#027 Do You Have Any of These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

August 11th, 2014 by

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

You probably have no idea that you are currently suffering from magnesium deficiency. Indeed, studies show that up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.  Read on to see if you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Jill was a 45-year-old woman suffering from a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. It made no sense why someone so young should develop this heart condition as she didn’t have any of the usual atrial fibrillation risk factors.

The only tip-off as to the cause of her atrial fibrillation was that she was taking Prilosec for acid reflux, Lasix occasionally for leg swelling, and she was eating the “Standard American Diet.” Even though her magnesium levels came back normal on her blood test, I suspected a magnesium deficiency as the cause of her heart problem.

Interestingly, once I convinced her to replace all added sugars and processed foods with real foods which included a massive salad every day, she immediately lost 20 pounds without even trying. In no time at all her acid reflux was gone and she was off the Prilosec. Also, with no added sugars or processed foods, her legs no longer swelled so there was no further need of diuretics.

Best of all, she felt better than she had ever felt and her atrial fibrillation went away. As she made many lifestyle changes, it was impossible to know what exactly drove her atrial fibrillation into remission.

However, in my mind, I’m sure replacing her magnesium stores played a role. Continue reading to figure out how she boosted her magnesium stores.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

While you can test for magnesium deficiency, you probably don’t want the test your doctor orders. The reason for this is because the standard magnesium test only measures the magnesium in your blood.

As 99% of your magnesium is not freely floating around in your blood but rather is inside of your cells and bones, you need a better test for magnesium deficiency. Of the various ways to test for magnesium deficiency, probably the best is the RBC magnesium test. The RBC magnesium test measures the amount of magnesium inside of your red blood cells.

Who is at risk for magnesium deficiency?

Many things contribute to magnesium deficiency. For example, if you are under a lot of stress, you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  Those who love drinking filtered or bottled water also aren’t getting much magnesium. And processed foods are notorious for being completely absent of magnesium.

Other conditions contributing to magnesium deficiency include being overweight, diabetic, or over age 60. Likewise, many prescription medications like diuretics or acid-blocking medications are also keeping your magnesium levels dangerously low.

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

1. Weight Gain/Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for sugar or processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract. Contributing to a downward spiral, magnesium deficiency is a significant cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

Magnesium deficiency and depression go hand in hand.  Low magnesium stores lead to depression and people suffering from depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

Dental cavities and osteoporosis are two more signs of magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium affects vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a vital role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium in any form is an excellent laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease are linked to magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are widespread in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues may be due to magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

Cancer may be a wake-up call that magnesium levels are low. Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.  Processed foods are even worse when it comes to magnesium content.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very tough to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

The recommended daily amount of magnesium varies depending on your gender and age. Assuming there are no problems with magnesium absorption, you need about 400 mg of magnesium each day. If you can get at least 400 mg of magnesium daily from your water and food, you can start to enjoy the health benefits of magnesium.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be a major reason why heart disease is very uncommon, and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

To learn more about why China’s Longevity Village has the highest known concentration of centenarians in the world, please be sure to pick up a copy of our new book, The Longevity Plan.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard or mineral water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Embrace the stress in your life.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about medications that may be contributing to your magnesium deficiency like diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Practical Tips

As 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient, there is a high likelihood that you may be one of them. Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.

I know I used to be one of these people. Before my health transformation, I required Prilosec daily for acid reflux, ate the Standard American Diet, and was always stressed. These three things alone probably put me also into a state of magnesium deficiency.

Now, in addition to eating a diet very high in magnesium, I have found that taking a magnesium supplement before bed helps me to sleep. Indeed, medical studies show that magnesium supplementation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

If you suspect you may have a magnesium deficiency as well, correct anything that can be fixed to boost your magnesium stores. Also, speak with your physician about whether a magnesium supplement might be right for you.

If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and podcast. Also, to learn the secret to fantastic health at any age, please be sure to read our new book, The Longevity Plan.

#003 (UPDATED) Can Too Much Exercise be Bad for You?

May 24th, 2014 by

Can Too Much Exercise be Bad for You?

The modern day marathon was inspired after Pheidippides, a long distance running courier in ancient Greece. During two days he ran a total of 175 miles. On the last leg of his run, a 25 mile distance from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens, he died suddenly.

Can the same thing happen to us if we run too much?

Recent Headlines: Too Much Running is Dangerous

Did you see the recent news reports that too much running is dangerous?  What is the science behind these headlines?

These headlines came from a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  In this study, researchers from Copenhagen reported their findings of 5,048 joggers and non-joggers who they had followed for 12 years.

Results of the The Copenhagen City Heart Study

Here are the key findings of this study which caught the attention of the news media:

1. The most intense runners had the same risk of dying as the coach potatoes.

2. Light joggers who jogged between 1 and 2.4 hours each week, for no more than 3 times each week, at a slow to moderate pace were the least likely to die.

3. Moderate joggers did not survive as well as the light joggers.

4. Running faster than 7 mph, jogging for 2.5 hours or more each week, or jogging more than 3 times per week increased the risk of premature death in this study.

Can we believe the results of the Copenhagen City Heart Study?

For the runners reading this article, like me, our first question is how reliable are these data?  And, just what is the optimal dose of running?

Like most medical studies, this study was definitely not perfect.  For example, there were only 47 joggers in the group that jogged the most (more than 4 hours a week).

In this small group of 47 joggers in this study who ran more than 4 hours a week there was only one death.  Had that one person not have died during the study then the results would have been completely different.

Interestingly, this study did not even report what this one runner even died from.  For all we know he could have died in a car crash that had nothing to do with his love of running.

