Do you consider your pillow as something magical? You know, hugging it after a very long and hard day at work helps you remember e-very-thing you were supposed to do?
I can relate – a year ago, I would consciously avoid going to bed before 2 am because I just couldn’t face another night of toss-and-turn. And life went on (through a haze and lots of black coffee, though). That’s until I realized I kept needing a week to recover from weekly badminton games against my 60-year old uncle – for my defense, he used to be a professional player. I just didn’t want to pin it on my juvenile arthritis, so I did some digging around and realized I badly needed to boost my magnesium intake.
Fast forward a little bit – I haven’t had a migraine in over ten months, my back and joints love me again, and it’s getting very hard to keep my eyes open after 10.30pm. Plus I can now wake up before the sun rises without an alarm to drag me out of bed in a panic! I still haven’t managed to win against my uncle though…
Countless hours of research on magnesium have convinced me that almost all of us would strongly benefit from supplementing with this mineral. And in this article, you’ll get all the info you need to make informed decisions (after discussing with your doctor, of course).
What does magnesium do?
To be perfectly honest, only a book could do justice to this mighty mineral. You see, magnesium is an impressive multi-tasking mineral involved in:
- Over 325 enzyme reactions in the body ranging from temperature and blood glucose regulation to blood pressure control.
- Energy production.
- The synthesis of essential molecules such as DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione.
- Maintaining the integrity of the structure of our cell membranes, chromosomes, and skeleton.
- Transmitting nerve signals around the body.
- Muscle relaxation.
- Promoting restful sleep.
- Supporting a healthy immune system.
- The metabolism of vitamin D.
If magnesium is involved in so many various functions, guess what would happen if you were magnesium deficient? You’re right; you’d be plagued with an array of symptoms that may not appear to be inter-connected.
Plus magnesium deficiency is associated with various lethal chronic diseases such as:
- Diabetes which further worsens magnesium deficiency
- Cardiovascular disease
So, could YOU be deficient in magnesium?
Probably. After all, about 70 to 80 percent of the population is deficient in magnesium. But don’t take my word for it – go through the following signs that could indicate a magnesium deficiency and see which one(s) apply to you.
If you regularly experience at least two of the above symptoms, it is likely that you have a deficiency:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Bowel issues including constipation, diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s disease, colitis, undigested fat in stool
- Calf, foot and toe cramps
- Chronic fatigue or feeling exhausted all the time
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Cold extremities or numbness
- Diabetes (any type) or uncontrolled blood sugar levels
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble falling and staying asleep
- Eye twitches or involuntary eye movements
- Facial tics
- Food cravings especially carbohydrates, chocolate, salt, and fast food
- Heart disease
- Irregular heart beat
- Parathyroid hyperactivity
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular menses, fertility issues, pre-eclampsia
- Raynaud’s syndrome
Don’t have any of those symptoms? Lucky you! But check out this video before deciding whether or not to watch your magnesium intake.
How are your CRP levels?
C-reactive protein (CRP) is an inflammatory marker in the blood that can help predict the risk of heart diseases. Elevated blood levels of CRP mean greater risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Wondering what CRP levels have to do with magnesium? Well, magnesium deficiency can cause levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) to increase! In fact, in one study, researchers reported that adults with low magnesium intake were 1.48 to 1.75 times more likely to have high levels of CRP. This provides yet another reason why individuals with low magnesium intake are more vulnerable to heart disease.
Could your lifestyle cause magnesium deficiency?
The following questions will help you determine which lifestyle factors may predispose you to a magnesium deficiency:
- Do you take medications like proton pump inhibitors, antacids, diuretics, insulin, birth control pills, heart medication, asthma drugs like corticosteroids or estrogen replacement therapy? These drugs are known to decrease the body’s stores of magnesium by promoting excretion of the mineral through the kidneys.
- Do you regularly consume alcoholic beverages? Just like diuretics, alcohol consumption increases urinary losses of magnesium by as much as 260% above baseline levels! And this occurs within minutes of ingestion. Moreover, alcohol can also hinder absorption of magnesium in the digestive tract.
- Do you consume sodas at least once a week? Drinking carbonated beverages is akin to flushing magnesium out of your system. You see, these carbonated drinks usually contain salts such as phosphates which bind to magnesium in the digestive tract and reduce its absorption.
- Is your diet rich in refined sugar? Refined sugar, present in most commercial food products, increases magnesium excretion via the kidneys. And the more processed foods you consume, the less likely you are to consume ‘real’ foods containing magnesium.
- Do you feel like a zombie if you don’t get your daily dose of caffeine? Regularly consuming caffeine (from tea, coffee, energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages) throughout the day can increase urinary magnesium losses. Plus, if you have HPA-axis dysfunction, drinking coffee can further worsen your symptoms.
- Do you feel overworked or overly stressed out? Prolonged periods of stress drive magnesium levels down by increasing the body’s requirements for the mineral.
- Do you drink fluoridated water or use fluoride-containing products? Fluoride binds to magnesium, making it unavailable for absorption. The reaction causes the formation of sellaite, a magnesium fluoride mineral that is almost insoluble and ‘steals’ the place of magnesium in bone and cartilage – this makes bone more brittle and more vulnerable to fractures.
- Do you smoke or use cocaine or nicotine-containing products such as nicotine patches? Both nicotine and cocaine can cause magnesium deficiency.
Did you answer yes to any of the above questions? If so, make sure to address these factors before opting for supplements.
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