Published: January 11, 2009
It’s not a headache drug, but it relieves and can prevent migraines. It costs very little per dose, but has results that exceed medications priced many times higher. It is not an herb or vitamin, but is considered essential for optimal nutrition. It has only recently become popular with some cardiologists because it significantly reduces some heart arrhythmias. It can relieve painful muscle spasms when taken regularly, but is not a muscle relaxer. What is it?
I’ll tell you the answer in a minute. It will probably surprise you. First, I will tell you my theory about why you may have never heard of it. It is too cheap. If a medical product cannot produce a huge profit, there are no pharmaceutical reps visiting doctors’ offices to talk about it and no full page ads in magazines or television commercials to glamorize it.
It’s also too simple. We as a culture have grown to expect truly helpful products to be complex and maybe even hard to get. This product is available many places and requires no prescription. Even though it doesn’t require one, many doctors are beginning to write prescriptions for it to treat patients that have migraines.
So what is the mysterious, miraculous product? It is the mineral magnesium.
How can something so common and simple be so helpful for such a wide variety of conditions? Here’s the simple answer: Your body needs magnesium. When the supply of this vital mineral is even mildly depleted you may experience a wide range of symptoms, most involving the nervous system and muscles.
Magnesium is found mostly within the cells of the body, so it can be difficult to determine by a blood test if the intracellular levels are adequate. It is possible for blood levels to appear fine even though intracellular levels of magnesium may be deficient. Magnesium and calcium interact in many functions of our body. Because of this, taking a calcium supplement can create magnesium deficiency symptoms.
Although magnesium deficiency may be very common, it is not often discussed in medical publications. Most medical literature concerning nutritional deficiency is written about severe cases, as if mild deficiencies have no effect on human physiology. Mild deficiencies matter.
If you are mildly deficient in magnesium, you may begin to have chronic muscle tightness, fatigue, depressed mood and lack of energy, heart palpitations, constipation, or increased irritability and anxiety. Sleep problems can be linked to mild deficiency of magnesium.
I have found the best way to determine if a patient will respond to magnesium is to simply have them try a supplement for a few weeks to see if they improve. In our office we have recommended a simple product that contains very high quality magnesium citrate for about 15 years.
Approximately 80 percent of the patients that try it report dramatically improved muscle relaxation and better sleep. This is because magnesium is important to prevent excessive contraction of muscles. If the levels are too low, muscle spasms, cramps or twitches can result. This also may explain why some people with rapid heartbeat do well with magnesium supplementation. The heartbeat is the result of rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle. If the heart muscles are over contracted, the relaxation phase of the heart rhythm is inadequate and an irregular heartbeat can result.
The nervous system also becomes hyperirritable if magnesium levels drop too low. This can account for increased sensitivity to pain, anxiety, feelings of stress and difficulty sleeping.
Although there are pill forms of magnesium available, I have found that water-soluble magnesium citrate powder is far more effective in reducing symptoms of magnesium deficiency. We keep this product at the office and often recommend it to patients. They report exceptional results.
As more physicians become familiar with the benefits of magnesium supplementation for a wide range of conditions, they will be more likely to recommend a trial. Ask your doctor about it. They may already be ahead of the curve.
Next week: Some good news about why dining at certain Asian restaurants may help you lose unwanted pounds and feel better, too!
Dr. Mark Kestner