Magnesium is perhaps one of the most overlooked minerals. This is especially important because, an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in it. The health consequences of deficiency can be quite significant, and can be aggravated by many, if not most, drug treatments.
In the featured video, Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor, discusses the importance of this mineral.
Dr. Dean was the lead author on the seminal paper “Death by Medicine” back in 2003, showing that modern medicine is in fact one of the leading causes of death in the United States. She also authored the book Death by Modern Medicine.
Last year, she was awarded the Arrhythmia Alliance Outstanding Medical Contribution to Cardiac Rhythm Management Services Award 2012. It was given by the Heart Rhythm Society of the UK, which is a major allopathic organization.
Dr. Dean has studied and written about magnesium for about 15 years. In January, 2003, she published the first edition of The Magnesium Miracle, and she’s currently working on the third edition of this book.
“What I want to convey today is the importance of magnesium, how you can get it, how you can know how much you require in your body, and the incredible benefits from using this simple mineral,” she says.
Magnesium—One of Your Most Important Minerals
Magnesium is a crucially important mineral for optimal health, performing a wide array of biological functions, including but not limited to:
Activating muscles and nerves
Creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
Helping digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
Serving as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis
It’s also a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin
As mentioned, few people get enough magnesium in their diet these days. Meanwhile, calcium tends to be overutilized and taken in high quantities. This can cause more harm than good, as it’s very important to have a proper balance between these two minerals.
If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm, and this has consequences for your heart in particular.
“What happens is, the muscle and nerve function that magnesium is responsible for is diminished. If you don’t have enough magnesium, your muscles go into spasm. Calcium causes muscle to contract. If you had a balance, the muscles would do their thing. They’d relax, contract, and create their activity,” she explains.
Magnesium is perhaps critical for heart health, as excessive amounts of calcium without the counterbalance of magnesium can lead to a heart attack and sudden death. According to Dr. Dean, your heart has the highest amount of magnesium in your body, specifically in your left ventricle. With insufficient amounts of magnesium, your heart simply cannot function properly.
While not addressed specifically in the featured video, I want to remind you that calcium and magnesium also needs to be balanced with vitamin D and K2. Many of Dr. Dean’s blogs address this issue and her concern that high dose vitamin D can overwork magnesium and lead to magnesium deficiency.
These four nutrients perform an intricate dance together, with one supporting the other. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity.
Part of the explanation for these adverse side effects is that vitamin K2 keeps calcium in its appropriate place. If you’re K2 deficient, added calcium can cause more problems than it solves, by accumulating in the wrong places.
Similarly, if you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume it in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2 and more magnesium. Taking mega doses of vitamin D supplements without sufficient amounts of K2 and magnesium can lead to vitamin D toxicity and magnesium deficiency symptoms, which include inappropriate calcification.
Magnesium and vitamin K2 complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease. So, all in all, anytime you’re taking any of the following: magnesium, calcium, vitamin D3, or vitamin K2, you need to take all the others into consideration as well, since these all work synergistically with one another.
Dietary Sources of Calcium and Magnesium
You can typically get enough calcium from your diet by eating nuts, seeds, deep green leafy vegetables, and dairy products. Homemade bone broth is another excellent source. Simply simmer leftover bones over low heat for an entire day to extract the calcium from the bones. Make sure to add a few tablespoons of vinegar. You can use this broth for soups, stews, or drink it straight. The “skin” that forms on the top is the best part as it also contains other valuable nutrients, such as sulfur, along with healthful fats. Magnesium, on the other hand, tends to be a bit scarcer in our modern food supply.
“Magnesium is farmed out of the soil much more than calcium,” Dr. Dean explains. ”A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we’re lucky to get 200 milligrams. People do need to supplement with magnesium.”
I agree with Dr. Dean on the supplement issue, as industrial agriculture has massively depleted most soils of beneficial minerals like magnesium. If you find biologically-grown organic foods (grown on soil treated with mineral fertilizers), you may still be able to get a lot of your magnesium from your food. Chlorophyll has a magnesium atom in its center, allowing the plant to utilize the energy from the sun. Seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard can be excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds. Avocados also contain magnesium. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure you’re getting enough of them in your diet.
However, most foods grown today are deficient in magnesium and other minerals. Herbicides, like glyphosate also act as chelators, effectively blocking the uptake and utilization of minerals. As a result, I believe it would be highly unusual for anyone to have access to foods that are rich in magnesium, which is why I believe it is prudent to consider a magnesium supplement. This is my personal strategy even though I have access to highly nutrient dense foods.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
Unfortunately, there’s no easily available commercial lab test that will give you a truly accurate reading of the magnesium status in your tissues. Only one percent of magnesium in your body is distributed in your blood, making a simple sample of magnesium from a serum magnesium blood test highly inaccurate. Some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test which is reasonably accurate. This leaves you with looking for signs and symptoms of deficiency. Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, headache, nausea, fatigue, and weakness. An ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms, including:
Numbness and tingling
Muscle contractions and cramps
Abnormal heart rhythms
In her book, The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Dean lists 100 factors that will help you decide whether or not you might be deficient. You can also follow the instructions in her blog post, “Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,”1 which will give you a checklist to go through every few weeks. This will help you gauge how much magnesium you need in order to take away your deficiency symptoms.