Dr. Chris Magryta: And now for a mini-course in micronutrients — Magnesium

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 3, 2016

I  have decided to write a weekly mineral and vitamin tutorial.

The children that I see in clinic are frequently insufficient in micronutrients. It is clear to me that Americans are consuming the wrong foods that leave our cells wanting micronutrients that we do not provide. Ultimately, our cells working on a half tank of fuel. Inefficient and dysfunctional!

Look at iron as an example. If you follow the RDA or registered dietary allowance, you will have enough iron to produce red blood cells adequately for survival.

What you don’t know is that you likely do not have enough for complete function.

The Institute of Medicine established the RDA level as a guide for micronutrient needs for the average human. At this level, however, many people are having neurologic issues and fatigue concerns.

Restless leg syndrome, parasomnias, brain fatigue, low core temperature, weakened immunity and general malaise are all associated with insufficient iron levels.

Based on this example we are going to look at all of the necessary micronutrients that a healthy diet should provide. We will look at the function of the mineral, the source in the diet, the dysfunctional state and also disruptors to sufficiency.

One common theme that you will find is that most micronutrients are found in vegetables and fruits. It is hard to get a deficiency or insufficiency state when consuming a lot of vegetables and fruits.

I do not believe that supplementation is the answer long term. Diet is the key. Use supplementation as a restorative plan until and when that diet is functional.

On that note, magnesium is a power mineral that will kick off this series below.


Magnesium: A major cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body! It is necessary in adequate levels for energy production, insulin function, protein synthesis and blood pressure regulation and muscle/nerve function. — every major system in the body.

And by the way, you need it to make DNA/RNA and glutathione (my personal favorite).

Magnesium is located about half in our bones and the other half in tissues. Our blood has less than 1%. Our kidneys keep the blood level of magnesium in tight control.

It is obvious that this mineral is insanely important to us! Where can we get it? The best healthy sources of mag are spinach, nuts, beans, oatmeal, avocado, soy, potato and banana. Fish, chicken and beef have reasonable amounts as well.

Insufficiency and deficiency occurs primarily in people with gastroenterological disorders (Crohns, celiac and ulcerative colitis), alcoholism, type 2 diabetes and a poor quality diet.

Medicines like antacid proton pump inhibitors, certain antibiotics and diuretics will lower magnesium levels.

Magnesium deficiency causes problems with blood pressure control and heart function. Osteoporosis is a long term consequence of chronic magnesium insufficiency.

Migraine headaches are associated with low magnesium levels. Diabetics lose more magnesium in their urine because of elevated blood sugar levels. The low magnesium in turn worsens insulin sensitivity. A vicious cycle.

We use it frequently in the emergency setting to save a life when someone is dying from a cardiac arrhythmia or asthma attack.

Insufficiency is also a problem for neurological function. Low magnesium levels are associated with increased anxiety, insomnia, constipation, ADD, IBS, chronic fatigue and a laundry list of other issues.

In order to absorb magnesium well, you need vitamin D and B6 as well as selenium and the amino acid taurine. This of course happens naturally when we eat vegetables, fruits and get sun exposure.

Take home point: if you feel mentally or physically tight, you are likely low in magnesium. Load up the nuts, organic spinach, salmon, organic soy and beans. Get out in the sun for 20 minutes daily without sunscreen.

If that does not work, take magnesium supplements like magnesium taurate or glycinate. Watch out for citrate — it can give you a nasty bout of #3.

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com


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