I’m sure you have heard something about magnesium before, even though you might not remember exactly what it was. Perhaps you vaguely remember discussing it in biology back in the day. Or maybe you have seen it on the back of your multivitamin. But what is it, why is it important, how do you know you don’t have enough and what do you do to correct a deficiency? These are the questions this post is aiming to address and while it sounds a bit technical, it’s amazing to me how necessary and essential this mineral is for proper body functioning! And what I love is that it can be such an easy fix for so many problems! But let’s take a step back and cover the basics first.
What is magnesium and why is it important in your body?
As I mentioned above, its a mineral that is needed for your body to work right. In fact, it’s responsible for over 300 chemical reactions in the body (1). So when there isn’t enough magnesium in the body, these chemical reactions are left incomplete. When this happens often enough within the body you start to notice symptoms like what we will discuss below.
But before we dive into symptoms, I want to point out a startling fact… In 2005, the National Institute of Health found that 68% of the general population is magnesium deficient (2). And since then several sources have indicated the concern that this number is rising!
If you are wondering why this is such a crisis now and we have only recently began having problems with this mineral deficiency, most experts agree that it’s a complicated issue that involves soil change and depletion over the past several generations as we have instituted more industrial forms of farming and food production. In addition, the human body deals with low level deficiency pretty well. It basically refuses to eliminate it and recycles it within your system. But this biological scheme to help you through a tough season doesn’t work so well in the long run, so you can start to have symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Now that you know what the problem is and a general background on why this problem exists, I’m sure you are curious if you are one of the unlucky many who are suffering without knowing from a magnesium deficiency. Below are a list of known symptoms. It is not necessarily a perfect or complete list as some of these symptoms may be caused by other imbalances. Additionally, there may be further less common symptoms where magnesium is responsible for so many chemical reactions in the body.
Restless legs – this isn’t really a “syndrome” like the medical community would like to have you believe and magnesium often helps it disappear!
Cramping – especially night time leg cramps occasionally referred to as a “charley horse”
Muscle twitches – Like the annoying ones you have under your eye sometimes
Generic Apathy or mild depression – If you struggle with general disinterest in your life, perhaps magnesium deficiency is to blame! *Note: if your depression is more advanced from mild, you can use supplemental magnesium as part of your treatment but you should be seen by a doctor to make sure you limit your likelihood of harming yourself or others
Weak bones – Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency over time can lead to osteoporosis. It might not be the only cause, but if you know you have weak bones, it’s worth trying to supplement.
Fatigue with muscle weakness – Fatigue alone can be from a variety of things but the combination of general exhaustion with muscular weakness when you haven’t been moving enough to cause such a feeling can point to possible deficiency
High blood pressure – This isn’t the only cause of high blood pressure, but it’s certainly common in people with high blood pressure to have low magnesium levels. Those with high blood pressure can try magnesium supplementation to see if it improves your numbers, but please if you are taking any cardiac medication do not wean off of them without your doctor’s help. If notice a change in your symptoms with magnesium supplementation, you can keep a log of your heart rate and BP and follow your doctor’s advice to appropriately adjust your meds if you see improvement.
Asthma – Breathing itself is a chemical reaction of gas exchange, so of course it relies on magnesium to get the job done. If you suffer from asthma it could be a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Irregular heartbeat or palpitations – Magnesium has a strong connection to the heart. This is one symptom I have for sure felt for myself. I have two little ones and about half way through both pregnancies I started experiencing heart palpitations. With my first ,my Dr was very concerned and sent me for a full work-up. They determined that my heart was working fine but my heart rate itself was higher than normal. In fact it was over 100 beats per minute with me sitting doing nothing, which is near the top end of the range for most people working out at the gym. My poor heart was working so hard to pump blood and nutrition to my growing body and my developing baby! My Dr gave me a low dose statin to help, but it barely touched the discomfort, and certainly didn’t make my heart rate normal. During my second pregnancy i was able to be followed by a midwife who took a less-is-more approach to interventions. She delayed doing anything so I did some independent research and stumbled on magnesium supplementation. It worked like a dream! No more racing heart rate. No more feeling exhausted from doing nothing. No more being out of breath walking across the room. I still wasn’t “comfortable” because I was pregnant enough putting on shoes had become a chore, but I was able to keep up with my toddler without feeling like my heart was going to explode from my chest!
