My eye twitches. From time to time, I’ll go through phases where I’m irritable,
tired, and things get on my nerves. And my right eyelid will start to twitch when something annoying happens. And this can go on for days, weeks, or months, and then it goes away.
I mean, it’s kinda convenient as a warning sign to my family. I will just point to the eye, and they know what that means. And then there’s the stress. Now, I have had stressful days, or events, but this is more like I feel stressed all the time. Even when there is nothing stressful going on. I can consciously *know* that I am not stressed, but I still can’t turn of the feeling of being stressed. If that makes any sense.<twitch, twitch>
And then there’s the rapid, unexplained weight gain. <TWITCHtwitchtwitch>
Lately, my man and I have been having some odd “growing old” type symptoms that really had us puzzled. Aches, the aforementioned twitches, sleep quality and quantity is just not where it should be…and other weird things like phases of muscle pains that don’t connect to injuries and such.
All of these things sort of came out of nowhere…no health complaints to speak of really in the past, but this odd cluster of symptoms that set in a little over a year ago for each of us. We have a very sweet General Practitioner, but the options she offers are therapy, depression meds, or sleep studies/meds. None of those options “feel” right to us. So what’s been going on?
I think I have had a BIG “A-HA” moment today, after discussing this with some of my “herbish” friends. One of my good friends, Heather (and by good, I mean, she’s one of those people that you can discuss poo with. Everyone needs a friend like that, right?)…anyway, Heather suggested that I do some research on Magnesium.
Many of my symptoms align with adrenals or thyroid, while my husband’s are more of the anxiety/insomnia/muscular-skeletal. Come to find out, there IS a common thread, and Heather was right on the money: the mineral magnesium.
My research is just blowing me away. Read through my notes below and see if any
of this makes sense for you or your family. I even see several things that apply to my kids!
Magnesium is a critical mineral to all forms of life. It is essential to the life of every cell,
as well as being required for over 300 enzyme or chemical reactions in our bodies. 1 It is also critical to our muscular/skeletal system, and nervous system. Healthy levels of magnesium are necessary for proper nerve and muscle function, as well as immune system health. Which is why the symptoms range so widely from heart rhythm to sleep disorders, from depression to eye-twitches. It’s critical for immune system function,
and some infections and conditions cause the body to require even more magnesium. I also discovered that it’s a common link in preventing some very common diseases.
Now I know that there are a lot of health “bandwagons” to jump on, and I don’t want to act like this is the root cause of all poor health, but HOLEY schnitzel, Batman!
Look at how critical this is to body function! Yes…yes, I know that many of the recognized “authorities” of mainstream medicine don’t recognize magnesium deficiency as being a big problem, but I’ll say this: for my family, there are so many matches on the symptoms list, that we’re going to try on some magnesium supplementation for size, and see what happens. The worst that can happen is an unintentional “cleanse”.
And even if there *are* other conditions or problems happening, at least we’re
providing for the raw materials that our bodies need to function properly. So it’s not going to hurt anything, and may actually be quite helpful.
After learning about how important this mineral is to basic health, I had lots of questions, like:
How do you know if you’re deficient?
I mean, what if it’s something else causing these symptoms?
“Magnesium is one of those things that is very deficient in our diet so most people need it. It’s also critical in lots of processes that are affected by adrenals/nerves/neurotransmitters [like sleep problems, anxiety, stress, etc…] So if you are having issues in any of those areas it’s good to see if Magnesium will help.”
(More about neurotransmitters is posted on the Edge Effect book review, here.)
Okay, so, that makes sense. We can gauge our success on how we feel as we go along.
But of COURSE I want to know more about magnesium deficiency, and how likely or probable it is. So I investigate what Wiki has to say about it. Here are my cliff notes from a couple of their articles:
“Magnesium ions are essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of life, and thus are essential to all cells of all known living organisms. Over 300 enzymes require the presence of magnesium ions for their catalytic action. Magnesium is a vital component of a healthy human diet. 57% of the US population does not meet the US RDA for levels of magnesium.
