I’ve been going to the naturopath recently to try and clear up a few ongoing niggly health issues, like my migraines. It turns out that I have a magnesium deficiency, and according to the naturopath, I’m not alone in this. A study done by the US Department of Agriculture showed that nearly half of individuals weren’t getting enough magnesium in their diets, and this rose to 2/3rds of individuals aged 14-18. There’s no reason to suppose that Australians are any different.
Magnesium is an important mineral for many reasons. According to the US Government’s National Institutes of Health website:
Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA.
Recommended magnesium intakes
The Australian government’s recommended dietary intake (RDI) for magnesium are as follows:
- 1-3 yr: 80 mg/day
- 4-8 yr: 130mg/day
- 9-13 yr: 240mg/day
- 14-18 yr (girls): 360mg/day
- 14-18 yr (boys): 410mg/day
- adult males: 420mg/day
- adult females: 320mg/day
So how do you know whether you’re getting enough magnesium?
You may not be getting enough magnesium if:
- you have a poor diet, with not enough whole foods
- you drink a lot of soft drinks or caffeinated drinks
- you’re alcoholic
- you’re elderly (absorption descreases with age)
- you have a gut issue, e.g. leaky gut syndrome
Other issues like kidney disease, diabetes, long term diabetes, pancreatitis, underactive parathyroid glands (hypoparathyroidism) and high blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia) can also mean you’re not getting enough magnesium.
How do you know if you’re low in magnesium?
It’s hard to measure magnesium, because most magnesium is inside soft tissue or the bones.
Early symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include:
- Muscle twitching
- Poor memory
- Low energy levels
- Muscle spasms and cramps
- Reduced ability to learn
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to many other things, including:
- Migraines. It seems that people who get migraines have lower levels of magnesium than people who don’t get migraines, and there is some evidence to suggest that supplementing with magnesium can help reduce the incidences of migraines
- cardiovascular disease
- type 2 diabetes
Psychiatric research has also suggested that magnesium supplements may help with recovery from depression, and to reduce hyperactivity in children with ADHD.
How can you increase your magnesium intake?
If you’re eating a balanced diet with lot of whole foods, it’s not too tricky to get enough magnesium through your diet.
The best dietary sources of magnesium are:
- leafy green vegetables
- nuts, especially brazils, almonds, walnuts and cashews
- seeds, especially pumpkin seeds
- blackstrap molasses
- whole grains
- cocoa and cacao
- soy products, including edamame, tofu and soy milk
- fish like mackerel, wild salmon, and tuna
Eating lots of foods that are high in magnesium isn’t going to cause you any problems, so if you suspect that you’re magnesium deficient, add some of these foods to your diet.
If you’re struggling to get enough magnesium in your diet, or feel that you might need a boost you could try transdermal or topical magnesium. These are magnesium sprays, oils, rolls on and magnesium flakes like Epsom salts that you can add to your bath.
I suspected that I was magnesium deficient a while back, and added a magnesium spray to my daily routine. I could see results within a week. I fall asleep easily, but used to wake up 2 or 3 times a night and have problems getting back to sleep. After a couple of weeks on the magnesium spray, I started sleeping through the whole night. It’s made an incredible difference. If I stop using the spray for more than about a week, I start waking during the night again. I’ve tried this enough times that I’m sure it’s the magnesium that’s making a difference to my sleeping habits.
If you’re low in magnesium, the sprays (which are a concentrated form of magnesium) can itch when you first put them on. I’ve found that the best way to deal with this is to dilute the spray 50/50 with water, and then gradually increase the amount of magnesium you apply until you’re up to full strength.
I’ve also found that I prefer to put it on my legs, rather than anywhere else on my body. I just spray it on after my shower in the morning and then I’m done. You could also do this as part of your night time routine.
I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find anything reputable on whether you can overdose on transdermal magnesium, so you’d be best to check with a healthcare professional on this.
You can also take magnesium supplements. My naturopath has got me on magnesium supplements as well as continuing to use the transdermal spray while I’m trying to get my migraines under control.
I’m taking a liquid soluble supplement, as my naturopath says that these are better metabolised.
A warning on supplements, however. Whereas eating a lot of foods high in magnesium isn’t going to cause you any problems, taking too much magnesium in supplements can cause issues. You can end up with diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, and too much magnesium can be especially problematic for people with kidney issues. Excess magnesium can also cause calcium deficiencies, and low blood pressure.
There can also be adverse reactions with some medications.
Be sensible. If you think you’re magnesium deficient, add some high magnesium foods to your diet, or try some transdermal magnesium first and see if it makes a difference. Before you start supplements, however, go and see your healthcare professional.
Do you think you might be magnesium deficient? Share your thoughts below!
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