Magnesium is the most important mineral or nutrient that the body requires. A lack of magnesium or a low magnesium level can lead to a number of diseases. Since magnesium is the main mineral that regulates the absorption and utility of other minerals such as potassium, calcium and sodium, a deficiency of this mineral can lead to many illnesses. In fact, every known illness in the world can be associated with magnesium deficiency.
The symptoms of magnesium deficiency are quite common and they often match with those of the other common diseases. Hence, they are mistaken to be the symptoms of some other diseases or illnesses. Therefore, people tend to take expensive medicines to treat those difficulties and symptoms. However, simply taking the magnesium supplements would treat the condition. In this regard, it is important to note the causes of magnesium deficiency, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What Causes of Magnesium Deficiency?
What is more important about magnesium deficiency is that it can simply be avoided, if you know the exact causes of this condition. These include –
- Magnesium Depleted Diet as a Cause of Magnesium Deficiency: Diet or food is the main source of magnesium in the body. With proper diet, the magnesium requirement of the body, which is 1.7 to 2.3 milligrams per decilitre can be fulfilled. Usually, eating green and leafy vegetables is the best way to acquire the required magnesium level in the body. This is because magnesium is found in high proportion in chlorophyll and chlorophyll can be found in the green vegetables. A diet that does not include a good proportion of these green leafy vegetables is the basic reason behind magnesium deficiency.
Those, who are more dependent in processed foods, foods that have very high sugar content, processed meat or even sodas and beverages, encounter the magnesium deficiency more than others. This is because these foods lose their natural magnesium content during the processing of the foods, whereas the unrefined foods have high magnesium content.
To delve deep into the eating habits and diet, it will be easier to find how foods have a direct impact on magnesium deficiency.
- The absorption of magnesium gets reduced in the intestine due to the consumption of high fat diet.
- The phosphates that are present in the carbonated beverages bind the magnesium in the foods and thereby, it becomes unusable.
- With increased sugar intake, the magnesium gets excreted in a higher rate through the kidneys.
Thus, diet has a number of impacts on the supply, absorption and utility of the available magnesium.
- Magnesium Depleted Soil Leading to Magnesium Deficiency: The soil is the main source of the nutrients and minerals in agricultural produce. However, due to the excessive use of synthetic fertilizer in the industrial agriculture, the soils are becoming depleted of the essential nutrients, especially magnesium. The artificial soil fertility has taken a toll on the natural fertility of the soil and the entire soil system has been disrupted. As the soil is depleted of the essential minerals including magnesium, the agricultural produces too are.
- Magnesium Deficient Municipal Water Supplies: For a long time or to be specific, up till the previous century, the human beings have been dependent on the natural water sources such as river, falls, streams or lakes for their water supply. However, with industrialization and increase in population, the quality of water has become suspicious with pesticides, chemicals and other contaminations present in the water bodies. Hence, the source of water had to changed and shifted towards a spigot or a plastic bottle.
To remove these chemicals, contaminations and pesticide residues, the municipality uses modern water-treatment methods. These high intensity water treatment methods deplete the water of the essential minerals like magnesium, along with many other nutrients and minerals.
- Too Much of Calcium Leading to Magnesium Deficiency: Calcium is one of the most essential minerals in the body. Not only does it help in the bone health, but it also has other important body functions, one of which is to help in the absorption of magnesium. However, for that the magnesium and the calcium content have to be in a perfect ratio, so that calcium can help in the absorption of magnesium. Prolonged dependency on calcium supplement while not supplying enough magnesium to the body will only hinder the absorption. The average calcium and magnesium content ratio in the body should be somewhere between 1:1 and 2:1. It is possible for the calcium only at this proportion to help in the absorption of magnesium. However, the diets in the recent times contain 10 times more calcium than magnesium. This prohibits the magnesium absorption. Women, who are prescribed to take calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis and other such bone related diseases should be careful about the magnesium supply. This is the reason why women are more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency than men.
- Poor Absorption of Magnesium in the Gut Causing Magnesium Deficiency: Problem in the digestive system or digestive tract is a persistent cause of disrupted absorption of magnesium in the gut. If the magnesium is not absorbed in the gut, it is the major cause of magnesium deficiency. The indication of problems in the gut and poor absorption of magnesium in the gut include leaky gut, intolerance to gluten etc.
If you have taken antibiotics for too long or too many rounds of antibiotics, if you have been on medicines like antidepressants or antacids, there is a high probability that you will suffer from poor magnesium absorption. Too much of stress, dependency on alcohol or intense drinking habit or even drinking fluoridated water for long will lead to a leaky gut or other problems in the digestive tract.
The common diseases associated with problematic digestion, leaky gut and poor absorption of magnesium are –
- Crohn's disease.
- Short bowel syndrome.
- Congenital renal magnesium wasting.
- Intestinal mucosal diseases.
- Pancreatic insufficiency.
- Terminal ileal diseases.
- Bartter's syndrome.
- Whipple's disease.
- Interstitial nephritis.
- Systemic mastocytosis.
- Celiac sprue.
- Renal tubular acidosis.
- Tubular disorders.
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Kidney transplant.
- Acute tubular necrosis.
- Radiation enteritis.
- Cholestatic liver disease.
- Drug-induced tubular injury.
- Intestinal lymphangiectasia.
- Patients undergoing ileal bypass or ileal resection as obesity treatment.
Some of these diseases are difficult to diagnose and therefore, the exact cause of magnesium deficiency in that case remains unidentified.
- Medication Leading to Magnesium Deficiency: There are some prescription medicines that cause magnesium deficiency in the body. These largely include the antibiotics, as already mentioned. The antibiotics affect the digestive system and thereby, prohibit the absorption. Apart from these, the other medicines include cortisones and painkillers. These medicines too impair the magnesium absorption and they increase the excretion of magnesium through kidneys.
Some of these medicines include –
- Asthma medicines.
- Chemotherapy drugs.
- Anticancer drugs.
- Corticosteroid drugs.
- Oestrogen hormone drugs or birth control pills.
- Cardiac or heart failure medicines.
- Anti-schizophrenic or anti-psychotic drugs.
These are some of the most common prescription medicines that cause magnesium deficiency.
What are the Treatments to Correct Magnesium Deficiency?
The treatment of magnesium deficiency can be easy, if you know the exact cause of the condition. Since the most common cause is inadequate supply of magnesium through diet, if you take proper care of your diet you will be able to supply your body with enough magnesium to fight the deficiency. The ways to correct magnesium deficiency include:
- Eating Magnesium Rich Diet: Rather than eating a diet that is full of fried, fatty and meaty foods along with various dairy products, it is always advisable to take a magnesium rich diet. Here it needs to be mentioned that diet is an easy source of supplying required amount of magnesium to the body. The foods that are rich in magnesium are –
- Spinach (cooked).
- Raw or sprouted pumpkin seeds.
- Raw or sprouted sunflower seeds.
- Raw, organic, whole flaxseeds.
- Black beans.
- Brown rice.
- Dark chocolate.
It is important that these magnesium rich foods are produced in an organic agricultural setup, so that the soil is not depleted of magnesium due to the use of chemical fertilizers.
- Drinking Water to Correct Magnesium Deficiency: There are mineral waters and mineral treated packaged water bottles available in the markets that additionally supply magnesium to the drinking water. If you live in an area that has soft water supply or the supply of water from the municipality lacks enough magnesium content, drinking this packaged water is a good idea to treat magnesium deficiency.
- Magnesium Supplement: If the deficiency of magnesium cannot be balanced by consuming magnesium rich diet, it is a must that you eat magnesium supplements. However, of course, too much of magnesium too has an adverse effect on the body. If you are taking calcium supplements as your doctor's advice, you should not stop taking them. Instead, start taking the magnesium supplements along with it as per the doctor's recommendation.
Apart from these treatment methods, you can also go for an Epsom salt bath. This salt contains a high proportion of magnesium sulphate that can be absorbed by the skin, as you soak your body into the Epsom salt bath. However, if the cause of the magnesium deficiency is a certain disease of the gut or the renal system, you need to treat that at first. Seeing a doctor will help in the diagnosis of the cause of magnesium deficiency and receive fast treatment of your condition.