IN BALANCE — Magnesium: An Essential Mineral for Health

August 1, 2017

Craving chocolate? Your body may be telling you that you need more magnesium.

Magnesium is an easily overlooked and essential multitasking mineral present in the body. It is found in bones, teeth, and red blood cells. It is involved in over 300 biochemical functions in the body, serves as a building block for DNA, and is required for proper functioning of the nervous, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.

Americans are at risk of magnesium deficiency and it has been estimated that nearly half of the population is deficient. Factors including commercial agriculture, processed-food diets, chronic digestive issues, daily caffeine intake, alcoholism, chronic stress, excessive calcium supplementation, and low mineralized water make it difficult for people to maintain enough magnesium and other essential minerals.

Diagnosing magnesium deficiency through lab testing is difficult due to its wide distribution throughout the body. Therefore, detecting early the signs of magnesium deficiency can be the most helpful diagnostic tool. Symptoms include increased irritability, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, loss of appetite, muscle contractions and cramps, tingling and numbness, restless sleep, low energy, and headaches. When ignored, these symptoms can escalate, leading to the potential for insomnia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, hormone imbalance, fibromyalgia, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, constipation, and migraines.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to focus on increasing magnesium-rich foods or to start taking a food-based magnesium supplement.  Commercial farm practices are depleting the levels of minerals found in our foods, so it is important to seek out organic produce. The best food sources of magnesium are spinach, chard, almonds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate, and bananas.

Taking a magnesium supplement can have dramatic results on more severe deficiency symptoms.

When choosing a supplement, look for a product that includes whole food ingredients, such as spinach. A food-based supplement is preferred because nutrients cannot be taken apart from a whole food complex and then be expected to do the same job in the body as the whole complex of nutrients is designed to do. My top recommended brands for food-based supplements are Standard Process, Innate Response, and Megafoods. I prefer these brands because they source ingredients from organic farms and manufacture and test products in their own facilities. Stick to the recommended daily dosage, unless instructed otherwise by a healthcare professional.

Consuming too much magnesium via food is not likely in healthy individuals because the kidneys will remove the excess and it is excreted in urine. If an individual should take too much magnesium via a supplement, it is common to experience diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping.

I recommend that anyone with irregular kidney function or adrenal fatigue consult a healthcare professional and start with a lower dose of the magnesium supplement.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 30 mg* 30 mg*    
7–12 months 75 mg* 75 mg*    
1–3 years 80 mg 80 mg    
4–8 years 130 mg 130 mg    
9–13 years 240 mg 240 mg    
14–18 years 410 mg 360 mg 400 mg 360 mg
19–30 years 400 mg 310 mg 350 mg 310 mg
31–50 years 420 mg 320 mg 360 mg 320 mg
51+ years 420 mg 320 mg    

*Adequate Intake (AI)
Source: National Institute of Health

Bay View resident Aleisha Anderson, L.Ac. is the clinic director and acupuncturist at Mke MindBody Wellness, an integrative wellness center with holistic therapies focused on mental health. More information:

Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care.

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