Magnesium was something I got asked a lot about when I blogged recently about the best digestive health supplements. It’s not a mineral we hear about often, but magnesium deficiency is actually becoming more common. It’s thought that the increase in bottled water consumption can lower Magnesium (since we’re drinking less tap water, which is so rich in it.) and it’s also linked to stress as high amounts of cortisol levels being released can deplete Magnesium levels. I won’t go into cortisol again here, but if you’re interested – go give my ‘stress and your digestion‘ blog post a read, it’s a really informative and you can win a cortisol testing kit too!).
You can enter the giveaway here
Anyway, this rise in deficiency is just the general population but of course, I wouldn’t be ‘a balanced belly’ if I didn’t uncover the gut connection! Let’s learn about the symptoms of Magnesium deficiency, the link to our guts and how we can overcome it.
How do I know if I am deficient in Magnesium?
Magnesium deficiency has lots of symptoms, noticeably:
- muscle cramps
- trouble sleeping
- numbness and tingling
Image source: www.speedyremedies.com
There are a lot more symptoms but these tend to be the most common. Most people tend to find magnesium a massive help for muscle cramps and sleeping. If you suspect you are deficient in Magnesium, then you can actually be tested for this on the NHS. It’s not routine procedure but I asked a doctor once to add it to my blood test form once and he happily obliged. As Magnesium competes with Calcium (meaning if one rapidly increases, the other may be depleted) and over supplementing might be problematic, I would recommend looking into getting a test first (Although the doses of most supplements are unlikely to cause problems, I just thought I’d mention).
How does Magnesium link to our digestion?
Magnesium links to our gut in several ways. Firstly, it’s responsible for relaxing the muscles in our intestines. Because of this, Magnesium (Magnesium Citrate in particular) is sometimes used as a laxative and can help people with constipation. This is because the mineral also attracts water and therefore can loosen the stool. However, for many of you reading this, you’re probably thinking that having a supplement that acts as a laxative if the last thing you need
Don’t worry because Magnesium’s connection to our gut goes beyond this. It’s thought the state of our gut plays a big role in how much magnesium we have as it is absorbed in the intestines and then transported through the blood to cells and tissues.Inflammatory Bowel Disease may cause our body to be depleted of Magnesium as if our gut is impaired, it is often more difficult to absorb minerals. In turn, those with chronic diarrhea often have low levels of Magnesium too. I mentioned in my tips for proper hydration post, that if we are dehydrated and have constant diarrhea, our electrolytes are often flushed out of the body: leaving us susceptible to both magnesium and potassium deficiency. Finally, going back to IBD, high levels of calcium supplementing can also cause Magnesium deficiency and this is often the case when patients are prescribed Calcium to compensate for side effects of Steriods treatment. Whilst Calcium is vital for bone health, Magnesium is vital for protecting against broken bones too.
As well as causing many side effects, Magnesium deficiency also appears to be linked to levels of inflammation in the body (those of us with IBD are often tested for CRP- a marker of this – in our blood tests.) Well, this study found that those who consumed less than the recommended Magnesium levels were 1.48-1.75 times more likely to have elevated levels of this inflammatory marker. It also found almost 68% of the samples were deficient in Magnesium, suggesting it’s more common than we think.
What can I do if I Think I am Deficient in Magnesium?
The first thing is obviously to try and get tested to confirm this. Then you can start looking at getting Magnesium back into your body.
Image source: www.ancient-minerals.com
As you can see, there are plenty of foods that are rich in Magnesium so this might be a good place to start! You may also want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of tap water and monitor the amount of calcium you supplements. You can take Magnesium supplements but I would wholeheartedly recommend Better You for this. To be clear, I do occasionally have advertisers on my blog but in this case, I am not being compensated in anyway to endorse Better You. I just am really passionate about their products as I think they are a real alternative for people like me who really struggle to digest normal supplements.
They have created a transdermal Magnesium that basically applies right on to the skin (through spray, lotion or foot bath) so it completely bypasses the digestive system altogether. While those with constipation, might prefer to take a supplement which will give them the added bonus of a laxative effect, this method should be much more suitable for those of us with IBD, diarrhea prominent IBS and short bowel syndrome.
In fact, they are currently in the process of undertaking the world’s first clinical study in conjunction with St. Marks Hospital which is looking at using transdermal magnesium as an alternative to IV magnesium infusions and subcutaneous injections for patients with short bowel stomas. It is in the early days of the study but they have explained that so far some of the patients have already seen an increase in Magnesium (Remember, these are patients who were already deficient in Magnesium and were on an infusions or injections for life so the possible scope for this is amazing!)
There’s a whole range of products but my favourites are…
I hope that helps!