Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients the body needs – Magnesium – Deficiency Alert


Last week I covered calcium which is the richest mineral in our bodies.. the next mineral in the series would have been chromium but I covered that in a post on pre-diabetes earlier in the year:

I am skipping through to Magnesium which is a very important ally of Calcium and you can read more about their synergistic relationship here:

Magnesium – Calcium’s BFF and a deficiency alert

One of the minerals that most people focus on is calcium but it is in fact magnesium or the lack of this mineral in our diet that may be the contributory factor in many of the diseases that we suffer from, particularly as we get older.

Deficiency alert

It is believed that the availability of magnesium in drinking water and in our soil is now greatly decreased.

Not only is the soil depleted but the plants that we eat are also becoming more and more magnesium deficient for two reasons. There is less magnesium in the soil that nourishes them, and the use of potassium and phosphorus-laden fertilisers, alter the ability of the plant to absorb the mineral.

When we cook food we lose magnesium and if we restrict our calories during a diet and remove specific food groups such as whole grains; it can create an imbalance.

pH balance – Acidity and Alkalinity

It is important that our bodies have a pH level that maintains the correct balance between too acid and too alkaline. Major organs and our blood have their own healthy pH level and this also applies to our intestines. Our modern diet of high sugars and processed foods compromises the pH balance in our gut creating a high acidity environment, leading to malabsorption of not just magnesium but of all the nutrients the body needs to maintain health.

It is staggering how many diseases are linked to a deficiency of this mineral including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Angina
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Auto immune disorders
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney stones
  • Headaches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle weakness
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Osteoporosis.

How Magnesium works with Calcium (the most abundant mineral in the body)

Magnesium works with calcium in a number of ways but fundamentally the absorption of calcium is severely compromised if there is not sufficient magnesium.

Calcium is stored in the body including in our bones and teeth. Magnesium however is not stored and we therefore need to include in our diet daily. In the last 100,000 years our diet has changed dramatically; particularly in the last 100 years when industrially manufactured foods have taken the place of natural produce.

Humans now consume more dairy than they have in the past and although magnesium is present in dairy in small amounts the amount of calcium is ten times more. If we consume a lot of dairy products combined with other calcium containing foods we rarely see a deficiency of that mineral, unless there is a health issue involved. But we tend to eat less of the magnesium containing foods such as nuts, seeds and now with the current ‘expert’ advice; carbohydrates including wholegrains.

With intensive farming there is also less magnesium in the soil that grows our vegetables along with other essential nutrients such as selenium. If the foods we eat daily do not contain sufficient magnesium to activate the calcium then you will begin to see signs of varying degrees of deficiency.

Muscle contraction is made possible by calcium but muscles also need to relax and that requires magnesium.

If you suffer from muscle cramps regularly even when you are sitting or lying in bed you need to look at the amount of magnesium that you are consuming daily. Have you recently given up eating all carbohydrates, or excluded nuts and seeds because you feel that they are too ‘fattening’? This is particularly important for the heart which is muscle and contracts and relaxes to push blood around the body. W

Bone density and joint health requires the right balance of a number of minerals and vitamins such as Vitamin D.

We are all told that we need calcium for health bones and teeth but unless magnesium and Vitamin D are part of the formula calcium levels are elevated and it collects in our soft tissues including around our joints which leads to inflammation and arthritis. Because the mineral is not being absorbed into the bones where it is needed it leads to a loss of bone density and ultimately to osteoporosis. (I will cover Vitamin D in more detail in later posts).

Magnesium’s role in critical reactions in the body.

Brain health: Without this mineral as part of our diet we are also at risk of heavy metal poisoning and a deficiency has been linked to these being deposited in the brain resulting in Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders. The nervous system is regulated from the brain so a deficiency or damage to parts of the brain will result in impaired physical function as well as hormone transmission.

Magnesium is essential for that transmission of hormones such as the secretion and action of insulin, thyroid and oestrogen and in the neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

Reproductive health. As magnesium is essential for the transmission of oestrogen a deficiency in young women’s diets can result in irregular periods and other PMS symptoms. This is particularly relevant to cramps due to a calcium (contract muscle) magnesium (relax muscle) imbalance.

Apart from our bones magnesium is needed in the formation of protein and fatty acids, new cells throughout the body, activating the B vitamins, clotting blood and helping form the ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) fuel that we run on.

Lifestyle risk factors for magnesium deficiency.

There are a number of risk factors that decrease our ability to absorb magnesium including excessive alcohol intake, using recreational drugs, excessive levels of calcium, too much caffeine in coffee, severe dieting, high intake of phosphorus laden foods such as fizzy drinks and processed foods. Too much salt in the diet, over exercising and physical and mental stress also contribute.

The good news is that by consuming magnesium in high quality fresh products (not necessarily organic but not the cheapest) daily is usually effective provided you are not over consuming calcium rich foods every day in excess.


The best food sources for magnesium are to be found in dark green vegetables such as spinach also in fish, meat, seafood, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, whole grain cereals such as brown rice, beans and nuts.


My view on supplementation is that it should always be used in combination with a nutrient rich diet and only at times when needed. However, our modern lifestyle probably classifies. Stress, industrially produced foods, lack of sunlight and reduced nutrients in the soil that grows our food, all contribute to deficiencies.

You can buy combined supplements that bring Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D3 together and lately more are also including Vitamin K2 which is another important element in bone health as well as other health issues.

Some of the tablets are whoppers and as we get older, our ability to break those down sufficiently to absorb the nutrients is less effective.

I have moved most of my supplements to oral sprays for under the tongue or into the cheek muscle. It bypasses the digestive system and gets straight into the bloodstream. However, I also use a magnesium oil which I rub into my skin at night.

I believe all of us over 60 would benefit from moving to high quality oral sprays and magnesium oil to ensure we are receiving the increased nutritional support that we need, even with a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

You can read all the health column posts in this directory:

© Just Food for Health  Sally Cronin 1998 – 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally