Symptoms of poor magnesium intake can include muscle cramps, facial tics, poor sleep, and chronic pain. It pays to ensure that you get adequate magnesium before signs of deficiency occur.
But how can you know whether you’re getting enough?
According to population studies of average magnesium intake, there’s a good chance that you’re not.
The following may be a good way to assess your intake of magnesium by answering a few questions your lifestyle, and watching for certain signs and signals of low magnesium levels.
1. Do you drink carbonated beverages on a regular basis?
Most dark colored sodas contain phosphates. These substances actually bind with magnesium inside the digestive tract, rendering it unavailable to the body. So even if you are eating a balanced diet, by drinking soda with your meals you are flushing magnesium out of your system.
The average consumption of carbonated beverages today is more than ten times what it was in 1940.
2. Are you regularly eating pastries, cakes, desserts, candies or other sweet foods?
Refined sugar is not only a zero magnesium product but it also causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys. The process of producing refined sugar from sugar cane removes molasses, stripping the magnesium content entirely.
And sugar does not simply serve to reduce magnesium levels. Sweet foods are known by nutritionists as “anti-nutrients”. Anti-nutrients like sweets are foods that replace whole nutritious foods in the diet, yet actually consume nutrients when digested, resulting in a net loss. Because all foods require vitamins and minerals to be consumed in order to power the process of digestion, it’s important to choose foods that “put back” vital nutrients, and then some.
The more sweet foods and processed baked goods you have in your diet, the more likely you are deficient in magnesium and other vital nutrients.
3. Do you experience a lot of stress in your life, or have you recently had a major medical procedure such as surgery?
Both physical and emotional stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency.
Stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency, and a lack of magnesium tends to magnify the stress reaction, worsening the problem. In studies, adrenaline and cortisol, byproducts of the “fight or flight” reaction associated with stress and anxiety, were associated with decreased magnesium.
Because stressful conditions require more magnesium use by the body, all such conditions may lead to deficiency, including both psychological and physical forms of stress such as surgery, burns, and chronic disease.
4. Do you drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks daily?
Magnesium levels are controlled in the body in large part by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess magnesium and other minerals. But caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of body status.
If you drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda regularly, your risk for magnesium deficiency is increased.
5. Do you take a diuretic, heart medication, asthma medication, birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy?
The effects of certain drugs have been shown to reduce magnesium levels in the body by increasing magnesium loss through excretion by the kidneys.
6. Do you drink more than seven alcoholic beverages per week?
The effect of alcohol on magnesium levels is similar to the effect of diuretics: it lowers magnesium available to the cells by increasing the excretion of magnesium by the kidneys. In studies, clinical magnesium deficiency was found in 30% of alcoholics.
7. Do you take calcium supplements without magnesium?
Too much calcium supplementation without magnesium may reduce magnesium absorption and retention from foods. However if you are taking magnesium, magnesium supplementation actually improves the body’s use of calcium.
Though many reports suggest taking calcium to magnesium in a 2:1 ratio, this figure is largely arbitrary. Studies are now supporting a 1:1 ration.
8. Do you experience any of the following:
- Times of hyperactivity?
- Difficulty getting to sleep?
- Difficulty staying asleep?
The above symptoms may be neurological signs of magnesium deficiency. Adequate magnesium is necessary for nerve conduction and is also associated with electrolyte imbalances that affect the nervous system. Low magnesium is also associated with personality changes and sometimes depression.