Magnesium is one of my most favorite minerals that I suggest to almost every patient!
Everyone is different and definitely it is worth checking Magnesium, RBC (Red Blood Cell) level that is offered by Sonora Quest or LabCorp to see better the picture. But a lot of times, symptoms alone are just enough to start a trial of magnesium supplementation and see what happens.
From interesting cases, I once had a patient in her early 20-ties who happened to experience a mix of panic attacks, anxiety, unexplainable heart palpitations right during the visit. I had to make sure her heart is ok and performed 2 EKGs on her. EKG showed some abnormality in her heart rhythm with a bundle branch block. The girl was referred to a cardiologist to make sure nothing else was going on. After she followed up with me and stated that her cardiologist found no abnormalities after having her wear a 24-hour continuous Holter monitor. The patient also mentioned that she actually stopped having panic/anxiety attacks and heart palpitations too soon after she saw me for the first time. She also stated that the only thing she changed per my recommendation is that she started taking 400-600 mg of magnesium glycinate. Magnesium helps not only your nerve function, but it also helps to coordinate the activity of the heart muscle and the nerves that initiate the heartbeat.
So, what are the main symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
1. Insomnia. Are you having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep? Are you tossing and turning? Have you been worried lately and you cannot stop thinking about events that happened or about to happen? Magnesium glycinate is a great calming mineral that helps to fall asleep, especially if taken 1-2 hours before your bedtime. If you are tired and need a lot of coffee to get going in the morning, you are depleting your magnesium levels too, because you are peeing magnesium and some other minerals with your coffee. Are you reaching for dark chocolate more and more? Chocolate is rich in magnesium and some other minerals, so this is your body’s way of regulating it and increasing the magnesium in your diet.
2. Cramping or Muscle Twitches. Muscle cramps are muscle spasms, due to magnesium deficiency. The influx of calcium that is not counteracted by sufficient magnesium into the muscle cells causes muscle contractions and spasms. Severe magnesium deficiency may even cause seizures!
3. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). Magnesium causes the relaxation and expansion of blood vessels thus it causes the fluctuations in blood pressure. With a lack of magnesium, the blood vessels stay narrow and, thus, blood pressure increases! Why is magnesium deficiency so ubiquitous? Because we drink more coffee to keep us awake, eat more processed foods, and even if we eat healthy foods and produce, our soils are depleted of magnesium as the farmers are not incentivized to do a proper crop rotation (where different crops are grown on the same plot of land at different times). I remember when I studied biology and nitrogen, the emphasis was on growing legumes on the plots of land used for other crops afterward, as legumes enrich the land with nitrogen naturally!
4. Heart Palpitations and Arrhythmia. As your heart consists of muscle, just like other body muscles may have spasms/cramping/twitches in the absence of sufficient magnesium, the same may happen to your heart. If your heart lacks magnesium, it cannot contract normally, which can cause arrhythmias. This is the case I described at the beginning of this article. Unfortunately, the cardiologists do not consider magnesium magical, because they were taught to prescribe medications for any heart arrhythmias without getting deeper into what could have caused this issue to show up. Check your magnesium level or try a low dose of magnesium!
5. Constipation. If you regularly suffer from constipation, this is another sign of magnesium deficiency. When you do not have enough magnesium, the intestines contract more strongly, and the process of emptying is difficult. Magnesium supplies water to the digestive system, softening the contents of the intestines. Magnesium citrate is amazing and it works like a gentle osmotic laxative that would not cause diarrhea but would help to have smooth bowel movements with no straining. I know many women talk about CALM which does contain Magnesium citrate, but to have a moderate dose of magnesium citrate around 400 mg, one would have to take 3 teaspoons of CALM and have 3 glasses of water with it. It gets expensive this way too! My preference would be capsules of magnesium citrate from any reputable supplement company (Pure Encapsulations, for example). But if you have no access to this brand, you can buy almost any magnesium citrate at your local health food store. Just make sure, the ingredients are clean and there are no mix-ins that you would not want to ingest!
6. Anxiety. Drinking lots of coffee may keep you awake and functioning, but if you notice that you get “jittery”, anxious and restless after 1-2 cups of coffee, magnesium will help you relax! Even if you do not drink coffee, but have high amounts of stress, panic and anxiety attacks, magnesium is the first thing to try. It is harmless if taken in doses of 400-800 mg and will give you an answer that, possibly, your anxiety attacks have a physiologic cause and not “just in your head” as many psychologists would label you if you were to complain of anxiety.
7. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). This is a plaque of our century. Women are working much harder than men; women have more responsibilities too not only doing the jobs they chose or have to do but also working hard at home, keeping up with daily duties and chores. We also have higher stress and more mood swings caused by the chosen mode of birth control (pills, patches, etc.) that wreak havoc in our bodies putting us into an estrogen-dominant state and leaving us irritable and anxious for 7-14 days before the menses. Magnesium plays a huge role in detoxing extra estrogens from our bodies and will help feel better and experience fewer mood swings.
How to increase magnesium levels? First, stop eating processed foods and drink soda or pop! Decrease the amount of coffee you are drinking too and keep in mind that you need to take extra magnesium and drink more water if you have more than 1 cup of coffee a day. Eat foods high in magnesium: avocados, green leafy vegetables, a bit of chocolate, and nuts. If you eat chocolate to replenish magnesium, make sure that it contains at least 70% cocoa, and take no more than 3-5 squares of 30 grams of dark chocolate per day. Even if you eat a healthy diet, you may also need an extra source of magnesium. Pay attention to high-quality supplements in the form of magnesium glycinate, which is the most digestible form. Most people need about 400 mg, but you can increase the dose to 1,000 mg per day if required. Take magnesium before bedtime for better absorption and deep, restoring sleep.
If you try magnesium – let me know what has changed in your mood or any other symptoms you were experiencing.
Zhanna Tarjeft, FNP is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and a founder of Sprouts Health Functional Medicine Practice in Gilbert, Arizona. Her articles are a matter of personal opinion and do not constitute direct medical advice. All conditions are unique and require the direct review and care of your own physician. To book an appointment with Zhanna Tarjeft contact her at (480) 550-9551