We all want to be healthy and many of us see supplements as a way to improve our health. Magnesium is a popular supplement to take, but is it safe to take daily, or could it put you at risk? How do you check whether you need more or less magnesium, what are some of the benefits, and could too much of a good thing put you at risk of serious illness?
What is it and why is it important?
It’s actually a mineral, and it’s vital for the proper day-to-day functioning of the body. As the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, it helps with a wide variety of bodily functions. One of its most important functions is that of supporting the bones and bone structure. Besides being important for the proper growth and maintenance of bones, it is also required for the proper function of nerves and muscles. Magnesium is also prevalent in the stomach where it helps to neutralize stomach acid and move stools through the intestine. Mostly, we get magnesium from our diets. However, many of us are not getting enough of it and magnesium deficiency is no laughing matter. Magnesium deficiency, according to WebMD, is linked to “diseases such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, hereditary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke“.
What are the symptoms of low magnesium?
One of the major problems when it comes to low magnesium levels in the body is that in the short term, there are very few symptoms. This means that you don’t get any warning of the fact that you may need to up your intake of magnesium through either your diet or by taking a supplement. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is also often overlooked by health professionals. It is estimated that only 2% of Americans experience or have experienced magnesium deficiency. However, one study suggests that as many as 75% of Americans are not meeting the recommended intake of magnesium. Mostly, symptoms don’t appear at all until your magnesium levels are very low.
According to Healthline, these symptoms could indicate a possible magnesium deficiency
Muscle cramps and muscle twitches
Twitches, tremors, and muscle cramps are all signs of magnesium deficiency. However, they can also be caused by things like stress or too much caffeine. It’s also important to keep in mind that occasional twitches and cramps are normal, it’s only if these symptoms persist that you need to see your doctor
Mental health disorders
Studies have associated low magnesium levels with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. It is also associated with apathy. This is a mental health disorder that is characterized by “mental numbness or lack of emotion”. Some studies have suggested that magnesium supplements may be of benefit to patients who struggle with anxiety. However, research and evidence are scarce and ultimately, more studies are needed.
Osteoporosis is characterized by weakened bones as well as an increased risk of fractures and breakages. The most common factors that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis include: age, lack of exercise, and deficiency of vitamins K and D. However, magnesium deficiency is also a risk factor. Not only does it weaken the bones directly, but it also “lowers the blood levels of calcium”.
Fatigue and muscle weakness
Mostly, it’s characterized by both physical and mental exhaustion as well as weakness. It’s important to note that we all get tired occasionally, the real test is whether the exhaustion is persistent. Muscle weakness is a more specific sign of magnesium deficiency. If muscle weakness persists, it may be time to see your doctor.
High blood pressure
Some studies done on animals have shown that magnesium deficiency is linked with high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a risk factor for heart disease. Currently, there is no direct evidence of this in humans, although several observational studies in humans do back this up.
In patients with severe asthma, magnesium deficiency is often present. Magnesium levels seem to, in general, be lower in patients with asthma. Many researchers believe that this is because “a lack of magnesium may cause the buildup of calcium in the muscles lining the airways of the lungs”. Magnesium is often an additive in inhalers for people with severe asthma, however, oral supplementation showed inconsistent results.
This is one of the most severe and worrying of all the symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Symptoms associated with an irregular heartbeat are usually mild, this is if there are any symptoms at all. Some people may experience heart palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and even fainting.
How to add more magnesium to your diet without the use of supplements
Luckily, it’s not hard to find in the foods that we consume regularly. The key is just knowing what those foods are so that you can make sure you are getting enough of it. When you are looking to increase your levels of magnesium, you need to think of fiber. Generally, foods that are high in fiber are also high in magnesium.
Some examples of foods high in magnesium include:
Are there any risks associated with taking too much?
Mostly, magnesium is pretty safe to take, especially orally. However, you should not exceed 350 mg per day of magnesium as this can cause a range of side effects including nausea and vomiting. It is also important to be aware of the fact that supplements can interact negatively with some
medications. This includes diuretics, heart medications, and some antibiotics. Make sure to check with your doctor before adding a magnesium supplement to your daily routine. It’s also important to check with your doctor whether you can continue taking your supplement if you are put on antibiotics. If you have diabetes, intestinal disease, heart disease, or kidney disease you should not take a magnesium supplement before talking to your doctor.
Signs that you might be getting too much magnesium include:
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
It’s also important to note that in very high doses, it may even be fatal