A deficiency in this critical nutrient makes you are twice as likely to die as other people, according to a study published in the journal "Critical Care."
It also accounts for a long list of symptoms and diseases -- which are easily helped and often cured by adding this nutrient.
In fact, in my practice, this nutrient is one of my secret weapons against illness.
Yet up to half of Americans are deficient in this nutrient and don't know it.
What is it?
I'm talking about magnesium.
It is an antidote to stress and the most powerful relaxation mineral.
I find it very funny that more doctors aren't clued in to the benefits of magnesium, because we use it all the time in conventional medicine.
But we never stop to think about why or how important it is to our general health or why it helps our bodies function better.
I remember using magnesium when I worked in the emergency room. It was a critical "medication" on the crash cart. If someone was dying of a life-threatening arrhythmia (or irregular heart beat), we used intravenous magnesium.
If someone was constipated or needed to prepare for colonoscopy, we gave them milk of magnesia or a green bottle of liquid magnesium citrate, which emptied their bowels.
If pregnant women came in with pre-term labor, or high blood pressure of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) or seizures, we gave them continuous high doses of intravenous magnesium.
But you don't have to be in the hospital to benefit from getting more magnesium.
Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral.
Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff -- whether it is a body part or an even a mood -- is a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Well, this critical mineral is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues -- but mainly, bone, muscle, and brain.
It is necessary for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax.
The list of conditions that are found related to magnesium deficiency is very long.
In fact, there are over 3,500 medical references on magnesium deficiency!
But this mineral is mostly ignored because it is not a drug, even though it is MORE powerful than drugs in many cases. That's why we use it in the hospital for life-threatening and emergency situations like seizures and heart failure.
You might be magnesium deficient if you have any of the following symptoms:
Magnesium deficiency has even has been linked to inflammation in the body and higher CRP levels.
So how bad is this problem?
In our society, it's huge.
By conservative standards of measurement (blood, or serum, magnesium levels), 65 percent of people admitted to the intensive care unit -- and about 15 percent of the general population -- have magnesium deficiency.
But this seriously underestimates the problem, because a serum magnesium level is the LEAST sensitive way to detect a drop in your total body magnesium level.
So rates of magnesium deficiency could be even higher!
Why are we so deficient?
The answer is simple: Many of us eat a diet that contains practically no magnesium -- a highly processed, refined diet that is based mostly on white flour, meat, and dairy (all of which have no magnesium).
When was the last time you had a good dose of sea vegetables (seaweed), nuts, greens, and beans? If you are like most Americans, your nut consumption mostly comes from peanut butter, and mostly in chocolate peanut butter cups.
Our processed diet contains almost no magnesium.
It is also often poorly absorbed and easily lost from our bodies.
A recent scientific review of magnesium concluded, "It is highly regrettable that the deficiency of such an inexpensive, low-toxicity nutrient results in diseases that cause incalculable suffering and expense throughout the world." (Med Hypotheses 2001 Feb; 56(2): 163-70)
To absorb magnesium we need a lot of it in our diet, plus enough vitamins B6 and D and selenium to get the job done.
Moreover, much of modern life conspires to help us lose whatever magnesium we get in our diet.
Magnesium levels are decreased by excess alcohol, salt, coffee, phosphoric acid in colas, profuse sweating, prolonged or intense stress, chronic diarrhea, excessive menstruation, diuretics (water pills), antibiotics and other drugs, and some intestinal parasites.
In fact, in one study in Kosovo, people under chronic war stress lost large amounts of magnesium in their urine.
It is difficult to measure and hard to study, but magnesium deficiency accounts for untold suffering -- and is simple to correct.
So if you suffer from any of the symptoms I mentioned or have any of the diseases I noted, don't worry -- it is an easy fix!!
==> Stop draining your body of magnesium.
* Limit coffee, colas, salt, sugar and alcohol
* Learn how to practice active relaxation
* Check with your doctor if your medication is causing magnesium loss (many high blood pressure drugs or diuretics cause loss of magnesium)
==> Eat foods high in magnesium.
* These include kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic
==> Take magnesium supplements.
* The RDA (the minimum amount needed) for magnesium is about 300 mg a day. Most of us get far less than 200 mg
* Some may need much more depending on their condition
* Most people benefit from 400 to 1,000 mg a day
* The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate, although magnesium bound to Kreb cycle chelates (malate, succinate, fumarate) are also good
* Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide. They are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements)
* Side effects from too much magnesium include diarrhea, which can be avoided if you switch to magnesium glycinate
* Most minerals are best taken as a team with other minerals in a multi-mineral formula
* Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is a good way to absorb and get much needed magnesium
* People with kidney disease or severe heart disease should take magnesium only under a doctor's supervision
So if you're coping with the symptoms here, relax! Magnesium is truly a miracle mineral.
Now I'd like to hear from you...
Do you suffer from any of the symptoms I've mentioned?
Do you currently take a magnesium supplement? What results have you noticed?
Which of the tips mentioned above do you plan to try?
Please click on the Add a Comment button below to share your thoughts.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.
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I was having periods of insomnia that were getting worse as I moved into perimenopause. About three weeks ago, I started taking calcium with added vitamin D and magnesium at night. Since then, I have slept wonderfully through the night. Even though I might get up to use the bathroom (the worst times for starting a sleepless cycle), I fall back to sleep very quickly. I would recommend this for women who might have similar sleep interruptions. I just hope this keeps working.
Dr.Hyman, thank you for your wonderful articles. It is a pleasant surprise to find commonsense articles that stress on simple healthy living and eating fresh natural food, coming from a medical practitioner. I would read all your articles if I had the time!
Re. magnesia; In my field of healing - energy medicine made from herbs and flowers (like the Bach Flower Remedies) - magnesia is one of the basic energies used to absorb bio-electric energy surges - exactly the sort of surges that are caused by stress, which can cause cells to lose their 'rebound' vitality.
I've never seen the phenomenon explained outside of my field till now! Thanks!
Thanks Doctor for you comprehensive article on magnesium. Over the years, I have endured stress, anxiety, tight muscles and fatigue. I recently started bathing in magnesium salts that come from Utah........I love them.... I sure dont have a problem sleeping after these baths!!! I wonder how long it will take for my body to get to a nice plateau with it? Right now I think I am making up for lost time! Thanks again. Nice to have a doctor with at least a little bit of a holistic slant! smile!~~~Suzanne in Tn