The kidneys are very efficient at maintaining body levels, but not in cases where the diet is deficient. Low levels of magnesium in the body [have] been associated with the development of a number of human illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Magnesium plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism and its deficiency may worsen insulin resistance, a condition that often precedes diabetes, or may be a consequence of insulin resistance. Deficiency can cause irregular heartbeat. There has been some speculation that magnesium deficiency can lead to depression.
Taken in the proper amount magnesium plays a role in preventing both stroke and heart
attack. The symptoms of people with fibromyalgia, migraines, and girls going
through their premenstrual syndrome are less severe [with magnesium supplementation] and magnesium can shorten the length of the migraine symptoms.
Alcoholism can produce a magnesium deficiency, which is easily reversed by [supplementing]. Other nutrient deficiencies are identified through biomarkers, but none are established for magnesium.”1, 2
Okay, so this looks pretty legit.
But what about getting solid numbers from lab testing?
I’m a fan of this, especially in cases where I suspect a deficiency or imbalance.
First, let’s look at how the body stores and uses magnesium. About 50% of the body’s magnesium is bound in the bones, and the other half is actually inside of your cells, making up the organs and tissues of your body. 3 Only about 1% of the magnesium in the body is circulating in the blood.3
So, while doctors can do blood tests for serum magnesium levels, and even if you test “normal” for blood levels, these types of tests really tell you very little about how much magnesium you have at the cellular level, where it really counts.
As the Wiki article points out, there are no boimarkers established for identifying magnesium deficiency. Meaning that science has yet to find a measurable biochemicial or molecular characteristic or substance that is going to tell your doctor that you’re magnesium deficient. Which is maybe (probably) why doctors often don’t take the idea of magnesium deficiency too seriously.
But I’m thinking it is worth looking into more. How hard would this be to correct with foods and supplements? So I start looking for-
Ways to increase the magnesium in our diet:
I’ve recently been reading about adding Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) to the garden to help increase the available magnesium in your soil and plants.
Wiki lists foods that are high in magnesium, like
“spices, nuts, cereals, coffee, cocoa, tea, and vegetables…green leafy vegetables such as spinach are also rich in magnesium as they contain chlorophyll. Observations of reduced dietary magnesium intake in modern western countries compared to earlier generations may be related to food refining and modern fertilizers that contain no magnesium.” (Emphasis mine.) 1, 2
The National Institute of Health cites leafy greens and whole grains as good sources, but says,
“Refined grains are generally low in magnesium. When white flour is refined and processed, the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed.” 3
Now it makes SO much sense to me why Americans, even ones who eat a fair amount
of veggies would be deficient. AND why a friend would have relief from anxiety attacks,
chronic stress, and insomnia from adding in green smoothies or juicing to her
diet. Isn’t that cool! (I might need to mention this to my GP).
So, doctors can’t measure it, but are there any physical signs that I may not have enough magnesium?
Symptoms that may indicate magnesium deficiency:
Dr. Michael Schacter writes a very informative article on magnesium and the symptoms of deficiency. He says,
“Be aware that not all of the symptoms need to be present to presume magnesium deficiency; but, many of them often occur together. For example, people with mitral valve prolapse frequently have palpitations, anxiety, panic attacks and premenstrual symptoms.” 4 He notes that individuals who have a magnesium deficiency often seem to be “uptight.”
<twitch> yes. Yes!
