IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Maria dragged herself out of bed and moved haltingly towards the dresser. Her heart was doing strange things, beating really fast one minute and skipping some beats the next. She felt so weak she could barely make herself move in the direction she wanted to go. Josh grabbed her as she started to slump to the floor. Honey, what is going on? She looked up at him with a confused look on her face. I don’t know. I feel so strange. I’ve been feeling like this for a while now but today it’s the worst it’s ever been and I’ve been having a bad case of the runs lately.”
“I’m going to get you to the hospital. This isn’t good.”
A few hours later after many questions and several tests the doctor asked her what she’d been eating and drinking over the last couple of months and if her diet had changed lately.
“Yeah, actually it has,” she answered. “I’ve been trying really, really hard to get into super good condition and get really, really fit so I’ve been eating a ton of healthy food; tons of spinach and beans and I have a snack pack that I take with me made up of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds. I take a multi vitamin every day and I drink a couple of energy drinks a day as well. Instead of feeling better though I seem to be getting worse and worse.”
Looking at her with a stern and slightly alarmed look on his face the doctor said “Young lady you have come this close to giving yourself a heart attack. You have a case of hypermagnesemia. Your idea of eating healthy foods is great but the foods you’re eating are high in magnesium. Your body can handle an excess of magnesium from your diet but the vitamin pill and energy drinks are overloading your body causing all sorts of problems. I’m going to keep you in the hospital for a few days and monitor your progress. We’ll be taking all the magnesium out of your diet for a few days.”
WHAT IS MAGNESIUM?
Magnesium (Mg) is the chemical element with the atomic number 12 and is the 11th most abundant element in the human body by mass. All living cells are dependent on its ions. (An ion is an atom with a positive or negative charge. That is, it has more or fewer electrons than protons.) These ions are responsible for helping to energise and direct life-giving polyphosphate compounds such as ATP, DNA and RNA.
Nucleic acid is the basis of the chemistry of life on earth and the interaction between magnesium and phosphate ions is essential to nucleic acid and consequently to the cells of all living organisms. Catalytic reactions performed by more that 300 enzymes need magnesium ions to do their work within our cells. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the basis of energy for our cells. ATP exists in our cells bonded to magnesium ions.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a healthy adult body should contain about 25 grams of magnesium. 60% is found in the skeleton, 27% in our muscles, 6% to 7% in the rest of our cells and 1% or less outside of our cells.
WHAT DOES MAGNESIUM DO FOR US?
1. Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP is the molecule that provides energy for practically all of our metabolic processes and as was explained in the beginning of this post it is always bonded to magnesium which provides the electron transfers to create this energy. Remember magnesium is an ion and an ion is always looking to give or get electrons to compliment the number of protons it has.
2. Magnesium is needed for the creation of some of our bodies most essential molecules. Our very DNA and RNA are dependent on magnesium for the synthesis of the proteins in nucleic acid; also carbohydrates and fats are synthesized by enzymes that need magnesium to perform. Finally the antioxidant, glutathione, needs magnesium for it to be synthesized. Glutathione is dependent on ATP for its synthesis
3. The structure of our cells and our chromosomes is partially dependent on magnesium.
4. Magnesium is involved in transporting potassium and calcium and other ions across cell membranes. Because of this involvement it also affects the normal beating of our hearts, our nerve impulses and, muscle contractions.
5. The bond of magnesium and adenosine triphosphate ( MgATP ) is involved in the adding of phosphorous to proteins and consequently for the creation of molecules used by cells to send signals. This molecule is called ‘cyclic adenosine monophosphate or cAMP. cAMP is used for many processes. For instance when calcium blood levels drop it is part of the process which signals the parathyroid gland to increase blood levels of calcium.
6. Cell migration is the movement of cells from one area of our bodies to another. Cell migration is necessary for such activities as immune responses, wound healing and fetal development. Both magnesium and calcium are found in the fluid surrounding the cells so because of this and because of their involvement with signalling they affect the orchestration of where and when cells migrate.
9. Magnesium makes up about 1% of the minerals in our bones and influences the structure of our bones and bone mineral metabolism. It plays a major role in the bone mineral density and the avoidance of osteoporosis.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH MAGNESIUM?
Magnesium is absorbed in the gastrointestinal track. The absorption rate depends on how much the body is in need of it. Other nutrients that inhibit the absorption of magnesium are protein levels that are too high or protein levels that are too low, high doses of supplemental zinc and excess dietary fiber.
Conditions that create magnesium deficiency are:
1. Gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease or severe diarrhea.
2. Kidney issues such as using diuretics over a long period of time or other kidney activities that weaken the kidney’s ability to retain magnesium.
3. Chronic alcoholism
4. Getting old. As we age our diets tend to lack adequate magnesium intake.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute:
Low blood levels of magnesium may play a modest role in the development of high blood pressure.
Low levels of magnesium contribute to the development of osteoporosis.
Low levels of magnesium in intracellular fluids are found in people who have recurring migraine headaches. Oral magnesium oxide was found to lower the incidence of migraines in a study done on 86 children but caused stomach irritation and diarrhea. This is not due to poor dietary intake, however. The magnesium in this instance needs to be administered supplementally and also needs to be in oxide form.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH MAGNESIUM?
Because the kidneys are extremely efficient at moving excess magnesium from the blood overdoses from dietary sources are rare. Overdoses from dietary magnesium only happen because of extenuating circumstances such as kidney disease, diabetic, ketoacidosis, hyperparathyroidism or other diseases involving the processing of magnesium.
Supplemental magnesium, however, will result in diarrhea even under normal circumstances and under complicating factors such as those just mentioned, can lead to hypermagnesemia. Hypermagnesemia means that there is too much magnesium in the blood. This can cause various unpleasant complications. The symptoms of hypermagnesemia start with a drop in blood pressure which ultimately leads to problems with kidney function. More advanced effects are lethargy, confusion, cardiac arrhythmia, muscle weakness and can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
The most a healthy adult should take supplementally of magnesium is 350 mg per day.
WHERE DO WE GET MAGNESIUM?
Foods high in magnesium and potassium have a positive influence on blood pressure.
Hard water which is high in magnesium, calcium and flouride has the effect of protecting the heart. There are decreased mortality rates from heart attacks in places where people regularly consume hard water.
Higher dietary magnesium intake is positively correlated to increased bone density.
Magnesium sulfate is used to treat seizures resulting from the condition eclampsia which occurs in a low percentage of pregnant women and can cause death. The magnesium sulfate relieves blood vessel spasm in the brain increasing blood flow through the brain.
Magnesium supplements given to atherosclerosis patients helped to increase blood flow artery function by a 12% improvement rate.
Intraveneously administered magnesium sulfate has been shown to reduce the hospitalization of children suffering from severe asthma attacks by 71%. Oral supplements, however, do not have any effect or value in the management of the disease.