Magnesium is an essential element needed by everyone. It is involved in at least 300 chemical reactions in the body because it works as an electrolyte, which is a mineral that carries an electric charge when dissolved in body fluids such as blood. Magnesium is vital for the formation of teeth and bone. It is also used by nerves to send and receive messages, while muscles use it to contract. Your immune system certainly needs it, and your heart beats steadily because of it.
Many enzymes in the body require magnesium in order to function normally, and it is involved in the metabolism of potassium and calcium – also essential elements needed by the body.
Warning signs of magnesium deficiency
Clearly, magnesium plays a critical role in the normal functioning of our bodies. The lack of it is known medically as hypomagnesemia. If a person lacks it, he may experience nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, weakness, muscle spasms, tremors, loss of appetite or even changes in personality.
Magnesium deficiency usually manifests itself as a persistent and recurring feeling of lethargy. A person who lacks magnesium can experience this initial symptom physically, mentally and emotionally. It may be due to the sufferer experiencing insomnia also. Extreme thirst and hunger, blurred vision and frequent urination may also be experienced. Irritability and anxiety commonly occur too.
If magnesium deficiency becomes severe, the body will have great difficulty in dealing with different types of stress. It can result in seizures, especially in children. The tissues of the heart can be gravely affected causing heart palpitations, angina and possibly even a heart attack.
Since magnesium plays such an important role in the processing of carbohydrates in our bodies, lacking it may worsen insulin resistance. This condition usually precedes diabetes.
Causes of magnesium deficiency
Most of the magnesium in the body is contained in our bones; blood contains only about 1 percent of it. The level of magnesium in the blood depends largely on how the body obtains magnesium from foods, and how much of it is excreted in the urine and stool.
Magnesium deficiency rarely occurs in healthy individuals eating a balanced diet. Most people can get enough magnesium by eating foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fish.
However, some people can still be at risk of magnesium deficiency even if they eat a balanced diet. People suffering from digestive disorders, such as celiac disease and chronic diarrhea, and those taking certain medicines, including antibiotics, can experience lower magnesium levels in their blood. People who consume large quantities of alcohol are also at risk.
It’s no surprise then that up to 12 percent of all people admitted to hospitals suffer from magnesium deficiency. In addition, more than half of the U.S. population does not meet the recommended dietary intake of magnesium.
Getting enough magnesium
When you become mindful of the amount of magnesium in your body, you can effectively relieve the symptoms of many other illnesses. To bring your magnesium levels to optimum, go for a balanced diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables, unprocessed grains, beans and nuts. Some great examples are spinach, almonds and kidney beans. (Related: Magnesium deficiency? Try these 5 foods.)
Supplements like magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate are also available. However, take note that while magnesium oxide may be less expensive, it is poorly absorbed by the body.
If you’re still concerned about the levels of magnesium in your body, it is best to work with a healthcare professional – especially one who appreciates the power of nutrition to heal the body.