Other general symptoms include breast tenderness in women, and cravings for salt and carbohydrates. The carb cravings may be coupled with an intolerance of the food, such
as a craving chocolate, but then it doesn’t agree with your stomach. Here are the categories of symptoms that he outlines:
Skeletal/muscular: twitches, cramps, muscle tension, muscle soreness, including back aches, neck pain, tension headaches and jaw joint (or TMJ) dysfunction. Also, one may experience chest tightness or a peculiar sensation that he can’t take a deep breath. (This is one of the symptoms my husband had!) Sometimes a person may sigh a lot. 4
Impaired contraction of smooth muscles: constipation; urinary spasms; menstrual cramps; difficulty swallowing or a lump in the throat-especially provoked by eating sugar; photophobia, especially difficulty adjusting to oncoming bright headlights in the absence of eye disease; and loud noise sensitivity from stapedius muscle tension in the ear.4
central nervous system symptoms: insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity and restlessness with constant movement, panic attacks, agoraphobia, and premenstrual irritability. 3
peripheral nervous system symptoms: numbness, tingling, and other abnormal
sensations, such as zips, zaps and vibratory sensations. 4
cardiovascular system symptoms: palpitations, heart arrhythmias, angina due to spasms of the coronary arteries, high blood pressure and mitral valve prolapse. 4
I highly recommend reading the rest of his article! It’s linked in my source citations below.
And More Magnesium Research…
There are a number of very interesting studies on the use of magnesium for some very serious medical conditions.
It’s been found to be more effective in treating eclampsia and preeclampsia than the medications that are standard treatments for these serious conditions. 5
Oral or IV magnesium supplementation has shown very promising results with treating rapid atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmia.5,6
Cluster headaches, and classic or common migraines (especially hormone or cyclical induced headaches) generally occur with people who have low magnesium levels. One study in Germany found that a single daily dose of 600 mg of magnesium significantly reduced the frequency of migraine, while lower doses were ineffective. IV magnesium treatments for migraine sufferers showed significant improvement in all symptoms for patients with migraine auras.5
GERD (gastroespohageal reflux disease, aka “acid reflux“) is very common, and growing problem from tiny newborns, through the elderly. H2 (stomach acid) blockers are commonly prescribed, but a study showed that when patients treated “on demand” with a magnesium and carbon containing antacid, that they had better results with stomach discomfort than those using the H2 blockers.5
Another amazing study showed that patients who received intravenous magnesium at the time of a heart attack were 25% less likely to die or experience heart failure after the initial attack as they recuperated. These results were similar to, but independent of the “standard” clot dissolver drugs and aspirin. Dr. Kent Woods, who headed the research team cited that the magnesium is safe and simple, and strongly suggest that it be added to first response care for heart attack patients.7 Magnesium is not part of standard medical care for heart attack patients right now in the U.S., and we see about 500,000 deaths per year of those who suffer from heart attacks.
Chronic magnesium deficiency is common among type 2 diabetics, and is “associated with insulin resistance (IR) and increased risk for type 2 diabetes in adults.” It plays a critical role in energy metabolism and transporting glucose across the cell membrane.8,9 A 2005 study concludes, “Magnesium supplementation or increased intake of magnesium-rich foods may be an important tool in the prevention of type 2 diabetes in obese children.”9
Clearly, increasing magnesium intake should be on the radar screen of anyone with these medical conditions. But is it attainable and affordable? I have GREAT news…
Easy DIY Magnesium Supplement
If you suspect that you need more magnesium in your diet, my brilliant friends, Heather and Judi have introduced me to a DIY recipe for a form of very effective and affordable magnesium supplement.
My next post in this series is the Magnesium supplement recipe from my friend Heather’s Naturopath. You can make it easily with ingredients found in most any grocery store, and it’s far superior to pricier supplements and other common forms of magnesium. We’ll also talk about a couple of other forms of magnesium supplements that I have experience with.
Obviously, I’m still learning about this amazing mineral and how it fits into the big picture of overall health. If you have any questions about, or experience with magnesium deficiency, please leave a comment, and we’ll see what we can learn together!
Important note: Kidney health is very critical in maintaining healthy magnesium level. If you have a kidney condition, please discuss magnesium supplementation thoroughly with your doctor before beginning a protocol of self-treatment.
- Therapeutic Uses of Magnesium: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0715/p157.html
- study with mag preventing atrial fibrulaiton: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15620927
- Study recommending it as first aid in heart attacks: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/28/world/a-study-finds-magnesium-cut-deaths-by-heart-attack.html
- Magnesium deficiency in type 2 diabetes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19629403
- Magnesium deficiency associated with insulin resistance in children & adults: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15855585