Even though magnesium is found in whole grains, nuts and seeds, bananas, dark leafy greens and even dark chocolate, it is widely deficient in many people. This occurs for two reasons: many soils have been depleted of this critical mineral and it is lost from the blood when we consume too much sugar. When I measure magnesium levels in red blood cells (a much better indicator than the usual serum levels) I often find low readings. More important than the lab results are the number of symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency.
The most common symptoms of low magnesium include migraine headaches, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, muscle tension and cramps, fatigue, constipation, bronchospasm (often see in asthma), anxiety and cognitive issues. The range of these problems points to how important depleting magnesium can be.
Research has shown another important effect of magnesium, it can reduce plaque in arteries, blow lowering inflammation and slowing down the progression of heart disease. It was shown in a study measuring carotid artery thickness, only 200 milligrams a day was enough to reduce thickened arterial walls. Adequate blood levels of magnesium can also reduce the risk of a stroke, probably by reducing the likelihood of heart arrhythmias. In addition, it lowers blood pressure by affecting the hormones angiotensin and aldosterone.
Unfortunately, fixing a magnesium deficiency is not always an easy task. Many people do not absorb the usual magnesium supplements very well, like magnesium oxide, while others can easily get diarrhea from magnesium, especially the citrate form (which is found in milk of magnesia used for constipation). To overcome these issues I have found that many of my patients benefit from a series of intramuscular shots or intravenous infusions of magnesium to prime the pump and improve absorption by mouth.
Recently, I have started to prescribe a new form of magnesium, Opti-Mag Neuro TM which contains magnesium-L-threonate and other forms of magnesium. This patented supplement, researched at MIT, raises brain levels of magnesium (the only form that does this) and affects neural synapses leading to a significant lessening in anxiety, improving memory and promoting healthy sleep. It improves the plasticity of the hippocampus, the part of the brain most affected by elevated cortisol and stress, studies showing enhanced memory and brain signaling. Taken before sleep, I have seen consistent benefit from Opti-Mag in improving sleep and lessening anxiety.
No matter what method you use, raising magnesium levels is a must if you have any of the problems ranging from fatigue to migraines or are at risk for heart disease or stroke.