Thursday, February 18, 2016

Magnesium Deficiency

Until recently, I have not really given much thought to magnesium and what it does throughout our bodies.  On a molecular level, I have known for quite some time that it is involved in numerous chemical reactions in the body, but it never really clicked to me how very important it is.  That all changed when I started having heart palpitations a few weeks ago.  I have never had any heart problems in the past.  I have never had a murmur or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and all EKGs were “disgustingly normal” (as a doctor once told me).  So, naturally, I was very worried when, out of the blue, I started feeling a pressure in my chest, fluttering of my heart and was experiencing a drop in blood pressure, increase in resting heart rate and occasionally irregular heartbeats.  After weeks of testing, all anyone could tell me was that MAYBE I was deficient in magnesium.  So that made me want to find out more...
Believe it or not, testing for magnesium levels in the blood is extremely inaccurate.  Serum magnesium (magnesium in the blood) accounts for about 1% of magnesium in the body’s tissues.  1%!!!  So when having your blood tested, take that result with a grain of salt because it may or may not be telling you the entire story.  Magnesium deficiency manifests in many different ways and can mimic so many other disorders that it is extremely difficult to correctly diagnose.  Here are some symptoms associated with low magnesium:

Muscle spasms
Muscle cramps
Hyperactive reflexes
Loss of muscle coordination
Involuntary eye movement or vertigo
Difficulty swallowing

Behavioral disturbances               
Irritability and anxiety
Loss of memory and cognitive function
Loss of appetite                               
Nausea and vomiting

Irregular or rapid heartbeat
Coronary spasms

Increased intracellular calcium
Calcium deficiency
Potassium deficiency

Also, be on the lookout for issues bone issues.  When your body is in a state of “functioning” low magnesium, the body will strip magnesium from bone to utilize it in other biochemical reactions which can cause damage to the bones.  If this is occurring, testing for magnesium levels will likely return normal, which can lead to a missed diagnosis.

Conditions commonly associated with magnesium deficiency include depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, migraine headaches, cluster headaches, osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), chest pain (angina), cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis, hypertension, type II diabetes, and asthma.  The presence of any of these conditions could point to chronic hypomagnesemia (low magnesium).   

Treatment for magnesium deficiency can be as simple as taking a magnesium supplement or increasing the natural intake of magnesium through dietary changes.  More severe cases may require the intake of magnesium through an IV.  Simple magnesium supplements can be purchased at any grocery store or multi-purpose retailer for relatively cheap and it is usually recommended to begin supplementation with 250mg doses.  Foods such as rice, spinach, watermelon, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal and avocado are rich in magnesium and can help boost levels naturally. 

So…after about a week of taking magnesium supplements, my original symptoms of heart palpitations, decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate have all practically disappeared.  I guess the doctors got it right.  I will continue to supplement magnesium in order to keep my body running as efficiently as possible.  If you think that you may have magnesium deficiency, talk to your doctor before you start taking supplements to confirm that is the problem.  I wouldn’t want any of you taking supplements unnecessarily. 


If you or someone you know in the Gallatin Valley area is looking for a chiropractor, please call Dr. Shea Stark with Pro Chiropractic at 406-219-2462 to schedule an appointment in our Belgrade, Manhattan, or Bozeman office.  Dr. Stark is a board certified chiropractor and the author of this blog post.  To learn more about Dr. Stark and the many benefits of chiropractic care, please visit our website: