My darling boyfriend (I still think it sounds idiotic to say boyfriend at my age. Can’t we coin a new phrase America?) has restless leg syndrome. Until recently I truly thought that was just a made-up syndrome. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous? Well poor Rob has a terrible time with completely involuntary and uncontrollable restlessness in his legs, feet and ankles. We will be sitting down watching a movie on the couch, and his legs hurt, they are cramping and he has this “itch’ to get up and move or to shake his legs. He’s tried to describe it to me, but it’s a really difficult feeling to describe. Then, after he’s sound asleep in bed his legs literally kick every couple of minutes all night long. He says it’s like when you are at the doctor and they hit your knee with the reflex hammer. So this has resulted in two things. One, my legs are black and blue from being kicked in my sleep all night and Two, I’ve been doing a lot of research on restless legs and what on earth causes this! Here is what I found out:
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the human body and is essential to good health. It is critical in over 350 essential biochemical reactions in the body including digestion, energy production, muscle function, bone formation, creation of new cells, activation of B vitamins, relaxation of muscles, and also assists in the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, adrenals, brain and nervous system. In fact, Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body—it can be found in human bones, teeth and red blood cells, and activates more enzyme systems than both Iron and Zinc combined.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is running rampant among Americans. One study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health shows that 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Other experts put the number closer 80%.
If you’re a geek like me and like to read the actual health studies:
- “Dietary Magnesium and C-reactive Protein Levels,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 3, 166-171 (2009).
- Jaffe R MD. “How to Know if You are Magnesium Deficient: Over 75% of Americans Are” (transcript), 06/16/09, http://www.innovativehealing.com
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
- Leg Cramps
- Foot Pain
- Muscle Twitches
- Migraine Headaches
- Low Energy
- Muscle Weakness
- Hormone imbalances
- Chronic Fatigue
- Restless Legs (aha!)
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Kidney stones (calcium oxate)
- Insulin Resistance
Of all the minerals required for good health, calcium has been pushed into the spotlight. There has been a flood of calcium-fortified foods, beverages, and supplements. Ironically, without magnesium, calcium cannot be properly used or absorbed by the body. If there’s no magnesium, then the calcium builds up in the cells causing angina, arrhythmia, hypertension, headaches, and asthma.
Compounding the problem is the knowledge that the body actually strips magnesium and calcium from the bones during periods of “functioning” low magnesium. This effect can cause a doubly difficult scenario: seemingly adequate magnesium levels that mask a true deficiency, coupled by ongoing damage to bone structures. Thus experts advise the suspicion of magnesium deficiency whenever risk factors for related conditions are present, rather than relying upon tests or overt symptoms alone.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
If you eat like a typical American—many processed and refined foods, convenience foods, and junk foods—then you’re probably seriously magnesium deficient. Just the process of refining foods strips nutrients, including magnesium. Some examples:
- Dry roasting nuts removes the highly nutritious oils which contain magnesium.
- Milling flour from grains strips magnesium from the grain.
- Sugar in anything uses up magnesium.
- Fluoridated, softened, and distilled water depletes magnesium.
- Carbonated beverages and some processed foods, like lunch meat, contain phosphates that bind to magnesium molecules and flush it out of the body.
- Alcohol blocks magnesium, especially if you have three or more drinks a day.
- Caffeine flushes magnesium from of the body.
- Some foods—like raw or roasted nuts and seeds, grains, soybeans, spinach, and chard—contain compounds called phytic acid and oxalic acid which can cause magnesium to be eliminated from the body.
You can find ample amounts of magnesium in green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains — but only if they’re grown under optimal growing conditions by an organic farmer who also uses a nutrient-rich fertilizer containing magnesium.
So while eating magnesium-rich foods is a noble goal, it just might not be realistic given the lack of nutrients found in our food and in our soil today.
So both Rob and I are trying external magnesium therapy. I made homemade magnesium oil, because this stuff is seriously expensive at the health food store. I’ll post the very simple, very cheap recipe for Homemade Magnesium Oil tomorrow, and how to apply it. I’ll also keep you posted on how this works for his restless legs. My fingers are crossed!