Are you getting enough magnesium? It’s not always high on our priority lists, but magnesium is a powerful mineral that every cell in your body needs to function properly. It plays an important role in your immune health, bone strength, and heart health, so a magnesium deficiency can wreak havoc on your body. Despite its importance, magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies for Americans and Canadians. Wondering if you’re getting enough magnesium? Here’s everything you need to know to figure that out!
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What Does Magnesium Do in the Body?
Magnesium is an essential part of over 300 biochemical processes in your body, including protein building, nerve function, blood sugar control, blood pressure regulation, and any process that creates energy (like metabolizing the food you eat so it can be used for energy). Every time you move a muscle, magnesium is at work.That means every time you lift weights or go for a run, but also every time you move a finger or when your heart contracts to form your heartbeat, magnesium is enabling muscle contractions. Magnesium is also a key component of bone structure, making it essential for bone health. Because magnesium plays an important role in just about every day-to-day function in your body, a deficiency can throw your body out of balance.
What Causes Magnesium Deficiency?
The obvious reason for having a magnesium deficiency would be not consuming enough magnesium, right? It’s true that most people probably don’t get enough magnesium through food, but if your kidneys are healthy, they do a good job of retaining magnesium to keep your levels in check. However, several health conditions can lead to magnesium deficiencies, including:
- Kidney disease
- GI diseases like IBS and ulcerative colitis
- Prolonged use of diuretics
Even if you don’t have any of these health conditions, your diet and lifestyle can influence magnesium levels, too. Alcohol and the caffeine in coffee, tea, and soda can signal your kidneys to release magnesium, making them less effective at keeping your levels in balance. Drinking excessive alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated tea and soda can result in low magnesium levels, as can eating too much sodium, heavy menstrual periods, and even high stress levels.
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What are the Symptoms of a Magnesium Deficiency?
Since magnesium is used in so many bodily functions, a deficiency can have wide-reaching effects. Since it’s so important for both muscle function and energy production, a magnesium deficiency can result in muscle spasms and cramps or low energy, and since magnesium is key to bone structure, low levels can lead to low bone mineral density and higher risk for osteoporosis. Magnesium deficiency has also been associated with depression and anxiety. Low magnesium levels can also play a part in high blood pressure and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and magnesium supplementation has been linked to fewer symptoms of insomnia in the elderly. In short, keep an eye out for these signs of magnesium deficiency:
- Muscle cramps and spasms
- Low energy
- Low calcium levels and low bone mineral density measurements
- Depression and anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Heart arrhythmias
- Trouble sleeping
How Much Magnesium Do I Need?
The amount of magnesium you need varies greatly depending on your age and gender. Here are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) to aim for:
|Age in Years||Aim for an intake of
|Men 31 and older||420|
|Women 31 and older||320|
|Pregnant Women 19-30||350|
|Pregnant Women over 30||360|
|Breastfeeding Women 19-30||310|
|Breastfeeding Women over 30||320|
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What Foods are High in Magnesium?
Magnesium is found in plenty of healthy plant-based foods like green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These are all foods I’d recommend as part of a healthy eating plan anyways, so when you’re eating a variety of healthful foods, you should be getting enough magnesium.
Looking for recipes that make use of magnesium-rich foods? Here are some of my favorites!
Should I Take Magnesium Supplements?
If you’re eating a variety of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, you should have no problem meeting your magnesium needs. I always recommend going for food first, and filling in with supplements if necessary – but there are few instances where magnesium supplements are really needed to meet your needs.
If you do want to add a magnesium supplement to your routine, check with your doctor first. Magnesium supplements can interact or interfere with several medications, including diuretics, antibiotics, and more.
Also keep in mind that different magnesium supplements are absorbed in your body in varying degrees. Several studies show that magnesium oxide is less easily absorbed by your body than other magnesium solutions like magnesium citrate. All in all: you likely don’t need to take magnesium supplements if you’re eating a well-rounded diet, but talk with your doctor if you’ve gotten blood test results showing severe magnesium deficiency or if you experience severe symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Are you getting enough magnesium? Book a nutrition consult to find out.