Guest Blogger Dr. Carolyn Dean has been in the forefront of health issues for over 30 years and is one of the world's leading experts on magnesium. She is a medical doctor, naturopath, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, and inventor, who has authored and co-authored over 35 books including The Magnesium Miracle, IBS for Dummies, Hormone Balance, Death by Modern Medicine, and 110 Kindle books. She is passionate about helping people of all ages achieve optimal health by taking a holistic approach to wellness.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a necessary cofactor utilized by 700-800 enzyme systems that perform vital metabolic functions in the body. It took me a whole book, The Magnesium Miracle, to describe the intricacies of magnesium physiology. After reading that book, you’ll agree that miracle is the most suitable word to describe a mineral so powerful that when it is deficient an alarming number of symptoms and conditions can result such as: acid reflux, adrenal fatigue, angina, anxiety, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, constipation, depression, diabetes type 2, fibromyalgia, headaches, heart attacks, IBS, insomnia, kidney stones, migraines, muscle spasms, nerve twitches, osteoporosis, PMS, seizures, and more.
I’ve just listed many chronic conditions that people are suffering from today, yet has your doctor ever told you to take magnesium? “The answer is probably no.” That’s because nutrients are not taught in medical school and mainstream medicine remains blind to the extent of magnesium deficiency that is reported to be present in 70-80 percent of the population.
Magnesium Begins with Children
Magnesium was not a topic in my two hours of nutrition classes during my four years in medical school, and it never came up in my clinical work in the hospital. Except for one time. In my third year, I was observing in obstetrics, and a young woman was about to deliver twins. However, her blood pressure was rising, she was bloated with fluid retention, and she was convulsing, with fluid building up in her brain. I wondered what they could give her to stop the seizures, bring down her blood pressure, and get rid of the edema, all while not harming her babies.
Before I knew it, the attending physician ordered an IV bag of magnesium to drip into her veins, and shortly after, her blood pressure came down; she stopped having seizures and started eliminating fluid. It was a monumental experience for me, knowing that the mother and baby were safe because of magnesium! Since I was already studying nutrition on my own, I also began wondering why magnesium wasn’t the first line of therapy for fluid retention, high blood pressure, and seizures for everyone.
Magnesium is a vital component of a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Having enough magnesium during pregnancy can improve the health of our children from day one, but the need for it begins before birth. In a magnesium-deficient woman, magnesium can prevent premature contractions, eclampsia, and greatly reduce the risk of a child suffering cerebral palsy and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Magnesium in effective dosages should be a required supplement for pregnant women.
There are magnesium deficiency symptoms in pregnancy and childbirth that are thought to be normal: constipation, leg cramps, backaches, fluid retention, irritability, and insomnia, to name a few. It’s not normal to have these symptoms; instead, it means that these women are not taking enough magnesium.
Therefore, the requirement for magnesium begins from day one of conception and continues through life. Let’s explore the reasons we aren’t getting enough of this important mineral and what we can do about it.
Excess Calcium Depletes Magnesium
A picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look at the following video explaining the crucial balance of magnesium and calcium. It’s on The Nutritional Magnesium Association website (where I serve on the Medical Advisory Board). The video is called A Look Inside the Cell by Andrea Rosenoff PhD (The video is under the heading Calcium Magnesium Balance).
We’re living in a calcified world, and I’ll tell you why. Magnesium controls electrical cell-to-cell communication, allowing the correct amount of calcium to enter a cell to create cell contraction. This may be one of the hardest tasks set for magnesium, because the level of calcium outside our cells can be tens of thousands of times the safe level allowed inside the cell. Magnesium’s job is made even more difficult by so many people taking extra calcium in supplement form and ingesting it in dozens of fortified foods and drinks. They don’t realize they need equal amounts of magnesium in the body to bring calcium into proper balance.
Magnesium Deficiency Conditions
In the first edition of The Magnesium Miracle, I listed over twenty conditions that are scientifically proven to be associated with magnesium deficiency. The second edition contains sixty-five. These conditions affect both sexes, but women seem to suffer more from magnesium deficiency than men.
