Why Almost All Americans are Magnesium Deficient and What to Do About It

Doctor estimates between 80 and 90 percent of Americans are magnesium deficient thanks to agricultural practices that strip it from our soil, stress and our poor modern diets

“Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency, from irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation, immune problems, allergies, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc, etc.,” writes neurosurgeon Norman Shealy, one of the world’s leading experts in chronic pain and depression.

Realizing there was a link between the two — as well as an association with certain nutrient deficiencies — Shealy was the first physician to specialize in the resolution (rather than the management) of chronic pain and depression.

“Magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body,” he writes. “Magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.”

In a post on his website he lists other common diseases magnesium deficiency “significantly contributes” to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Asthma
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Acute and chronic pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Migraine

WHY we’re deficient

1. Soil deficiency. The primary reason we’re deficient in magnesium is because our soil is deficient in magnesium “virtually everywhere,” Shealy writes.

He blames this on “10,000 years of soil erosion after glaciation,” but I would like to add that 10,000 years of agriculture have also obviously contributed to the problem, especially the intensive agriculture of the last 200 years.

“Cattle farmers know they must supplement with magnesium or the cattle die of grass staggers,” he writes. But “vegetable farmers do not.”

2. Stress. Stress causes us to burn through already-depleted nutrients faster.

3. Excess calcium. Lots of people are popping calcium pills, thinking they are deficient in calcium. The real problem is they can’t absorb the calcium because they don’t get enough magnesium. Little do they know the unnatural levels of calcium are only making their magnesium deficiency worse.

Dr. Shealy says people also need to be careful about excess dairy, as most of it is 10 times higher in calcium than magnesium. The ideal ratio of calcium to magnesium is 1:1.

4. Excess phosphate. Shealy says this comes mostly from excess meat consumption and soda.

5. Excess sodium.

6. Excess potassium.

7. Sugar. High carbohydrate, especially simple sugars, increases need for magnesium and vitamin B6 and interferes with magnesium absorption, Shealy says.

8. Alcohol.

9. Caffeine

10. GERD drugs. The drugs used to treat peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease decrease hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is essential for magnesium absorbtion.

What to do about it

Shealy says the vast majority of magnesium deficiency goes undetected because of inadequate testing. The only accurate testing is intra-cellular, he says.

For most people oral supplements are very difficult to absorb, Shealy says, but the most absorbable form is magnesium taurate. Definitely stay away from magnesium salts, which are laxatives and can make the problem worse, he says.

For this reason, he strongly recommends magnesium lotion and sprays which are absorbed through the skin.

The best case scenario for restoring healthy magnesium levels orally is about 4 to 6 months, while lotions and oil spray can restore intracellular levels in 4 to 6 weeks.

Adults, 14 and older, need to absorb 300 to 400 mg per day, he says.

Food sources, assuming your gut is capable of absorbing them:

    • Grass-fed yogurt, 4 oz.—113 mg
    • Artichokes, 4 oz.—84 mg
    • Raw spinach, one cup—24 mg
    • Orange juice, 8 oz.—24 mg
    • Cooked spinach, 4 oz.—90 mg
    • Sweet potatoes, 4 oz. cooked—127 mg
    • Tomato paste, 4 oz.—131 mg
    • Banana, medium—118 mg
    • Broccoli, 4 oz.—92 mg
    • Most nuts, 2 oz.—56 mg
    • Beans, 4 oz. cooked—80 to 95 mg
    • Halibut, 3 oz.—85 mg