Practitioner Corner: Helping Clients with Magnesium Deficiencies

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Practitioner Corner: Helping Clients with Magnesium Deficiencies

by | Dec 8, 2016 | 0 comments

With the many festivities around all the different holidays occurring this time of year, many of your clients likely don’t get enough sleep. We know from vast amounts of research that poor sleep causes all kinds of health problems, including hormonal imbalances.  This impacts energy levels and cognitive functions, and even unhealthy weight gain.

One thing I often recommend to help with sleep is to eat more magnesium-rich foods. Along with increasing your client's magnesium intake, I have other sleep related suggestions and protocols that will give you simple action steps that your client can easily add to their daily routine.

However, magnesium has many other important health benefits beyond helping as a sleep aid.

Magnesium is important for hormone metabolism, a healthy heart, and muscles, as well as for the growth and maintenance of strong bones.

Diets rich in magnesium are also associated with a significantly lower risk of diabetes (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health).

Magnesium is required for the synthesis of DNA! It is important to nerve impulse conduction (including maintaining a normal heart rhythm).

In fact, it's a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions throughout the body! And it helps with intestinal motility, and keeps stool moving through the intestines.

Many of us are deficient

Magnesium is deficient in many modern people who eat refined foods. Approximately 70% of the United States population suffers magnesium deficiency, which is considered one of the most under-diagnosed deficiencies – yet one so easily solved.

Many adults don't get enough magnesium in their daily diets. So, as a practitioner, it's important that you ensure your client is getting enough by eating magnesium-rich foods and/or taking supplements.

As an added note, taking in enough and absorbing it are also two different things! Many people may eat seemingly healthy green foods, but for a variety of reasons – including poor lifestyle choices – they're not absorbing enough of it into their blood stream for their body to use.

And magnesium is just one several minerals that most people aren't getting enough of.

So why are we, as a nation, so “mineral deficient”?

There are a number of reasons why Americans are prone to certain mineral deficiencies.  The primary culprits are how the food is farmed, the number of toxins the food is exposed to, and the lack of nutrient density in the typical Western diet.

Conventional farming

Your client may be eating supposedly healthy foods, like green veggies, but still not getting adequate minerals such as magnesium. So what could be going on?

The quantity of quality nutrients in many of our foods has really suffered through the years in large part due to conventional farming practices.

The soil is depleted of many minerals. Unlike organic farming where there is crop rotation, conventional farms don't rotate most crops and also don’t let land rest to rebuild natural nutrients.

They do put some minerals back, but only the cheap ones, while they throw in a few toxic chemicals, like weed killers, too! This means that the soil becomes depleted of many minerals.

Organic farming practices replenish these minerals, and also don’t introduce toxins, using all organic matter.

The Western diet

The typical American diet is also to blame. Diets high in acid residue rob the body of magnesium. A diet that is high in sugary processed foods or alternatively, one that is low in alkaline foods such as vegetables, can lead to deficiencies as well.  There are many versions of acid/alkaline food charts that could be helpful to you in coaching your clients on balanced dietary choices.

Other issues resulting in deficiencies

Prescriptions and OTC acid-suppressing medicine side effects: These and other medications reduce mineral absorption. Antibiotics and artificial hormones found in meat and poultry products, too, can reduce the appropriate stomach acids. This is a key question to ask your client: What prescriptions are they taking, and how often do they take acid-suppressing medications? You'll likely find that many of your clients routinely take medications that disrupt mineral absorption.

Prevalence of leaky-gut (damaged intestinal lining): Leaky gut reduces the absorption of key nutrients. It' often the result of eating known food allergens like gluten or dairy. Leaky gut also can be a side effect of all of your clients’ unhealthy holiday vices, such as sugar, unhealthy carbs/processed foods, and alcohol.

Stress: Stress impacts your digestive process and reduces the absorption of key nutrients. Read an in-depth discussion of what happens to your digestion when your body is stressed out here.

An aging America: As the baby-boomers age, we’ll see even more signs of magnesium deficiencies because magnesium absorption decreases with age, and renal excretion of the mineral also increases with age.

Older people may not eat as healthy a diet, full of fresh veggies and organic foods, due to difficulties just accessing it. Many older adults are also on medications that interfere with mineral absorption, or they may have chronic diseases which impact absorption, such as diabetes and gut-related chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease.

Why do I recommend magnesium to my clients?

Magnesium has the many health benefits already mentioned, such as strong bones, nerves and muscles.  

In addition, I use it as part of the lifestyle and food plans I recommend for a wide-variety of health issues:

  • Heartburn relief
  • Migraine therapy (affects vasoconstriction): People who experience migraine headaches have lower levels of serum and tissue magnesium.
  • Reducing constipation and detox support: The popular OTC laxatives out on the market contain magnesium because it stimulates peristalsis.
  • Pain reduction: Given post-surgery, magnesium appears to delay pain.
  • PMS: magnesium may improve bloating, migraines, and moodiness.

