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Tired? You Might Not Be Getting Enough Magnesium...Here's How to Find Out: Inadequate levels of magnesium, an essential mineral, may be contributing to your feelings of fatigue.

Do you have headaches, leg cramps or insomnia? Perhaps you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms as a result of low magnesium (Mg) levels. This mineral is necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from steadying your heart rhythm to supporting your immune system and keeping your bones strong to helping with nerve conduction and muscle relaxation.

Think of Mg as "the great relaxation mineral." The benefits of Mg include calming and relaxing several bodily functions--not only your heart rhythm and muscles, but your blood vessels, your eye twitch, your restless legs, and more. Mg is used in blood sugar management, healthy blood pressure, protein synthesis, and even for normal energy-yielding metabolism. Furthermore, the European Food Safety Authority has issued a statement reporting that Mg helps reduce tiredness and fatigue.

Considering all of these benefits--and the consequences when you don't have enough--it pays to determine whether you're in the 50 percent group with a Mg deficiency. Review this (non-comprehensive) list and see if you have any of the following symptoms of Mg deficiency:

* Fatigue

* Muscle weakness / cramps / spasms

* Asthma

* Menstrual cramps

* Headaches and migraines

* Insomnia

* Restless legs syndrome

* High blood pressure

* High C-reactive protein levels (a marker of chronic inflammation)

* Chest pain (angina)

Certain specific medical conditions are associated with low Mg stores in your body. For instance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, colon cancer, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome have all been correlated with low Mg levels.

What causes Mg deficiency? A large proportion of the U.S. population is estimated to have "substantial dietary Mg deficits," meaning we are not consuming enough in our diets to meet our body's needs. In fact, almost half the U.S. population consumes less than the required amount of Mg from food.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Mg in adult males is 420 mg/day; however, the average intake is only 323 mg/day. In adult females, the RDA is 320 mg/day; however, the mean intake is only 228 mg/day, only about 68 percent of the RDA. And many integrative physicians will tell you the RDA is often woefully inadequate for optimal function.

These factors also contribute to Mg deficiency symptoms:

* Low intake of selenium and vitamins [B.sub.6] and D (needed to absorb Mg).

* Excess fat in the diet, which hinders Mg absorption.

* Excess alcohol, salt, phosphoric acid (sodas), and coffee intake.

* Aging. Absorption decreases with age and excretion increases with age.

* Excessive sweating.

* Intense, prolonged stress.

* Diuretics and other drugs, especially acid blockers (proton pump inhibitors).

Blood Tests Fall to Detect Symptoms of Low

Mg. If you think you may be suffering from low Mg levels and want verification from a lab test, don't depend on a blood test to give you reliable answers. Only 1 percent of your body's total body Mg is in your blood, so the traditional blood test to detect Mg deficiency--known as the "serum Mg concentration"--often fails to detect Mg deficiency.

Your body will pull Mg out of your bones and other tissues to maintain narrow blood levels. So even though your serum Mg concentration may be in the normal range, experts believe a more subtle, chronic deficiency exists in a large number of people and that deficiency can be contributing to many associated health challenges.

Mg Intake: What's Normal? Top researchers believe that the "normal" reference ranges for Mg blood levels are flawed because of the fact that so many people are chronically in a state of subtle low Mg balance, mainly because of inadequate intake from their diet.

Dr. Ronald Elin, a Mg researcher from the University of Louisville's School of Medicine who specializes in chronic, subtle Mg deficiencies, believes "it is relatively common to have a serum Mg concentration within the reference interval, but yet a total-body Mg deficit."

How to Treat Low Mg. Because of the inability of standard blood tests to detect low Mg levels, and because supplementation is safe and inexpensive, a therapeutic trial of Mg supplements may be reasonable tor anyone with suspected Mg deficiency, however it should always be discussed with your doctor first.

Your first treatment step, however, is to increase your Mg intake through Mg-rich foods like leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes. If recommended by your doctor, consider Mg tablets of at least 400 mg per day in divided doses. Chelates (Mg bonded together with amino acids) generally allow for greater absorption. These include Mg citrate, glycinate, malate, and aspartate. Track your symptoms and see if you notice a difference after making dietary (and/or supplemental) changes.

--Kristen N. Smith, PhD. RDN

(adapted from

[c] piotr_malezyk | Getty Images

Caption: Eat up! Magnesium can be found in tasty foods like bananas, nuts, and chocolate!

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Author:Smith, Kristen N.
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Date:Sep 1, 2019
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