The majority of the body’s magnesium, approximately 70%, is found within the bones and the teeth. It is an essential mineral for the maintenance of bone density, and to preserve the strength and general health of the teeth. It is a vital component in the transmission of nerve impulses, and the instigation of muscle contraction. Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 enzyme actions within the body, it is one of the substances involved in the maintenance of body temperature, and it plays an important role in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
Low levels of magnesium are thought to be commonplace. Approximately 70% of Americans do not maintain an adequate amount, and many may experience adverse symptoms with no awareness of the cause.
A magnesium deficiency can give rise to anxiety and restlessness, tremors, heart palpitations, confusion, disorientation, depression, and general irritability. An extreme shortage may initiate over stimulation of the nervous system, and this can result in cramp or spasms in the hands and feet. It is frequently the reason for chronic fatigue syndrome, and a severe and persistent deficiency may contribute to the development of coronary heart disease.
When magnesium levels are insufficient an imbalance in the body’s calcium and potassium levels may transpire. It can lead to a build-up of calcium within the kidneys, which may result in the development of kidney stones.
A magnesium deficiency deficiency can arise due to an unhealthy diet. Magnesium binds to the substances found in carbonated drinks and this prevents absorption. Caffeine and refined sugars, such as those found in cakes and pastries, are known to reduce magnesium levels. These substances instigate the kidneys to rapidly eliminate magnesium from the body.
Inadequate dietary intake is sometimes responsible for low levels of magnesium. The recommended daily amount is approximately 400mg and many people consume less than half of this.
A deficiency can sometimes occur as the result of a detrimental health condition. For example, a prolonged period of vomiting and/or diarrhoea may lead to impaired intestinal absorption. Advanced kidney disease, chronic alcoholism, and long term treatment with diuretic medications can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb magnesium. Oestrogens, including oestrogen based oral contraceptives are also known to reduce magnesium levels.
Prevention and Treatment
It is important to ensure that a sufficient amount of magnesium is contained within the diet. Good sources include fish and seafood, green leafy vegetables, milk, nuts, pulses, and wholemeal cereals and bread. In hard water areas, drinking tap water can help to maintain adequate levels.
Magnesium is available as a supplement and can be bought over the counter in most pharmacy and health food stores. It is sold in the form of magnesium oxide, magnesium gluconate, or as a combination tablet that includes other vitamins and minerals. An extremely severe and prolonged deficiency usually requires hospital treatment, and it is then administered by injection in the form of magnesium sulphate.
Excessive Intake of Magnesium
A persistent intake of large amounts of magnesium may lead to magnesium toxicity; this is rare but may occur in those who suffer from kidney impairment, or a prolonged daily intake of 3g or more. It can cause nausea and vomiting, and muscle weakness. Dizziness may be experienced due to a decline in blood pressure. In extreme cases, it may initiate cardiac arrest and/or a fatal respiratory failure.