Health Benefits of Magnesium: Deficiency Symptoms and Foods
What is magnesium and what does it do?
Magnesium is a mineral and is primarily found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes and avocado. In the human body, it is found in our bones, teeth and in red blood cells. Magnesium is vital for the effective function of muscular, nervous and cardiovascular systems.
In addition, magnesium assists with digestive functions and can help prevent bowel irregularities. Magnesium is a common ingredient in products used for relieving indigestion or constipation. A formula of magnesium is usually given to patients as a means to cleanse the bowels prior to some surgeries, examinations and procedures.
Benefits of Magnesium
- Maintains healthy bones, nerves and muscle.
- Helps regulate a healthy blood pressure level.
- Can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Supports cardiovascular health.
- Supports a healthy nervous system.
- Supports the muscular system and muscle health.
- Supports the digestive system.
- Can assist in maintaining mental clarity.
- May prevent kidney stones.
- May decrease insulin resistance.
- Relieves fibromyalgia and reduces chronic pain.
- Improves symptoms in asthma and emphysema.
- Plays a role in supporting protein, calcium and potassium.
Magnesium deficiency occurs when the body does not have sufficient intake of the mineral, magnesium. Also, some medications and disorders may affect the effective use, absorption and excretion of magnesium in the body.
Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon in the US. It’s particularly common among African Americans and the elderly. webmd
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Low Magnesium Symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
Illnesses and Potential Secondary Effects of Magnesium Deficiency: (lack of magnesium may negatively affect some of the following pre-existing conditions, diseases and disorders)
- Metabolic Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes (increased risk of Type 2 diabetes)
- Bulimia: diuretic and laxative abuse as well as excessive vomiting.
- Dementia and Sun Downers
- Cardiovascular Disease: Increased risk of stroke or heart attack
- High LDL's (bad cholesterol)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Leg and Hand Cramps
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- Noise Related Hearing Loss
Severe Magnesium Deficiency may cause:
Does Magnesium Aid Sleep?
Insomnia is a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium does play a very important role in aiding the body in regulating slow. Of course there are many factors that can provoke insomnia but magnesium does play a role in how the body reacts to the need for sleep.
Magnesium affects muscle relaxation, diffuses adrenaline and directly affects the function of GABA receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter that calms the brain and reduces anxiety. It reduces tension and works hand in hand with serotonin levels to help us find calmness. Plus, if you keep an eye on your diet you can further aid the process by adding melatonin inducing foods. The sweet combination of GABA, serotonin, melatonin, magnesium and other nutrients will help your body clock, heart and muscles work as they are meant to be.
So yes, magnesium does aid in regulating the body and its sleep cycle but we must also find a healthy balance in what we eat. All of these vital nutrients work together to help our brain regulate when we must be alert and when we must wind down. So be sure you are getting enough calcium and potassium too.
Who needs more magnesium?
In addition to those affected by the symptoms above, the following populations need more magnesium:
Diabetics: Diabetics with poorly controlled sugar generally have increased urine. Magnesium loss in urine is associated with hyperglycemia.
Alcoholics: 30% through 60% of alcoholics display low levels of magnesium. In addition, 90% of patients tested during alcohol withdrawal have shown significantly lower levels of magnesium.
Other populations, which may benefit from magnesium awareness:
- Patients with Crohn's Disease
- Those with Gluten Sensitivity
- Older adults
Magnesium Rich Foods
Herbs with magnesium content:
- Whole Grains: buckwheat, oats, oat bran, barley, wheat, quinoa.
- Legumes: black beans, white beans, soybeans and navy beans are highest in magnesium.
- Varieties of lettuce and salad greens (dark greens and reds are preferred)
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Red meats
- Fish: halibut, cod and tuna
- Dairy: low fat milk and yogurt
- Chocolate (preferably dark chocolate)
- Peanut butter
Patients with kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements without a doctor's supervision.
- Magnesium is excreted by the kidneys.