While we can certainly poke holes in the conclusion of this study, this study is in line with a growing body of research that shows that extreme levels of exercise may be dangerous to our health.  The only difference between this study and the other studies is that this study reported that even low levels of exercise (jogging for more than 2.5 hours per week) conferred an added risk of death.

Can what happened to Pheidippides happen today?

For better or worse, too much exercise is something that 99% of the American public never needs to worry about. In fact, knowing that less than 5% of Americans even get enough exercise according to pedometer studies I hesitated even writing this article.

I recently read the epic masterpiece by Christopher McDougall entitled “Born to Run” (affiliate link) which reignited within me my passion for marathon running.  A number of years ago during my health crisis I had to give up running due to severe knee pain.  Since completely changing my lifestyle I was able to reverse my knee pain in addition to many other medical conditions.

Prior to becoming a cardiologist, I had run 5 marathons including the legendary New York City Marathon twice. You will notice the photo of my 1992 New York City Marathon finish.

Yes, I am the totally depleted guy without a shirt at the finish line. I remember as a child running in our neighborhood and dreaming of winning the Olympic Marathon for USA, however, from my marathon time you will notice that I never quite qualified…

Now that I have completely regained my health and am able to run again I would love to train for another marathon.  However, as a cardiologist, I have to question if marathon running, or any ultra endurance event, is really the best thing for my health. Outside of the wear and tear on our joints from marathon running, just what is happening to the heart?

Phidippides Cardiomyopathy

Interestingly, there is now a cardiac condition called Phidippides Cardiomyopathy. In this condition, the heart enlarges, weakens, and becomes very susceptible to a cardiac arrest after extreme levels of exercise.

Indeed, studies have shown that marathon runners experience transient enlargement of their hearts after a marathon.  Other studies have shown that 13% of marathon runners permanently “scar” their hearts.

It is not just marathon runners who are at risk. Studies have also shown endurance cyclists and cross-country skiers are also at risk of cardiac complications.  For example, endurance athletes often have cardiac enzymes, from cardiac cell death, in their blood following an endurance race.  It should be pointed out that cardiac enzymes in the blood is an ominous finding and is one of the ways we diagnose a heart attack when anyone, usually non-athletes, when they present to the emergency room with chest discomfort.

Fortunately, the vast majority of these cases of Phidippides Cardiomyopathy completely resolve. However, in a small subset of people they actually go on to develop heart failure. In addition to Phidippides Cardiomyopathy, endurance athletes also appear to be predisposed to developing a dangerous arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation.

Tragically, one of the key characters in Christopher McDougall’s book, Caballo Blanco, an ultra marathoner, died of a cardiac arrest while running just 3 years after the book was published.  At autopsy he was found to have an enlarged heart and likely also developed Phidippides Cardiomyopathy after a life-time of ultra marathoning.

They Don’t “Exercise” in China’s Longevity VillagePeasants on their way to work in the morning in the village of Poyue

When we discussed the concept of exercise to the residents of China’s Longevity Village on our last visit, they found the whole Western concept of exercise quite strange.  In fact, if you ask them they will tell you that they “never exercise.”

How can they escape most of the Western diseases like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, obesity, etc. and yet never exercise?  The answer is really quite simple.  They are physically active all day, every day farming by hand.  They do experience short periods of high intensity training like when they need to carry a 50-70 pound basket of produce on their backs while walking up the side of a mountain.

Their form of “exercise” is very gentle and does not stress the joints.  Could this be why none of them had undergone joint replacement surgery but yet could walk without a limp even at an age of more than 100 years old?

How Much Should We Exercise?

Just how much exercise should we aim for?  Let me share with you four simple strategies that I recommend for my patients.

1. Make it a daily habit.

Commit to 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 15 minutes of high intensity exercise each day.  If you think about it, 15 minutes over the course of a day really is not much time.  Even the busiest of people can carve 15 minutes out of the day to protect their health.

2. Find an exercise you enjoy.

It doesn’t matter what you do for exercise as long as you enjoy it. Unfortunately, half of all people who start an exercise program quit within 6 months.

The key, therefore, to making exercise stick is to find something that you enjoy.  Exercise does not mean just going to the gym.  Personally, I hate the gym and have not spent anytime in a gym for years.

Rather, exercise could be dancing, walking, skiing, hiking, or just about anything that moves your body.  Even better is to mix up your exercise routine to minimize the risk of injury and work different muscle groups.

3. Have a Work Out Partner or Track Your Work Outs

Studies show that those who exercise with others are more likely to be successful.  If you don’t have anyone you can exercise with then track your work outs.  Studies show that either approach will increase your chances of making daily exercise a lifelong habit.

4. 10,000 Steps

In addition to exercise, it is also just as important to remain physically active throughout the day. Studies have shown that people who sit for most of the day (i.e. desk jobs), cannot reverse the ill effects of sitting all day even if they exercise vigorously each day.

For example, if you sit more for more than 3 hours a day then you lose 2 years of life according to this study.  When we sit our large muscle groups are at rest which leads to changes in our body’s metabolism and how we process glucose.

10,000 steps represent the equivalent of walking approximately 5 miles.  I have found that even my elderly patients can log 10,000 steps a day.  Just the act of tracking your steps causes you to take an extra 2,000 steps (1 extra mile) without even knowing it.

With thoughts of the Copenhagen City Heart Study and Phidippides Cardiomyopathy in my mind, I think I will hold off on training for any more marathons. Do you agree?

What is your preferred form of exercise?

Please note that this article was revised and updated on February 6, 2015.