Pregnancy symptoms including nausea and other discomforts – After finding magnesium during my second pregnancy I learned about all the wonderful things it can do for pregnant mamas. In many women it won’t take nausea away, but it can be a contributing factor so supplementing can suppress morning sickness. (If you are trying to conceive it wouldn’t hurt to start now so you don’t go into your pregnancy already low!) It can also help for constipation, trouble sleeping, leg cramps, and so many other pregnancy woes that it became one of my go-to supplements the second time around!
Sleep dysfunction – If you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, magnesium could help. But it’s not a fix all. Sleep is complicated and can sometimes require several changes to really optimize your sleep patterns.
Options for Magnesium Supplementation
Okay, now that you probably have a better idea of if you might be struggling with symptoms of a possible magnesium deficiency, let’s learn some of your options for supplementation. Personally I keep 3 of these options I am listing on hand at all times and I will explain why and what the unique benefits and safety information is for each of these options.
Magnesium Drink Mix
A powdered drink like Natural Calm is a tasty way to get your magnesium. I appreciate that it’s made with stevia and is not going to spike your blood sugar in order to get the magnesium in. Personally, I have found this to be the most effective magnesium supplementation for calming my nerves, promoting restful sleep, and helping with constipation. It’s one i personally don’t break out all that often because honestly I would rather have a quicker way to get my magnesium and these issues are not as common for me as other issues.
Note: As an alternative for the liquid drink, you can also steam some water and stir the powder into it like a tea if you prefer.
Epsom Salt Bath
Did you know magnesium was the not-so-secret ingredient in this home remedy favorite? I keep this on hand for a relaxing bath to ease sore muscles and improved sleep. Some have also chosen to mix with water and drink but i have not used it in this way and could not verify it’s safety without further research. With 2 little children running around it’s rare that I get a chance to draw a bath for myself and just lounge around, but I have found that even just a 10 minute bath when you notice extreme muscle soreness or an overactive mind can really work magic!
Magnesium Oil Spray
This is pretty much my favorite means of supplementing because it’s so ridiculously easy and safe! To be honest, I don’t love how it feels because the brand I have right now (which will remain unnamed) leaves a somewhat chalky after feel that isn’t very pleasant. But this is perfect for the middle of the night cramp that you need fixed NOW! One spray and the cramp instantly releases like magic! It also seems to help my oldest as he is now starting to have growing pains at night. And when it’s been a crazier than usual day, I can squirt this on to help us all calm down and go to sleep.
The best thing about taking magnesium transdermally (through the skin): You will only absorb what your body can use, everything else won’t get absorbed. This makes it my number 1 recommendation to start with if you aren’t sure you need it!
Magnesium Liquid Drops
I have tried liquid drops of magnesium oil before. Not sure if you remember this from the first day of chemistry class but oil and water don’t mix. I had a hard time finding something that it could be dissolved in that didn’t spike my blood sugar. Also, it just plain tasted terrible- like a liquid version of a rock. Ew! This option might be good for others, but it was definitely not my favorite!
And like most other supplements on the market, there’s a pill for that as well. I use the Dr’s Best brand which from my research seems to be pretty readily absorbed by the body and is affordably priced. It tastes a bit like swallowing a rock which was even less appealing when I was pregnant. But it really helps when I have the rare headache or experience an unusually stressful day. It even helps with muscle recovery after a big workout. I keep a bottle of this at home and one at work so I can grab it on the run most of the time.
Final Supplementing Recommendation
If you think you might need to begin supplementing with magnesium, I recommend starting with the magnesium oil spray as you will only absorb what your body can use so in that way it is a very safe means of starting. If you notice a real difference and you want an easy way to supplement more consistently, you can move on to pill form later if you prefer.
For those of you who know you need to supplement and you need a quick easy way to do it, get the pills if you don’t have them already.
Overall, I recommend everyone have a bottle of the magnesium oil spray next to their bed in case of night time leg cramps or general sleep disturbances. It’s seriously a miraculous quick-acting cure for these problems!
(2) “Dietary Magnesium and C-reactive Protein Levels,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 3, 166-171 (2005)
So what do you think?
If this post has been helpful or sparked your interest, I would love to hear about it. Especially if it has solved a problem for you. I know personally every time I really need magnesium and use it, I am so thankful to have the knowledge I shared in this post. I hope to hear lots of similar stories from each of you!
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