Less than 30% of U.S. adults consume the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium. And nearly 20% get only half of the magnesium they need daily to remain healthy. Magnesium is essential for over 300 different enzymatic processes to help your body function properly. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. Aging, stress and disease are all contributing factors to increasing magnesium needs. Since it’s the first mineral we lose when we’re under stress, the odds are pretty good that you’re lacking in this vital mineral!
Here are some common risk factors associated with a magnesium deficiency:
- Regularly consuming cookies, cakes, pastries, desserts, candies and other sweet foods – sugar causes magnesium excretion through the kidneys.
- Regularly consuming carbonated beverages – most sodas contain phosphates which flush the magnesium out of your system.
- Daily consumption of coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages – caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium from the body.
- Taking certain medications – heart medications, diuretics, asthma meds, birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy – certain drugs have been shown to reduce magnesium levels by increasing excretion through the kidneys.
- Experiencing a stressful life or having surgery or major medical procedure – stress is a major contributing factor to magnesium deficiency. When your body is in “fight or flight” mode, you lose magnesium.
- Drinking more than 7 alcoholic beverages per week – similar to the effect of diuretics, alcohol lowers magnesium levels by increasing magnesium excretion through the kidneys.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be magnesium deficient:
- Anxiety, difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, occasional hyperactivity – are all neurological signs of a magnesium deficiency.
- Muscle cramping, muscle spasms, facial tics, eye twitching – are classic neuromuscular signs of a magnesium deficit.
- High blood pressure – magnesium helps to relax blood vessels so they will constrict more when magnesium deficient and result in high blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat – your heart may struggle to contract properly with low levels of magnesium which may lead to irregular heartbeats
- Constipation – magnesium helps to relax your bowels and pulls water into your bowels making passing waste easier
- Chocolate cravings – although this may sound too good to be true, dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium. However, moderation is key!
Foods high in magnesium include:
- leafy greens
- beans and lentils
- nuts and seeds
- quinoa and other unrefined grains
- dark chocolate
It’s always a good idea to get your nutrients through food whenever possible, so consider including these foods in your diet on a regular basis. Magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate are two of the most readily absorbed forms of this critical mineral. Dosage is important so avoid overdoing it as magnesium can have a laxative effect!