While there is more information in the media nowadays about magnesium deficiency – and about warning signs and symptoms associated with this condition – there is still a lot that is not commonly known about this common nutritional problem. However, understanding more about the importance of this mineral to the body – as well as unusual symptoms and ways to treat it – can help to treat this problem.
A Word about Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to your health – and researchers estimate that it is needed for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. Among other important functions, magnesium is necessary for proper muscle function, maintaining energy levels and blood pressure regulation among other potential issues.
Unfortunately, though it is a vital nutrient, it is also one which is increasingly rare in the American diet. This is because highly processed foods tend to be magnesium-poor and caffeine and alcohol can deplete magnesium levels even further. In addition to this there are a whole slew of medical conditions which can lead to this problem, including digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism.
In short, there are many risk factors for magnesium deficiency.
One of the reasons that it can be so hard to diagnose is because of the wide range of signs and symptoms that can result from this problem. These symptoms can also range from mild to severe depending on the individual patient, which also makes them hard to detect. The most common ones are muscle weakness and pain or cramping, numbness or tickling in the hands and feet due to the fact that magnesium is needed for proper nerve function. If the magnesium deficiency goes on for a long time, osteoporosis can also result.
However, it this problem can manifest itself in other, more unusual ways that people do not always know about.
Unusual Symptoms of Low Magnesium Levels
Here are some symptoms of low magnesium levels that you might not be aware of but that could be serving as warning that you are suffering from this nutritional deficiency. Knowing what they are is important so that you know when it is time to discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Abnormal Eye Movements or Difficulty Swallowing
While muscle cramps and achiness are often cited as a common sign of low magnesium levels, there are other muscular symptoms that you might not be aware of. Dr. Maxwell’s site notes that abnormal eye movements or difficulty swallowing can also be caused by magnesium deficiency because it affects the muscles around the eyes and throat; this kind of symptom should be reported to the doctor.
Livestrong notes that while it is not a common symptom, patients with low magnesium levels – particularly women – have reported digestive problems including a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. However, this is often no reported to the doctor since it is often mistaken for signs of a stomach flu or other common ailment.
The tingling and numbness associated with magnesium deficiency is not the only neurological symptom you need to worry about. Livestrong also reports that while seizures don’t normally occur unless that case of magnesium deficiency is severe, they are possible. This is because when magnesium levels get too low, they can cause too much electrical activity in the brain.
Hair Loss and Brittle Nails
If you find that your hair is thinning or if you noticed a lot of it in your hairbrush after you have been brushing your hair and that your nails are brittle or easily broken, this might seem like more of an inconvenience or annoyance than something to worry about. However, it can also be an indication that you don’t have sufficient stores of magnesium.
Treating a Magnesium Deficiency
The good news is that while a magnesium deficiency can be serious, it is also very treatable. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 420 mg for men and 320mg for women which can be obtain through supplements or through the diet (or both). The best dietary sources for magnesium include leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale or arugula, nuts, meats and whole grain products. Neither supplements nor diet changes will help overnight, but with time, they can help restore magnesium levels in the body to a normal range.
In short, magnesium deficiency is more common than people realize – and also harder to detect, which is unfortunate since the consequences of it in the long term can be so severe. And while understanding some of the more common symptoms is a good idea, it is also good to know what the more unusual ones are to expect so that they can be reported to a medical professional.
About the Author
Brian W. Wu holds a PhD from the University of Southern California and is a current 4th year medical student. He has been freelance writing for over 4 years and aims to make health an engaging conversation. Learn more about him at his personal site and his project Health Stories for Kids.