Magnesium deficiency, or hypomagnesia, can occur either because you are not consuming enough magnesium through your diet, or because your body is not absorbing the magnesium that you are consuming. This essential mineral plays a significant role in the body and is necessary for metabolic functioning, strong bones and teeth, muscle relaxation, and digestive health. Its widespread use in the body means that magnesium deficiency can cause a host of wide-ranging mental and physical problems that may seem unconnected.
Testing for a Magnesium Deficiency
There is no adequate way to test for magnesium deficiency. The most of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones and tissues, with only about one percent of it circulated in the blood. Blood tests are, however, performed to check the level of magnesium in the blood, although a low blood magnesium rate may not necessarily signify an overall magnesium deficiency. Other tests that are sometimes performed include 24-hour urine tests, or sublingual epithelial tests (where some epithelial cells from under your tongue or inside your cheek are swabbed) which may reflect the most accurate results. Due to the mixed responses regarding the accuracy of magnesium testing, it is suggested that people match their symptoms up against those frequently cited as signs of magnesium deficiency to estimate the levels of magnesium in the body. You could also keep a food diary for several weeks and make an approximate calculation of your dietary magnesium consumption. Remember, though, that consuming enough of the mineral does not necessarily rule out a deficiency if you have a problem with absorbing it.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency
Owing to the large role that magnesium plays in the body, there is a long list of symptoms that could potentially indicate a magnesium deficiency. If you only have one or two symptoms from the following list, it is unlikely that you have a deficiency, but if you have many of them, then you should consider talking to your healthcare professional.
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Appetite loss
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps or tingling feeling
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Shaking or twitching
- Nervous disorders
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor memory and concentration
Who is most likely to have a Magnesium Deficiency?
- Alcoholics or those who drink alcohol frequently.
- The elderly, who are more likely to be on medication that affects magnesium, and who often have poorer levels of mineral absorption.
- Certain types of medication, such as diuretics, antibiotics, and cancer-fighting medications.
- Those with digestion issues, as these may prevent the body from absorbing magnesium.
- Frequent diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Poor diet with few fruits and vegetables and lots of processed food.
- Pregnant women, particularly during the second or third trimester when the foetus is developing rapidly and may be absorbing large quantities of the minerals consumed.
- Chronic stress.
- Those suffering from kidney disease or diabetes, as these result in the loss of the mineral through urine.
- Those with pancreatitis; an inflammation of the pancreas.
- Those with thyroid issues, such as an underactive parathyroid gland.
- In people who have tested deficient in calcium, which is closely connected to magnesium.