Magnesium deficiency in humans is very common and can range from mild to severe. Some believe that magnesium is the single most important mineral for bodily function. Magnesium contributes to over 300 chemical reactions in the body including aiding the ability to relax, maintain energy levels and even supporting circulatory system health. Proper mineralization in the body also contributes to beautiful skin. As important as this mineral is, growing numbers of people are realizing they are mineral deficient. Max Gerson, founder of The Gerson Institute noted nutrient deficiency as a leading cause of chronic disease. Read more about nutrient deficiency and disease here.
The Root Cause of Magnesium Deficiency
The more food moves away from its natural, wholesome state to a processed food stuff, the fewer micronutrients there are in it. The Standard American Diet is abundant with foods that have been processed to the point that few natural nutrients remain. Foods that were once rich in magnesium including green leafy vegetables, brown rice, beans and nuts are now deficient in this vital mineral. This is a direct result of large scale farming techniques that have stripped the soil of nutrients. Read more about mineral deficiency in agriculture here.
How Much Magnesium Is Needed
The average adult should have a minimum daily intake of 320-420 milligrams of magnesium, according to the Institute of Medicine and U.S National Academy of Sciences. Together, these organizations prescribe the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for nutrients. Scientists on the other hand, believe these amounts should be higher. Specifically, it’s thought that men require 500-700 milligrams of magnesium a day and women require 1000-1400 milligrams daily.
Not surprisingly, however, the average person only receives 175-225 milligrams of magnesium a day. In fact, magnesium deficiency is one of the most common of all nutrient deficiencies today. This shortfall can have a significant impact on health and well-being. A variety of conditions and symptoms, from simple irritability to chronic pain to life-threatening disease have been attributed a magnesium deficit.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
A simple blood test performed by your doctor is the best way to determine if magnesium levels are low. A simple blood serum test will not do the trick, but rather, a detailed magnesium test is required for accurate results .
There are many possible signs of a magnesium deficiency. Here are some of the more common ones:
- Irritability or anxiety
- Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
- Muscle cramps, spasms, Charlie horses
- Sore joints and/or muscles
- Brain fog
- Lack of energy
- Tics, eye twitching, or involuntary eye movements
How To Avoid Magnesium Deficiency
As noted above, magnesium must be consumed either in the form of mineral-rich foods or supplementation. There are, however, certain behaviors that contribute to magnesium deficiency. Avoiding such behaviors will help reduce the risk of magnesium deficiency. Some of the behaviors to avoid include:
- Drinking carbonated beverages regularly
- Consuming sugar and sweets Stress
- Consuming caffeine regularly
- Drinking 7 or more alcoholic drinks per week
- Taking a calcium supplement without magnesium or less than a 1:1 ratio of magnesium
The list above is not a complete list of symptoms. If signs from the first list are present as well as risk factors from the second, try eliminating the risk factors and see if the symptoms disappear.
How To Get Enough Magnesium
What’s equally as important to know is that the body cannot make minerals. It must come from food and absent that, supplementation. By far, the best way to consume minerals and other micronutrients is by consuming foods that contain them. Specifically, organic, whole and unprocessed foods are the best sources of needed minerals. For many people, this is easier said than done.
Supplements and vitamins are a man-made invention, designed to provide the body with nutrients absent from the diet. Synthetic supplements can be found in the average supermarket but in this form, are not typically well-absorbed by the average person. This is particularly true of magnesium. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) listed on the nutrition label are not the amounts the body actually absorbs.
The best way to supplement with magnesium is by absorption through the skin or transdermally. The oil can be sprayed directly on the skin and massaged in prior to bedtime. It can also be added to a bath, including a foot bath.
Healthy Habits for Getting Enough Magnesium
Increasing magnesium rich foods in the diet is the single best way to avoid magnesium deficiency. Ideally, include three different sources and not just one. Avoid conventionally-grown foods that most often use industrialized farming techniques, fertilizers, and pesticides. Buying and consuming locally-produced food will almost guarantee that the nutrient value is higher. However, it’s best to verify growing practices directly with the producer of the food to be sure. Foods that are high in magnesium include:
- Whole grains including rice bran and wheat bran
- Spices including basil, chives and coriander
- Leafy greens including spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard
- Pumpkin, squash and watermelon seeds
- Apples, bananas and grapes
- Pacific halibut and Atlantic mackerel
Anyone consuming a diet comprised primarily of processed foods is most at risk for magnesium deficiency. Those that drink carbonated beverages and alcohol regularly also put themselves at risk. The symptoms for magnesium deficiency can range from subtle to disruptive and the best way to know if one is deficient is a detailed blood test. The good news is that consuming a natural, mineral-rich diet made up of organic, whole foods goes a long way towards avoiding a magnesium deficiency.
Let us know in the comments below what magnesium-rich foods you include in your diet.
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