Magnesium is an essential mineral that is found in many different foods. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium is vital for more than 300 different chemical reactions that are necessary to keep the body working properly. Most people get the required amount of magnesium through food, but some individuals can benefit from taking magnesium supplements, which are commonly found in health food stores and pharmacies. However, you need to know the pros and cons before trying magnesium supplementation.
Magnesium is needed by every organ in the body, including the heart, muscles and kidneys. To begin, magnesium helps with the formation of your bones and teeth. It helps regulate levels of other minerals in the body, and is essential for energy production. Many foods contain magnesium, including whole grains, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Magnesium is also found in dairy products, chocolate, meats and coffee. Although magnesium is found in many different foods, magnesium deficiency is still commonly diagnosed in African Americans and the elderly.
In some cases, medical conditions can make it hard for the body to absorb magnesium. Some gastrointestinal diseases can also cause magnesium deficiency. Signs that you are deficient in magnesium include agitation, abnormal heart rhythm, low blood pressure, sleep disorders and muscle weakness. If severely deficient, muscle spasms, vomiting and seizures can occur.
In clinical trials, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help premenstrual syndrome, diabetes, chronic fatigue and asthma in children. In fact, magnesium supplements have been used to reduce the side effects of some cancer treatments. In one study, more than half of patients recovering from breast cancer experienced a significant reduction in fatigue, hot flashes and general distress compared to those taking a placebo.
Magnesium supplementation has also benefited individuals with heart conditions, such as high blood pressure, chest pain and irregular heart beat. As the focus of studies on diabetes, attention deficit disorder and migraine headaches, magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve symptoms in all of these disorders. Athletes also sometimes use magnesium supplements to increase energy, stamina and endurance.
With the list of conditions that magnesium supplements seem to help, it is surprising to note that there are also dangers associated with taking the important mineral, especially when taken on a regular basis. To begin, magnesium can cause side effects, including upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. For most people, up to 350 mg. of magnesium a day is safe. However, too much magnesium can cause a dangerous build- up of magnesium in the body, resulting in low blood pressure, confusion, respiratory distress, coma and even death.
In addition, people with kidney problems should avoid magnesium supplements, because your kidneys may not be able to clear excess magnesium from the body. Magnesium can also interfere with the absorption of some medications, including antibiotics, muscle relaxants, heart medicines and some diuretics.
Magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine and colon, so diarrhea is the most common side effect of magnesium supplementation. For most people, taking a magnesium supplement under your doctor’s direction is safe. However, individuals with kidney problems or a heart block should not take magnesium supplements. Low magnesium levels have been found in people with depression, diabetes and restless leg syndrome. However, more research is needed to confirm the connection.
There are several different types of magnesium available in the form of supplements. Recommended kinds include magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate and magnesium lactate, all of which are easily absorbed by the body. Magnesium supplementation may be helpful for a wide array of health conditions, but talk to your doctor first before treating yourself with magnesium supplements.
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/998.html
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium Supplements - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/magnesium-000313.htm