Magnesium deficiency, how do you notice it, what causes it and what can you do about it?
If you want to know more about the symptoms and complaints of a magnesium deficiency, how you can measure it and what you can do about it, read on.
Magnesium plays an essential role in many different bodily functions. The body cannot produce magnesium itself and thus depends on dietary intake. A deficiency can lead to a wide variety of complaints such as osteoporosis, kidney stones, high blood pressure, migraines, cardiovascular and muscular problems. Magnesium and calcium have opposite effects in muscles.
- calcium causes muscles to contract and
- magnesium just to relax them.
A magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle cramping or to the so-called restless legs syndrome. Extreme magnesium deficiency can even lead to heart palpitations or cardiac arrhythmia. Always consult a doctor for this.
A magnesium deficiency can be caused by insufficient intake through food, problems with absorption or excessive excretion.
Magnesium is mainly found in unrefined vegetable products such as;
- green leafy vegetables,
- pulses and
- whole grain cereals.
Eating more vegetable products can therefore be a good way to get more magnesium.
Magnesium deficiency can also be caused by a problem with its absorption. Gastric acid inhibitors have a pH increasing effect which reduces the absorption of magnesium and other vitamins and minerals such as iron and vitamin B12. There may also be competition in absorption. At high intakes of other minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron magnesium often loses out. Intestinal and digestive problems may also lead to decreased absorption of magnesium, and nutrients in general. A rare genetic defect may cause the transport proteins to function less well.
Shortages can also occur when the body excretes more minerals than it takes in. This can occur in case of
- frequent vomiting,
- prolonged diarrhea,
- extreme sweating or
- increased leakage.
Diabetics drink and urinate more because they are more thirsty. The use of urinating medicines can also disturb the magnesium balance. Chronic alcohol abuse not only decreases magnesium absorption, but even increases its excretion in the urine. Furthermore, increased urinary leakage can be a side effect of various medications.
Another, more medical, cause of magnesium deficiency can occur when bone density is too low due to extreme calcium deficiency. The body can then send magnesium from the blood to the bones to make up for the calcium deficiency. This is called 'Hungry Bone Syndrome'. The 'Refeeding Syndrome' can occur after a period of severe malnutrition or anorexia. When the body then starts eating again it can cause major shifts in mineral and fluid balance, which can have very serious consequences.
A too high Magnesium level can also occur and lead to problems like diarrhea. The higher the magnesium level in the stool, the softer the stool will be. This is used in colonoscopy or other situations where the intestines need to be completely clean and empty, where you are asked to drink a large amount of magnesium citrate solution. A much too high level of magnesium in the blood, such as more than twice the reference value, can have serious consequences such as;
- extremely low blood pressure or a
- abnormal (much too fast or slow) heartbeat.
Now that you know more about the symptoms of an imbalance in your magnesium balance and how it may have arisen, we're going to go deeper into the question of how your own magnesium level can be determined. Measuring is knowing!
Magnesium can be measured in 3 ways, intracellular (red blood cells), in blood serum and urine. The level in the blood can say something about intake and absorption, the magnesium level in the urine says something about the excretion.
Compared to serum, intracellular magnesium can be determined more accurately and a decrease is more easily visible. However, a low intracellular magnesium level doesn't necessarily indicate a magnesium deficiency, but can also mean that the magnesium transport into the cell is less efficient. This can be concluded by analyzing the magnesium content of both blood values.
A too low intracellular level and a normal or high magnesium level in the serum probably indicate a problem in this cell transport. This could possibly be caused by a low insulin level, insufficient vitamin B6 or a too low salt intake. It is more common to get too much salt by eating a lot of processed foods, but too little salt can also lead to health problems.
Magnesium determination in urine is important to measure its excretion.
If urinary magnesium levels are high, it is recommended to address the underlying problem of increased urinary leakage in addition to magnesium intake. If urinary magnesium levels are normal and serum and blood cell levels are both low, then insufficient magnesium intake is the likely cause of the deficiency. Start by adjusting your diet. If this doesn't fully solve the magnesium deficiency, then a magnesium supplement can offer a solution. It is advisable to start with a low dose, for example once a day a dose of 100 mg, and if necessary increase it to 3 times a day 100 mg. It is also advisable not to take another mineral supplement, such as calcium or iron, at the same time. Then increase the dosage only if further blood analyses show that an increase is really necessary. Of course a doctor should be contacted if there are indications of underlying medical conditions.
So which magnesium analyses are needed depends on what you want to know. However, to get the most complete picture of possible underlying causes of a magnesium deficiency, it is recommended to request all three analyses, both serum and intracellular, as well as urine. It is also possible, if you can already do one of these 3 tests at the doctor's, to add the other values and also have the tube of Blood Values Test filled at the prick station. In that case you do not need to buy a blood sample from Bloodtesting.nl anymore.
We hope this information was enlightening and helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to assist you.