Magnesium and Medications
Interactions: According to the Office of Dietary Supplements: The National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland Medical Center, magnesium supplements may affect some medications. In addition, some medications may affect how the body uses, stores or excretes magnesium. Caution and awareness should be observed when taking diuretics, blood pressure medications, antibiotics and anti-neoplastic medications (used to treat cancer). The following medications have been identified as a possible interaction:
- Diuretics: Lasix, Bumex, Edecrin and hydrochlorothiazide. Some of these products and ingredients are used in-conjunction with high blood pressure medication. Be aware of muscle cramping when using these products. It may be a signal you need more magnesium. Interestingly, magnesium has been found to regulate blood pressure levels together with potassium. Two minerals, which may be lost with diuretics and dehydration.
- Blood Pressure Medications: Aamlodipine (Norvasc), Diltiazem (Cardizem), Felodipine (Plendil) and Verapamil (Calan).
- Antibiotics: Gentamicin, Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), Moxifloxacin (Avelox), Tetracycline (Sumycin), Doxycycline (Vibramycin), Minocycline (Minocin) and Amphotericin.
- Anti-neoplastic medication: Cisplatin.
Magnesium: Recommended Daily Allowance
Ages 1 through 3
80 mg - daily
80 mg - daily
Ages 4 through 8
130 mg - daily
130 mg - daily
Ages 9 through 13
240 mg - daily
240 mg - daily
Ages 14 through 18
410 mg - daily
360 mg - daily
Ages 19 through 30
400 mg - daily
310 mg - daily
Ages 31 and above
420 mg - daily
320 mg - daily
Interesting magnesium facts:
- Magnesium is required in 300 biochemical reactions in the human body.
- 50% of magnesium in the human body is found in the bone.
- A diet high in fat may limit the absorption of magnesium by the body.
- Heavily cooked foods may lose significant magnesium content.
- Excessive sweating may lead to magnesium deficiency.
- The center of the chlorophyll molecule contains magnesium. (chlorophyll gives off the green color found in green leafy vegetables)
- Whole grains have more magnesium than refined grains.
- A chocolate craving may be an indicator of low magnesium in the body.
- Hard water from the tap contains more magnesium than soft water.
- Patients suffering from kidney disease are commonly unable to excrete excessive amounts of magnesium.
- A diet high in magnesium, potassium and calcium have been clinically proven to reduce high blood pressure.
- Magnesium is needed for effective carbohydrate metabolism and may affect insulin and the control of blood sugar.
- Studies have shown higher blood levels of magnesium reduced the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Magnesium affects the metabolism of calcium. Studies show magnesium supplements may improve bone density in postmenopausal women.
- Intravenous (IV) administered magnesium is a common treatment in preeclampsia and eclampsia patients. It is said to help control and prevent seizures in these patients.
- Magnesium combined with B12 has been shown to improve PMS. Especially bloating, swelling and breast tenderness.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institues of Health: Magnesium
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2011. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page.
- Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR. Metabolic effects of diuretics. Cardiology 1994;84 Suppl 2:48-56.
- Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, Cupples LA, Wilson PW, Kiel DP. Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69(4):727-36.
- Shechter M, Merz CN, Paul-Labrador M, Meisel SR, Rude RK, Molloy MD, Dwyer JH, Shah PK, Kaul S. Oral magnesium supplementation inhibits platelet-dependent thrombosis in patients with coronary artery disease. American Journal of Cardiology 1999;84:152-6.
- Shechter M, Sharir M, Labrador MJ, Forrester J, Silver B, Bairey Merz CN. Oral magnesium therapy improves endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease. Circulation 2000;102:2353-58.
- Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernan MA, Giovannucci EL, Kawachi I, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among US men. Circulation 1998;98:1198-204.
- Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of U.S. adults. J Nutr. 2003;133:2879-82. Fox C, Ramsoomair D, Carter C. Magnesium: its proven and potential clinical significance. [Review]. South Med J. 2001;94(12):1195-1201
- Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 2004.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this hub should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. Please consult a physician for medical and dietary advice and treatment. Magnesium Deficiency should not be assumed or treated without the supervision of a medical professional.
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares
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