With the change of every season, it seems that I get a migraine that will not go away. In all truth, it is probably more like a sinus headache that triggers a migraine – something I am very prone to anyway. Because I made a concerted effort to rid myself of all unnecessary prescription medications and to fight all ailments at home first this year with alternative medications, I headed to my local health food store when one such “migraine” struck this past fall before I picked up the phone to call my doctor.
“Magnesium,” said the very helpful clerk. “This is what most people take when they have chronic migraines. It seems that migraneurs are very low in magnesium.”
I was desperate, and he was friendly, so I paid the thirty-plus dollars for the cylindrical tube of magnesium powder and hoped for the best. It did, indeed, make me feel more relaxed, and I am often deficient in iron, calcium and Vitamin D. I have an idiopathic (unknown) absorption problem with certain vitamins and minerals in my body. I just don’t keep them no matter what I do, outside of an IV infusion at the hospital. So, I figured it could very well be possible that I also had a deficiency in magnesium. However, I worried about an overdose of unnecessary minerals as well, so I dove into research on the subject of magnesium deficiency in Americans.
First, I asked my doctor who told me that, yes; Americans are very deficient in the fresh vegetables that usually carry large amounts of magnesium. “We just eat a lot of junk,” he said. “So we don’t get a lot of anything that we really need.”
And he was right. According to the National Institutes of Health, most Americans do not eat enough fresh vegetables in order to get the right amount of magnesium into their diets. But how important is magnesium? Turns out the clerk at the health food store was also right. Humans cannot live without a proper amount of magnesium. To be magnesium-deficient means to be deficient in the 4th most abundant mineral in the body – 50%of which belong to the bones, with the other 50% belonging to the cells and organ tissues. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It is the mineral that maintains normal muscle, nerve, heart rhythm, blood sugar, and blood pressure function. Fairly vital aspects to human living.
According to a 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, most Americans are well below the necessary amount of magnesium needed to maintain a healthy diet. African-Americans are especially at risk for dangerously low levels of magnesium. Considering the extremely high risk of heart disease among African-Americans, it is even more important that this population group have their magnesium levels checked periodically. Magnesium is needed in the regulation of hearth rhythm and blood pressure – two vital aspects of heart health.
The average 30 year old adult male needs 400 mg of magnesium a day. While a 30 year old adult female needs much less – only 320 mg a day. The need varies with pregnancy.
But are we Americans actually deficient?
While magnesium is not a large part of the American diet, the National Institutes of Health, state that most Americans are not truly “magnesium deficient”, but rather, there is a high prevalence of sub-optimal magnesium stores found in most Americans. And even at pre full-blown deficiency levels, low magnesium stores, can already begin resulting in symptoms which can be strongly felt. Fatigue is a major hindrance in some who suffer from low magnesium stores. Often, women will begin to feel strong muscles cramps, and the symptoms of Fibromyalgia will often feel much stronger in those with low levels of magnesium.
Diseases of the kidneys and bowels can severely interfere with magnesium absorption. Thus, those who suffer from conditions like Crohn’s Disease and frequent kidney stones should regularly ask their doctors to check their magnesium levels for signs of store and deficiency levels.
There are a number of factors that result in magnesium deficiency. Among the causes are – some medication usage (especially antibiotics), absorption problems, low levels of potassium and calcium, and old age – which appear to be the number one risk factor for magnesium deficiency or low magnesium stores. Supplementation is available by prescription and even over the counter in high quality health food stores.
Some studies are currently being encouraged in the US regarding magnesium and hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and, yes, even migraines. This mineral is no hype. It is more than necessary to get the correct amount of magnesium in order to live a long and health life. Get your magnesium checked today!
Sources: National Institutes of Health, World’s Healthiest Foods, Linus Paulis Institute at the University of Oregon