How You Might Be Depleting Your Body’s Magnesium Levels

METERagnesium is not exactly sexy. It’s not like protein, fiber, or even vitamin C, but that doesn’t make it any less critical.

“Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 processes in the human body,” says functional medicine doctor Kien Vuu, MD. Nearly all organ systems require magnesium to function at an optimal level, so it is particularly concerning that researchers estimate that approximately 75% of the US population is magnesium deficient.

And that is not the end. Vuu says our magnesium levels tend to decline as we age, a fact made worse by the reality that magnesium deficiency is difficult to diagnose through testing because most of it is found in cells and bones. “Diagnostic tests only test for magnesium in serum, which only makes up about 0.3 percent of total body magnesium. Special micronutrient tests for magnesium are required for accurate results.”

Functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, MD, recently shared that in addition to the fact that many of us don’t get enough magnesium in our daily diets, there are a few ways we could unknowingly be depleting what little magnesium stores we have. we have. “Much of modern life conspires to help us lose what little magnesium we get in our diet,” Dr. Hyman said on his Instagram. “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”.

This is valuable advice, because it gives us the opportunity to act. The three key ways Dr. Hyman recommends for us to stop unknowingly draining our bodies of magnesium include limiting our intake of coffee, cola, salt, sugar, and alcohol⁣; learn to practice active relaxation⁣; and check with your doctor if his medication is causing magnesium loss. “Many high blood pressure medications or diuretics cause magnesium loss,” adds Dr. Hyman.

To learn more about the ways we might be unknowingly lowering our body’s magnesium levels and what we can do about it, we reached out to a registered dietitian for her expert insight.

Magnesium malabsorption, which can be caused by a medical condition or procedure

According to Brookell White, MS, RD and nutrition consultant for MyFitnessPal, this is common in people with a gastrointestinal disease or who have had a GI procedure, because chronic diarrhea and fat malabsorption are common symptoms and can lead to exhaustion. of magnesium. “Some conditions where this is common are Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, chronic inflammation of the bowel regions, and a resection or bypass to the upper region of the GI tract,” says White.

alcohol dependence

Many ailments caused by chronic alcohol use contribute to magnesium loss or malabsorption. “This includes poor magnesium intake, vomiting, diarrhea, problems with fat absorption, increased loss in the urine, and other nutrient deficiencies that increase magnesium malabsorption,” explains White. And we’re not just talking about binge drinking, according to The consumption of white alcohol, even moderate, can contribute to magnesium deficiency.

chronic stress

Hormones are often released in the body in response to stress, leading to increased magnesium outside of our cells. “When this happens, more magnesium is excreted in the urine, causing further loss. If this is repeated over time, this can lead to lower magnesium levels,” says White. She suggests maintaining a consistent exercise regimen, prioritizing time to wind down before bed, and eating a balanced diet as a way to combat this.


While we can try to be proactive in managing things like alcohol use and stress, this one is a bit more complicated. Magnesium absorption from the gut decreases over time, and this happens at a faster rate as we age. “The kidneys also excrete more as we age, and older adults are found to consume less,” says White. “Another contributing factor may be due to medication. Diuretics, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and aminoglycoside antibiotics are just a few of the medications that can lead to magnesium deficiency, and unfortunately, many of these are prescribed more often for older people.”

Once again, Dr. Hyman also highlights other causes, such as too much salt and coffee, profuse sweating, and menstruation. In addition to limiting these triggers and talking to a doctor about magnesium deficiency, he or she may also introduce more magnesium-rich foods into your diet to increase your body’s magnesium levels. Remember: It’s not all about cutting and changing, a big part is adding.

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium is found in a variety of foods, especially those that contain everyone’s favorite digestive booster, fiber. “These foods include nuts, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains,” says Dr. Vuu. He mentions that spinach, cashews, peanuts, soy milk and black beans are high in this mineral.

According to White, a “good source” specifically refers to a food that contains at least 10 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), a set of reference values ​​for determining sufficient and insufficient intake. “Other sources include dairy, meat and fortified cereals.” She notes that the recommended intake for adults is 400 mg for men and 360 mg for women ages 19 to 30, and 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women ages 31 and older.

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