Magnesium Deficiency
Healing Bodies Out of Balance

Volumes have been written on the health risks associated with magnesium deficiency as well as the health benefits of magnesium supplements. But when it comes to mineral supplementation, calcium gets all the attention. We’re frequently told by the media and in advertisements that we should take supplemental calcium. This is especially so for women. However, magnesium is arguably the top mineral that should be on any supplement protocol. In fact high calcium intake without sufficient magnesium may cause a number of problems.

In magnesium deficiency, excess calcium that is unabsorbed can actually deposit itself in different areas of the body. Mark Sircus, author of Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, points out that “if it (the calcium) lodges in your bones and joints, it leads to some forms of arthritis; if it lodges in your heart, it leads to arterial lesions; it provokes respiratory problems if it lodges in your lungs, etc.” Magnesium deficiency makes us vulnerable to many diseases including cancer.

Magnesium Deficiency and Osteoporosis

Calcium is the focus when it comes to prevention of osteoporosis, but insufficient magnesium causes calcium to move out of the bones while a high magnesium intake causes calcium to move from the tissues into the bones. Magnesium deficiency leads to demineralization of our bones.

A complex relationship exists between essential minerals, hormones, nutrients and chemicals in the body called neurotransmitters. Too much calcium upsets these relationships and can result in calcium getting deposited in soft tissues rather than in bones.

The dairy industry would have us believe that milk ‘does a body good’ and helps make our bones solid and strong. In reality, the protein has an acid effect on the body and both calcium and magnesium move from bone to blood to neutralize the acid. Also, the phosphorous in milk competes with the calcium in milk for absorption in the gut. In fact that complex relationship I mentioned between minerals, hormones, etc. is greatly affected when we drink milk. The high phosphorous content stimulates parathyroid hormone (this regulates calcium levels in the blood) which then literally leaches calcium from the bones. So we can get calcium from milk while at the same time losing calcium from bone and excreting it in our urine.

It’s interesting to note that in addition to the dairy industry’s dubious claims, there are all these osteoporosis drugs and their advertisements and celebrity spokespeople. While these drugs appear to increase bone density, they are actually very bad for bone health causing swollen, disorganized and abnormal bone structure misinterpreted as improved bone density.

Fluoridated water is another problem. Adding to flouride’s other toxic effects on the body, it actually bonds itself to minerals like magnesium making the magnesium unavailable to the body. In binding with magnesium, it creates an insoluble product that takes the place of magnesium in bones and cartilage. However, this magnesium-flouride is brittle and makes the bone susceptible to fracture. As flouride accumulates in bone over time it’s a probable factor in the high incidence of osteoporosis in the US.

Magnesium Deficiency – An Epidemic?

It’s estimated that over 200 million Americans, more than 2/3 of the US population have magnesium deficiency. Billions worldwide are deficient. Soil has been depleted of many vitamins and nutrients, including magnesium, and so are the foods that are grown in it. Processed foods have very little magnesium. For example, a good reason to avoid white bread and opt for whole grain bread is magnesium. Magnesium is concentrated in the germ and the bran of grains and refining flour removes them.

Magnesium Absorption

If we could get adequate magnesium in our modern diet, absorption would still pose a problem for many of us. Our ability to absorb magnesium is affected by conditions such as diabetes and liver disease. Using nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and excess sugar depletes magnesium; so do drugs such as antacids, diuretics, birth control pills, asthma medications, insulin, and some antibiotics. Some people have gut sensitivity making oral supplementation difficult anyway. Magnesium chloride solution or magnesium "oil" (explained below) can be an alternative for supplementing magnesium and getting optimal absorption through the skin.

Magnesium Deficiency: Heart, Brain, Pregnancy, Infancy, Diabetes . . .

Magnesium is found throughout the body (or should be). Up to 65% is in the teeth and bones. Up to 40% is in muscle and tissue cells and body fluids. It is difficult to diagnose magnesium deficiency without a tissue sample (only 1% of the body’s magnesium is in the blood). The highest concentrations are in the heart and brain. Magnesium has a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium deficiency is a major factor in heart failure.

Do you know anyone who takes aspirin as a heart attack and stroke preventive? Early studies with plain aspirin actually showed no benefit. When Bufferin was used there was no reduction in fatal heart attacks and no improvement in survival rate. However, there was a 40% decrease in the number of non-fatal heart attacks. The aspirin in Bufferin is buffered with magnesium and calcium. Is it possible that the heart patients benefited from magnesium and not aspirin?

Sherry A. Rogers, MD, author of The High Blood Pressure Hoax! says that many people need only increase their daily magnesium to 400-600 mg. and they won’t even have high blood pressure.

Magnesium is crucial when it comes to the health of the brain and maintaining the integrity of the blood brain barrier which protects much of the brain from various toxins and bacteria. Mark Sircus notes the mounting evidence of magnesium deficiency contributing to “the heavy metal deposition in the brain that precedes Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Both zinc and magnesium deficiency are related to various psychiatric conditions. Paul Mason, Editor of The Magnesium Website and Magnesium Online Library, believes that the effects on serotonin from magnesium deficiency may lead to depression, suicide and irrational violence.

Magnesium is also very important during pregnancy – for fetal development, and for prevention of preeclampsia and eclampsia. Magnesium deficiency may also be connected to SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Intravenous magnesium sulfate supplementation before preterm delivery cuts the risk for handicapping cerebral palsy in half, according to research led by University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) obstetrician Dwight Rouse, M.D., and published in the Aug. 28, 2008 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Carolyn Dean, MD, author of The Magnesium Miracle, breaks down magnesium’s function in the human body to five essential categories:

1. Magnesium is a cofactor assisting enzymes in catalyzing most chemical reactions in the body, including temperature regulation.

