How to Tell if You’re Magnesium Deficient (and What to Do About It)

I must really be such a nerd. My latest source of fascination these days has not been the swankiest fashion trends or the coolest new movies (confession: I’ve never seen any of the Batman movies). It’s not even been a new cooking technique or interior design trick (though I do love those!) Nope, my latest fascination has been with magnesium.

Yes. Magnesium. <cue the nerd-fest theme music. whatever that may sound like.>

But I suppose that if you’re reading this right now, you have at least some interest in magnesium. Or perhaps you’re searching for a remedy for any of the ailments that are associated with magnesium deficiency. If you deal with headaches, body odor, constipation, insomnia, or fatigue, it’s likely that you are lacking in magnesium.

Magnesium Deficiency

I know what you’re thinking. How can one little mineral deficiency be such a big deal? Actually, it’s a huge deal.

Magnesium is required for the proper function of approximately 300 enzymes in the human body. Functions as diverse as blood pressure regulation, muscle contraction, heart rhythm stabilization, and nervous system communication are all magnesium-dependent processes. Humans cannot survive without magnesium. Some authorities have even argued that some typical manifestations of aging—such as loss of muscle mass, rising blood pressure, and diminished nervous system function—are partly attributable to magnesium deficiency.” (source)

How Do I Know if I’m Magnesium Deficient?

Magnesium deficiency can show up in your body with any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness
  • Body Odor
  • Constipation
  • Muscle spasms, twitches, soreness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Impaired memory or cognitive function
  • Back aches
  • Headaches
  • Chest tightness and difficulty breathing
  • Menstrual pain or irregularities
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Osteoporosis

(Sources here, here, and here)

What Gives? Why Are We Magnesium Deficient?

Why are so many people lacking in magnesium these days?

Unlike our ancestors, our water no longer comes from streams, rivers, or springs. We get our water from the tap, from filters, or from pre-bottled water. All the ‘bad stuff’ is taken out (even though lots of bad stuff is left in tap water!), but this means most of the ‘good stuff’ is removed as well. This even happens with bottled water and filtered water. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the minerals our bodies require are filtered out, leaving us far more susceptible to problems like headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and even morning sickness in pregnant women!

Add to this the fact that our soil has been raped by modern industrial agriculture, stripping it of its rich mineral content, leaving our food with fewer nutrients than what our ancestors consumed.

Help! How Do I Get More Magnesium?

Here’s how to boost your magnesium intake and reverse those symptoms caused by a magnesium deficiency:

Swiss Chard in our Garden1. Eat lots of organic green vegetables. The chlorophyll in green veggies contains magnesium. But you want to make sure you’re eating local and/or organic produce! Organic produce has been shown to contain up to 40% more nutrients than conventional! (Source: Worthington , Virginia . “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Vol. 7, 2. 2001.) Stock up on spinach, kale, chard, seaweed, and other leafy greens.

2. Eat whole grains in sourdough form. Whole grains are a great source of magnesium and other vital nutrients and minerals, but they must be properly prepared in order for your body to assimilate all the nutrients and digest them well. You can soak or sprout your grains, or you can ferment them with a traditional sourdough process. Reading about this process in the Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread was fascinating! The fermentation process of traditional sourdough reduces the overall gluten content and makes the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the grains far more bio-available.

3. Consume other whole foods rich in magnesium. This includes bone broths, unrefined sea salt, whole grains (see above), nuts, and seeds.

4. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. While I do enjoy a draft cider or a good cup of dark roast coffee every once in a while, alcohol and coffee (caffeine in general) are appetite suppressants and they deplete magnesium in your body. If you are dealing with any of the symptoms listed above, cut out coffee and alcohol completely for at least a few weeks as you restore your magnesium levels.

5. Stay away from sugar! For every molecule of sugar you consume, it requires 54 molecules of magnesium to process it! Basically, sugar leaches vitamins and minerals from your body, including magnesium. So back away from the soda, sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and processed packaged foods (most of them have lots of hidden sugar – like salad dressings and pasta sauces. Read the labels!)

6. Heal your gut. Fermented foods and drinks, as well as high quality probiotic supplements, can help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, allowing your body to actually absorb more of the magnesium you consume.

7. Drink a magnesium citrate powder in water. Brands like Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm or MagnaCalm are great supplements. But they are meant to be just that – a supplement to a healthy diet. Don’t think of it as a magic elixir, but it can definitely help restore your magnesium levels, leaving you more calm and, ahem, regular.

Transdermal Magnesium Therapy8. Transdermal magnesium therapy. This has been revolutionary for me. It’s probably my favorite way to boost my magnesium levels and not stink at the same time. Transdermal magnesium therapy is a fantastic natural deodorant and is completely chemical free! Look for more info on natural deodorants soon. But I highly recommend you start with this. Take 1/2 c. of magnesium flakes and mix with 1/2 c. warm filtered water in a small spray bottle. Spray on your stomach 1-5 times daily. You’ll want to start with just once a day at first and work your way up. Too much magnesium all at once tends to have a laxative effect on the body! You could also toss those flakes (or Epsom salts – otherwise known as hydrated magnesium sulfate) into a bath (just make sure you shower/bathe in filtered water).

9. Soak up the sun. You might remember that I don’t wear sunscreen unless I’m outside for very long periods of time in an area where the sun is stronger than my body is used to (i.e. a vacation at the beach). Sun exposure is actually your main source of vitamin D, which is essential for magnesium absorption. Studies have even shown that vitamin D containing supplements like cod liver oil, while they are fantastic supplements to take on a regular basis, won’t help you nearly as much as sunlight will in the area of magnesium absorption.

Do you deal with any symptoms related to a magnesium deficiency? How do you plan to combat it?

This post is shared on Your Green Resource, Fight Back Friday, Freaky Friday