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Magnesium- The Overlooked Electrolyte

Magnesium- The Overlooked Electrolyte

If you ask most people about electrolytes, they will usually respond with something about drinking a popular sports beverage (don’t do that by the way) or, maybe something about salt intake. What most people don’t realize is that sodium and potassium, the two most important electrolytes, need magnesium to be able to move in and out of our cells, making it equally important (National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, 2016).

That’s great but, what does that actually mean? It means that magnesium is an important cofactor in things like regulating your blood pressure, blood glucose, muscle and nerve function and, energy production. It helps transport calcium and is a factor in bone structural development. The majority of magnesium is found in your bones and soft tissues with less than 1% found in the blood. This makes it difficult to determine how much magnesium you actually have to help determine if you are deficient or, right on target (National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, 2016).  

How might you know that magnesium deficiency might be an issue for you? For starters, those who have gastrointestinal issues resulting from gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, Crohn’s, etc., because of chronic diarrhea and problems surrounding fat absorption have an increased risk of deficiency. Also, those who have frequent urination due to diet or, frequent urination due to type 2 diabetes have a loss of the mineral through urine excretion. Other diagnosed clinical conditions that might affect your magnesium levels include depression, dementia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, hypertension, PMS, atherosclerosis and many more (Perlmutter, 2016).

It also doesn’t take a medical condition to cause magnesium deficiency, deficiency can also be caused by several different types of medications; antibiotics, corticosteroids, antacids, blood pressure medication, acid blocking drugs, heart medications, ADHD medications, oral contraceptives and hormones all make that list (Perlmutter, 2016). 

If you suffer from any of the health issues, take any of the above-described medications or, suffer from unexplained fatigue, headaches, anxiety, weakness, bad mood, can’t sleep etc., you might want to get your magnesium levels checked. By some estimations, about 80% of Americans are deficient so, you might just want to check out it as a precaution and at it to your regular wellness routine! As we previously discussed, less than 1% of magnesium is found in your blood so, it is difficult to determine. You can take a magnesium serum test, however, it’s pretty useless so it’s best to make a determination with your primary care provider if you are at risk from any of the above mentioned (Mercola, 2015).

Let’s say you know you know you have an increased deficiency, what can you do to help? Nutritionally, you can increase your magnesium levels through things like almonds, spinach, cashews, pumpkin seeds, avocados (my favorite) and salmon. You can also increase your magnesium levels through supplementation. This can be a little tricky because a lot of magnesium you find in the marketplace can cause an upset stomach and other gastrointestinal issues. Although I personally am fine with supplementing with a magnesium salt (like magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide- the ones that could upset your tummy), you might want to stick with a magnesium supplement bound to an amino acid to minimize risk to your gut like magnesium arginate or magnesium lactate (Perlmutter, 2016). 


As always, the information provided is by no means meant to cure, diagnose or dissuade you to seek information from your primary care physician or healthcare provider. Always check with your primary care physician or healthcare provider before changing or adding to your normal health routine. Remember, anything related to your health and body is up for discussion; ask questions, make suggestions and ALWAYS have a conversation.  



Sandi Lanham, B.S.P.H

Naturopathic Physician Student

COO of Kentucky Life Realty

Partner of KASA Properties




Want to research some of the science for yourself (which I ALWAYS encourage….knowledge is power as the old adage says)? Here are a few resources/references to check out:

Barbaqallo, M. et.al. (2015). Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. World Journal of Diabetes. Retrieved https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549665/

Mercola, J (2015). Magnesium: An Invisible Deficiency That Could Be Harming Your Health. Mercola.com: Take Control of Your Health. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/19/magnesium-deficiency.aspx

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (2016). Magnesium, Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

Perlmutter, D (2016). Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms – What You Need to Know. David Perlmutter MD, Empowering Neurologist. Retrieved from http://www.drperlmutter.com/magnesium-deficiency-symptoms-causes-treatments/

Sartori, S., et.al. (2012). Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198864/

Tarleton, E. et.al. (2015). Magnesium Intake and Depression in Adults. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.jabfm.org/content/28/2/249.long

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