2. Magnesium produces and transports energy.

3. Magnesium is necessary for the synthesis of protein.

4. Magnesium helps to transmit nerve signals (even our thoughts are dependent on magnesium).

5. Magnesium helps to relax muscles.

In her book, The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Dean also provides a laundry list of symptoms and behaviors that can indicate a person’s need for magnesium. The list has 100 factors in 68 categories that include asthma, bowel problems, angina, heart arrhythmia, depression, chronic fatigue, diabetes, fibromyalgia, food cravings, mercury amalgam dental fillings, hyperactive thyroid, kidney and liver transplants, and Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

David Nayor, writing for the Life Extension Foundation states:

An alarming number of Americans suffer from diabetes and metabolic syndrome—conditions of aberrant blood sugar metabolism associated with a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, estimates suggest that 7% of the population have diabetes and more than 20% are affected by metabolic syndrome. Studies strongly suggest that magnesium may offer important protection against both metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Sources of Magnesium, Supplementation and Application

If you begin magnesium supplementation, you should know that magnesium can increase the effects of prescription muscle relaxants and inhibits the absorption of a number of other prescription medications. Drugs may also deplete magnesium by binding to it. For these reasons, it should be taken several hours before or after certain drugs. Consult your doctor.

Oral supplementation of magnesium is beneficial but may bring on a laxative effect in many people. There are also numerous factors that affect magnesium’s absorption in the intestines. For instance, as mentioned, most drugs will affect how oral magnesium is absorbed. Phosphates and aspartame in sodas also inhibit absorption of magnesium.

Enzyme deficiency, lack of Vitamin C and fat soluble vitamins all have an effect on magnesium taken orally. The condition of the digestive system and kidneys influence magnesium absorption. Excess calcium may also affect magnesium absorption. (Incidentally, studies out of Harvard have correlated consumption of high amounts of dairy and also calcium supplementation with prostate cancer.)

If we are low on magnesium, we are also losing glutathione, a powerful antioxidant involved in removing toxic heavy metals such as mercury, a point that isn’t lost on parents of autistic children. However, kids on the autistic spectrum don’t have the intestinal health required to absorb minerals in the gut so oral supplementation may have little effect and they may miss out on the benefits of magnesium (see below information on topical application).

Dr. Dean has a very informative chapter outlining the various forms of magnesium in her book The Magnesium Miracle. The most commonly recommended form of oral supplementation is magnesium citrate. It’s cheap, comes in powder and capsules and is generally well absorbed and tolerated. We like Natural Calm, a water soluble powder which is available in flavors we sip like tea.

Dr. Dean points out that most of the medical research uses magnesium oxide which is poorly absorbed. Dean writes, “Imagine how much more favorable the results would be if a more absorbable form of magnesium were used.”

Because of the many conditions that affect absorption of magnesium, we like magnesium chloride solution also known as magnesium oil. It is easily absorbed by the skin and can be applied by spraying, rubbing, soaking feet or bathing in the solution. I’ve even heard of people using it as a natural deodorant. I tried this but was too sensitive to the itchy feeling it left. However, many report that once the body adjusts to regular application, the itchiness or tingling no longer happens.

Magnesium oil can improve oral health. We use it as a mouth rinse to improve the condition of our teeth and gums. Magnesium deficiency is associated with periodontal disease.

Mark Sircus believes that “A whole new world of sports medicine is going to explode onto the scene when athletes and coaches find out that magnesium chloride from natural sources is available for topical use. In this new and exciting breakthrough in sports medicine coaches can now treat injuries, prevent them, and increase athletic performance all at the same time”. I'm no athlete but I've benefited from magnesium applied to strains, soreness, and cramps.

Occasionally, I get cramps in my legs, feet or toes that painfully indicate magnesium deficiency. Applying magnesium oil topically is very effective. Taking homeopathic magnesium, mag phos or Magnesia Phosphorica is also great for any spasm. I once gave it to our toddler granddaughter for hiccups and they were gone in a minute. Dr. Dean lists “hiccups, leg cramps, writers cramp, abdominal colic, heart pain, lung pain, menstrual pain and all sorts of tics and tremors including twitching of eyelids” – all indicating the homeopathic remedy mag phos.

Dr. Dean’s book also includes a good appendix listing common foods and their magnesium content. Dr. Cass Ingram lists his top five “supermarket” sources in his book Super-Market Remedies: cilantro, dill weed, basil, fennel seed, and rice bran. Cilantro is also a top source of potassium, provides valuable fiber that’s also gentle and fights inflammation and strengthens the immune system. Dr. Ingram recommends adding cilantro to fat such as cheese to aid absorption.

Magnesium interacts greatly with other nutrients. Varying levels of calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, amino acids and other nutrients affect magnesium and magnesium in turn has an impact on the levels of many nutrients.

For this reason, many believe that it is prudent to look for food based supplements that may offer nature’s balance for better nutrition and to combat magnesium deficiency. Some “green foods” can provide magnesium chelated inside chlorophyll molecules. Super blue-green algae is a whole food, extremely low on the food chain, and easily assimilated the body.

Green foods seem to improve various conditions that would likely also have also shown to improve with magnesium supplements. These would include improved physical and mental energy, better sleep, relief from muscle and bone pain, better memory and concentration, and improvement of depression and other conditions related to serotonin.

In sum, it’s safe to assume that if you are the planet now, you could benefit from magnesium supplementation. How we feel, our chances for succumbing to disease, and our longevity may depend on magnesium and our ability to achieve greater nutritional balance.

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