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Magnesium deficiency is a real problem. We’ve seen data from the NIH saying that 68% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. When we have numbers like these, it’s critical that we figure out ways to combat magnesium deficiency — especially through our diet.
Other studies even suggest that the aforementioned 68% may be as high as 80%. In sum, there are debates about being deficient, sub-optimal, but regardless we see large numbers of people who simply don’t get enough magnesium.
So, let’s dive into the world of magnesium and how some simple changes to your diet can ensure that you’re getting the proper amounts.
Product Recommendation: Getting enough magnesium can be a challenge. For those that are deficient in magnesium on a regular basis, I recommend supplementing with my Magnesium Citramate
How Do You Know If You’re Low In Magnesium?
We use magnesium in over 300 body processes, and it is a co-factor in pretty much everything that has to do with our bodies. All facets of health can be affected by it.
You can begin to suspect that you’re low if you have ongoing symptoms. This could include:
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Muscle weakness or soreness
- Gastrointestinal irregularity
- Mood instability (including irritability and anxiousness)
- Bone density concerns (osteopenia and osteoporosis)
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Insomnia (Read More: Falling Asleep Naturally)
These are all things that can relate to low-magnesium status.
Diseases That Cause Magnesium Loss
Apart from simply not getting enough, there are other conditions that may be to blame for the symptoms listed above.
These are also important to investigate, and can include (but are not limited to):
- Autoimmune disease
- Hyper or hypothyroidism
- Gastrointestinal disease (including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)
- Kidney disease
- Diabetes (Read More: Are You At Risk For Diabetes?)
- Cardiovascular disease
All of these things can influence how much magnesium you’re losing, which then plays its own role in your overall health. It’s truly a vicious cycle at play.
Even common things like medications, stressors, caffeine, alcohol, and low amounts of other nutrients, these can all be drivers of losing even more.
In many cases, supporting your magnesium levels alone may not resolve all of your concerns. That’s because magnesium is critical to our health, and a deficiency can lead to serious concerns.
So, what follows are some of the most common things that you can do to ensure that your magnesium levels aren’t just surviving — but thriving, too.
Cutting Out Coffee
The first thing you need to do is to watch your caffeine levels.
Coffee strips your body of key vitamins, including B vitamins, which are your natural source of energy. It can also cause dumps of other key nutrients, including:
When you drink coffee, your intestinal absorption of magnesium decreases. So, the first thing you should is cut back on your caffeine. It can be a big trigger.
How To Know If You’re Low In Magnesium
Beyond the basic step of cutting out coffee, we need to start thinking about understanding if we’re low in magnesium in the first place (and how low we might be).
There are several testing options that can help you be sure if magnesium is the cause of your symptoms or not. The most commonly available is serum magnesium, which can be done at just about any medical laboratory.
The fact is that magnesium is mostly stored inside our body’s cells, and only 1% of it is in the serum of our blood. While this test may be among the most widely-accessible, many do not always show low magnesium until your levels are quite deficient.
These tests are pretty neat since they are both non-invasive and non-prescription. However, there doesn’t exist a strong connection between magnesium in the hair and in your body’s supply of it. It may not reflect your full magnesium status.
Red Blood Cell Magnesium Levels
When magnesium becomes a very real concern, this is one of my favorite methods. These tests exist for many minerals, and they are different from serum tests because they give a better sense of a long-term average in the body.
So, your red blood cells live for an average of three months before your body breaks them down and recycles them (to make new ones). Because of this longer timeframe, the chemistry of red blood cells gives you a longer average.
Since magnesium attaches itself to the outer membrane of red blood cells, you also gain a better sense of your magnesium levels across this same time period. They are a more comprehensive view of your magnesium status and supply.
Key Insight: A red blood cell magnesium level text is accurate and can show levels of magnesium deficiency before they would be obvious on other tests.
There have been a handful of ways people have tried to get more magnesium into their system. This might include topical treatments, magnesium soaks, and this is interesting for a couple of reasons.
While you definitely do get some magnesium in your bloodstream from your skin, the data about how much isn’t very clear. In fact, it’s almost nonexistent.
This might apply to things such as magnesium oils, creams, and while they may have some effects, it isn’t clear just how it equates to getting magnesium in supplements or foods.
