The body contains several major minerals and some trace minerals. Trace minerals are minerals that are found within the body usually due to diet, but are not vital for a healthy body. Magnesium is a major mineral meaning that it serves an important function in the body and is important to maintain overall health. Unfortunately, 70% of Americans are not getting the necessary amount of magnesium. The body needs an average of 25 grams of magnesium stored within the body to function normally; 25 grams is equivalent to holding 25 paperclips in your hand. We get magnesium into our body through our diet and usually do not have to take a supplement as long as we eat a healthy and balanced diet. The foods that are loaded with magnesium are the same foods that are loaded with high fiber; some examples include: leafy greens, beans, artichokes, and whole grains. Therefore, having a diet high in both fiber and magnesium are known to help relieve constipation.
However, magnesium is also very important to the body for other reasons. One of the most vital roles of magnesium is to maintain healthy bones. In fact, most of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in the bones. Many patients believe that calcium and Vitamin D are the two most important components to bone health, and while that is true, magnesium needs to be added to the mix. Women that are post-menopausal are at the highest risk of osteoporosis, which is a weakening of bone due to demineralization. Osteoporosis can reek havoc on one’s bones. It causes bones to break even when placed under normal amounts of stress; for example, a woman may walk one mile per day everyday for her entire adult life and then one day experience a stress fracture in her foot even though she has been doing that activity for years. A small fall in a patient with osteoporosis can also cause a catastrophic fracture.
Any magnesium that we bring into our body through our diet is sucked back out by sugary foods, such as soda, doughnuts, cookies, etc. or even coffee and tea. Also, patients with GI disease, alcoholics, type 2 diabetics, and the elderly are at risk for developing a magnesium deficiency.
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Decrease in appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tiredness and weakness
- Numbness and tingling
- Muscle spasms-may be a contributing factor to restless leg syndrome
- Irregular heart beats
Just like anything in life though, too much magnesium can be dangerous as well. Patients with kidney disease should never take magnesium supplements as it may cause more damage to the kidneys than good to the rest of the body. Patients who are also taking antibiotics, water pills, proton pump inhibitors, and heart medications should also be careful when supplementing their magnesium levels with a pill as it may cause reactions with these medications. The maximum dose for an adult is 350mg of magnesium per day; however, consult with your healthcare provider before starting or changing any over-the-counter supplements.