In addition, there is research that shows that magnesium can help prevent a variety of health disorders and chronic diseases:

  • Increases bone mineral density: Worth repeating! Some 60% of the body’s magnesium reserve is contained in the bones, and studies have found positive associations between its intake and the bone mineral density of both men and women.
  • Prevents heart attacks: Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker that may help prevent heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmia.
  • Reduces the risk of stroke: Higher magnesium intake may reduce the risk of stroke. In an analysis of 7 trials with over 200,000 participants, an increase in magnesium to 100 mg/day in the diet was associated with an 8% decreased risk of total stroke.
  • Lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes: Diets higher in magnesium are associated with a significantly lower risk of diabetes. Researchers think this may be due to the role of magnesium in glucose metabolism. Note that magnesium may not have an effect on people who already have been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Fibromyalgia relief: Taking magnesium citrate has been shown to provide relief.
  • Colon cancer: Research shows that magnesium is linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.
  • There are many other far-ranging medical uses, from asthma treatment to treating preeclampsia seizures.

How to determine if your client needs more magnesium?

Testing magnesium levels is difficult because most of it is in your bone and the rest in your body tissue. Only about 1 percent of your magnesium is actually in your blood.

The best measure of magnesium is red blood cell levels (RBC Magnesium). 

Instead of testing, look to see if the individual is in a higher-risk group: This consists of older people having leaky gut/other gut disorders or chronic health issues. Additional risk is seen in people who don't eat organic vegetables or who don't eat an abundance of magnesium rich foods, people eating highly processed foods/acidic diets, alcoholics,  and people exhibiting symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Some symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
  • Sleep disorders
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms or muscle weakness
  • Poor nail growth
  • Restless leg syndrome

How much magnesium does your client need?

The RDA requirements are:

  • Adult males – RDA: 400 mg daily (420 mg daily after the age of 30).
  • Adult females – RDA: 310 mg daily (320 mg daily after the age of 30)

If your client is showing signs of having magnesium deficiency or is in a high risk group, you can recommend they increase their intake of foods that are high in magnesium. I usually try this before suggesting supplements.

Foods high in magnesium


An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber.

Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. In a number of economically poor countries, people consume a great deal of magnesium in legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), vegetables – especially the green variety, and most whole grains and seeds. It should be noted that animal products are not abundant in magnesium compared with plant sources. Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.

Sea vegetables are also a good source of minerals.

I always prefer people get their nutrients through the actual foods they eat versus using supplements. Keep in mind, though, that only as much as 40% of the dietary magnesium that people consume is actually absorbed by the body. So eating higher amounts of magnesium-rich foods may not be enough.

Magnesium supplementation

If you feel your client is not getting adequate magnesium from his/her diet, you can discuss supplementation. You do need to start with a small dosage and increase slowly to avoid inducing loose stools.  

Note that some medications do not combine well with too much magnesium (you can see some info on medication interactions here). In fact, by doing a bit of research you might find that the medications are the culprits for the magnesium deficiency in the first place.

Be sure to run the supplement plan by your client’s doctor, especially if they are on prescriptions or under treatment for a chronic medical condition.

People should not take magnesium supplements with food as magnesium is alkalizing and can impact the stomach acid from doing its job. I recommend magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium taurate, or magnesium chelate. These are thought to be the best for absorption.

Magnesium Oil is a highly concentrated, liquid form of magnesium chloride (MgCl2). Magnesium chloride in the form of magnesium oil is ideal for use in transdermal applications because it is rapidly absorbed through the skin, and therefore rapidly can elevate low or depleted levels of magnesium in the body.

Magnesium oil can safely, effectively, and rapidly increase magnesium levels in tissues. Magnesium chloride may be applied as a solution (e.g., magnesium oil) directly on skin (diluted or undiluted), added to a lotion, and used in a bath or footbath.

Magnesium chloride is the preferred form of magnesium because the body easily absorbs it and retains it. For example, magnesium sulfate, which can be administered transdermally as a solution (i.e., epsom salts) is not as readily absorbed or retained because the body recognizes and prefers magnesium chloride.

Do you check your clients for magnesium deficiency?

How do you help them to increase this critical mineral in their diets?

If you would like to learn more about this micronutrient – as well as so many others – I welcome you to apply to the Nutritional Endocrinology Practitioner Training program.

Our Micronutrient Module alone is 30 hours. It includes many done-for-you materials to help you in your business. After you apply, you will have a chance to schedule a time to talk and learn more about this amazing training to help not only your business but your clients.

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