb properly, is for us to take a magnesium supplement.
But the simple and most effective answer is to find a high quality magnesium supplement (of course in addition to a healthy diet).
Proteus Nutrition’s Magnesium Bisglycinate is a highly bioavailable form of magnesium that will ensure you are functioning at your best, without upsetting your stomach. If you feel stressed it will help you to break the stress/ magnesium deficiency cycle and it can also help you to feel calmer in the evenings, ensuring a more restful sleep.