One example, though, is Epsom salts. These are rich in magnesium and many have found that their low-magnesium symptoms are improved by soaking in a bath with one to two pounds of Epsom salts for 30 minutes or longer.
There are even some areas that offer sensory deprivation chambers for use. One company, called TruRest, has several locations throughout the United States.
What they offer are small pods that block light, sound, and contain water with over 3000 lbs of Epsom salts. Because there is so much salt in the water, you float like a cork without having to work to stay up!
The idea here is that if you lay in the tank for 45 to 60 minutes, you give your brain time to rest because there is no input coming into it.
Key Insight: While the benefits of magnesium in this format are not 100% clear, there are a handful of other reasons to consider doing it for both your mental and physical wellness.
How Much Magnesium Do You Need?
At any given point in time, our bodies store about 25 grams of magnesium (the same as 25,000 mg). This is typically in bones and muscles, with small amounts in the bloodstream.
Each day, our kidneys eliminate about 120 mg of magnesium. We also lose a fair amount through our stool and some through sweat.
Key Insight: On a daily basis, the recommended dietary intake for adults ranges from 310 mg for women and 420 mg for men.
The difference in magnesium requirement, per gender, is less due to gender difference and more to do with typical body size.
Magnesium In Supplements
It is often helpful to have some magnesium, in the form of daily supplementation, to help make up the gaps you might otherwise have.
In the case of supplements, it is better to have them spread out (at least in two doses) because if you take a lot of magnesium at once it can be a very effective laxative.
The pitfall of that is that, if you take a lot of magnesium at once, you may simply end up flushing all of it out. So, it is helpful to be gentle with your supplementation.
Key Insight: Di magnesium malate is one of the preferred forms of magnesium for supplementation. It is well absorbed but not an intestinal irritant.
Eating To Raise Magnesium
This is kind of a funny thing: animals make a four-lobed molecule called hemoglobin, with iron at its core. We use those to carry oxygen throughout our bodies.
Plants, on the other hand, make chlorophyll, which is a nearly-identical four-lobed molecule with magnesium at its core.
In short, hemoglobin makes our blood red, while chlorophyll makes plants green. In general, though, the food categories with the most magnesium include:
- Whole Grains
Key Insight: Some good advice to follow is to enjoy your greens. That’s because, as a general rule, the greener a plant is, the more magnesium it has to offer.
What About Our Current Food Supply?
One thought is that produce grown with fertilizer may lower magnesium when compared to produce that was grown without it. This is true for both commercial and organic types of produce.
There have been assays done, in the recent past, about magnesium contents in various foods. While we don’t have a lot of data to compare, it can still give us a good idea of how we can get magnesium in current foods.
The following table is a list of the top food sources of magnesium:
||Magnesium per serving (mg)
|Bread, whole wheat
Building on this list, there is also a little bit of magnesium in sea salt, too. It is about 3%, and it doesn’t sound like much, but if you use 2000 mg of salt per day, that can give you around 60 mg of magnesium (which is significant).
The consideration with sea salt, however, is iodine. For those who are watching their iodine intake due to thyroid disease, most brands of sea salt have erratic amounts of iodine that can sometimes be higher than iodized salt.
One of the safest brands out there is Celtic-brand Light Gray Sea Salt. Multiple assays have shown that it has safe levels of iodine to enjoy.
Magnesium: Action Steps
Magnesium is found in many other foods, but in lower amounts than the chart above details. That said, here’s an easy strategy to consume each day:
- Greens – 2+ servings
- Whole grains – 2+ servings
- Legumes – 1+ servings
- Nuts and seeds – 1+ servings
Those who get these recommended amounts would likely be meeting your magnesium targets. If you know or suspect you are low, you may look at the high-magnesium foods and focus on them.
On a long-term basis, it is best to have lots of variety from within all of these food categories. That is the best way to ensure that you are always getting the amounts of magnesium that your body needs.
Start Taking Care Today
Have you been thinking about things like your health, your magnesium levels, your iodine levels, or your thyroid? This is the ideal place to start.
Take the first step by trying out the Thyroid Quiz today (Click Here: Take The Quiz). It can give you an idea of where you currently stand, and what you can do to reach your optimal health.
P.S. Whenever you are ready, here is how I can help you now:
1. Download and use my Favorite Recipes Cookbook Here
2. Check out my podcast Medical Myths, Legends, and Fairytales Here
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet and The Metabolism Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.