Drs. Burton and Bella Altura, two world-renowned magnesium researchers who wrote the foreword to The Magnesium Miracle, have produced over 1,000 research papers on magnesium. They said that, in spite of their enormous body of research, the message about rampant magnesium deficiency in the population has never translated into clinical application, and they wanted the message to get out. They especially wanted to alert women to the dangers of magnesium deficiency that can begin in the womb.
Magnesium and Muscles
Magnesium relaxes muscle cells and calcium contracts them. Magnesium allows a small amount of calcium into a cell and then forces it out. It’s a simple dynamic that occurs in our bodies every millisecond of every minute, and it’s via the muscles that most people learn about magnesium.
We have muscle spasms, muscle twitching, and painful charley horses that turn our calf muscles into rocks when we stretch and turn into muscle aches and pains. We learn to live with them. Then we read about magnesium or hear about it from a friend or a chiropractor, and we use Epsom salts in a bath or take a magnesium pill, causing our muscles to sigh in relief.
Magnesium is to plant chlorophyll as iron is to human hemoglobin. In our body, chlorophyll—with its gift of magnesium—supplies the means to create life-giving energy in our cells. On a practical level, this means that magnesium helps oxygenate our muscles. Also, our cells utilize energy packets called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) with the help of magnesium in 6 of the 8 steps in the Krebs Cycle. Animal studies proved that decreased exercise capacity could be an early sign of magnesium de?ciency. When given magnesium, their endurance was restored. Most human studies confirm that any form of exercise depletes magnesium. We sweat it out and stress it out, leading to a need for extra magnesium to neutralize lactic acid.
In fact, it is the most important nutrient for athletes to enhance performance, prevent lactic acid build up, and shorten recovery time. Overworked muscles produce free radicals and magnesium aids in the production of glutathione, the body’s super antioxidant. If muscles are deficient in magnesium, they become irritated and on edge, developing tics, twitches, and outright spasms. If you are feeling generally irritated and on edge, magnesium deficiency may be the cause. When you have sufficient magnesium, your muscles are relaxed and your whole body feels calm.
Many of my clients and customers are former athletes who have sweated out and not fully replaced their magnesium stores in years. Even though they are strong competitors and stars in their field, they become anxious and suffer panic attacks as their bodies develop a level of tension and irritability that they can’t decipher. Taking their symptoms to a doctor, they are usually given a prescription of Xanax for anxiety, Prozac or Wellbutrin, and an antipsychotic. In some cases, they are given all three.
Musicians are often as active as athletes in their work. Muscle cramps, anxiety, insomnia, focal dystonia, fatigue, migraines, insomnia, and stress can plague even the most accomplished musician. The treatment for all these conditions is magnesium.
In my experience, fibrositis, ?bromyalgia, and chronic neck and back pain may be partly caused by magnesium de?ciency and can be relieved with magnesium supplements to a great extent.
Magnesium and Heart Disease
Magnesium de?ciency is very common in people with heart disease. In hospitals where doctors understand the importance of magnesium, it is administered for acute myocardial infarction and cardiac arrhythmia. Like any other muscle, the heart requires magnesium. Magnesium is also used to treat angina, or chest pain.
The epidemic of heart disease in women may have its origins in the excessive intake of medically prescribed calcium. In fact, several studies in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently proved that women who take calcium supplements have a higher risk of heart disease, stemming from calcium deposits in their arteries.
When heart muscle cells have too much calcium on the inside, they can go into a life-threatening spasm that we call “heart attack.” When they have enough magnesium, the heart muscle cells relax. The prescription medication to prevent calcium build-up is called a “calcium channel blocker.” Nature’s calcium channel blocker is magnesium; it’s the guardian angel of the heart. The most commonly used drugs in high blood pressure are diuretics. The irony of using diuretics is that they deplete the body of magnesium.
I’ve just scratched the surface of magnesium. If you would like a free chapter of The Magnesium Miracle to learn more, just go to MagMircle.com.