If you have high blood pressure, maybe your healthcare provider suggested that taking magnesium may help. Or maybe you have had a struggle with migraines, difficulty concentrating, or insomnia. Maybe you’re a pregnant woman who struggles with morning sickness.
All of these symptoms could indicate that you have a magnesium deficiency, and it is not something that should be ignored. But why? What does magnesium do for your body to help it function correctly? Why is it so vital to your health? And what can you do to remedy a deficiency of this vital mineral and improve your health?
The Crucial Role of Magnesium in the Body
Magnesium plays a vital role in our bodies, especially in heart function. It works alongside calcium to assist in heart contraction and relaxation, earning the nickname “the relaxation mineral.”
Insufficient magnesium can cause high blood pressure, as it is crucial for blood vessel relaxation. Without enough magnesium, blood vessels may constrict excessively, leading to increased resistance to blood flow and elevated blood pressure.
In addition to its role in heart health and blood pressure regulation, magnesium is important for bone health—contributing to bone development and DNA and RNA synthesis.
It also regulates brain receptors responsible for learning, mood, and memory. A magnesium deficiency can result in cognitive difficulties, mood disorders, and sleep problems like insomnia.
Spotting Magnesium Deficiency: Symptoms and Diagnosis
Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, can often go unnoticed until it becomes severe, as the symptoms are subtle. Initial signs may include loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, and nausea. Later, intense symptoms such as numbness, tingling, cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur.
Detecting a magnesium deficiency can be challenging. Routine blood tests often fail to identify it, as less than 1% of magnesium is found in the blood. Most of the body’s magnesium supply is stored in the bones, making accurate measurement difficult.
To diagnose a deficiency, healthcare providers may perform a detailed medical history, physical examination, and specific tests like the Magnesium Loading (or “Tolerance”) Test. However, this test is not commonly used due to its time-consuming nature and the need for 24-hour urine collection.
Boosting Magnesium Levels: The Right Approach
If you have a magnesium deficiency, increase your body’s absorption by reducing substances that deplete magnesium, like caffeine and refined sugars. Also, keep in mind that not all forms of magnesium are equally absorbable—magnesium glycinate and magnesium malate are more bioavailable and easily utilized by the body, while other forms are not assimilated and may cause more laxative effects on the bowels.
Foods rich in magnesium, like all leafy greens—especially if organic—almonds, avocados, black beans, quinoa, dark chocolate, and salmon can also help boost levels, as can salts like Celtic or Himalayan salt which is full of essential minerals. Placing a crystal of these salts on your tongue before drinking water can enhance the absorption of these minerals by your body. The minerals are readily assimilated by the cells as they take in water.
Also taking a bath with Epsom salt added to the bath water is a popular way to boost magnesium levels. Topical magnesium oils can also be effective.
Finally, if you find that you are deficient in magnesium, the right approach to increasing magnesium levels includes reducing substances that deplete it, choosing bioavailable forms of supplementation, and consuming magnesium-rich foods and salts.