Have you ever suffered from a stressful headache or migraine? I think many of us have – including myself. I used to get them frequently… and they were paralyzing at times. I started doing my own research on magnesium, and that was right around the same time we started making some pretty huge dietary changes.
We adopted Raw Milk in lieu of processed milk (which is LOW in magnesium).. we invested in a local CSA for local, organic produce, and we spent considerable time working hard to cut back our consumption of grains.
One of the biggest culprits to headaches and migraines is a magnesium deficiency. Most people are deficient in magnesium – less than 30% of US adults consume the recommended daily allowance of Magnesium… and less than 20% get even half of what they are required each day (Src).
Believe it or not, a deficiency in magnesium can lead to everything from cramps to constipation, high blood pressure, migraines and more. There are many reasons that we are deficient in magnesium, but one of the biggest culprits is our food.
SO why are we deficient in magnesium? Several reasons:
- Pesticide: Pesticide used on our food (Corn, Soy, Wheat, Cotton, etc.) depletes the soil of the minerals required for not only good soil health but also for our GOOD gut bacteria.
- Consumption of Sugar: For every molecule of sugar we consume, we nee 54 molecules of magnesium to process it.
- Daily Stress: Constantly, from money issues to lifestyle problems, even health problems. We deal with that stress daily and it drains us. Stress hormone production requires a high level of magnesium, and when we stress it depletes our magnesium stores.
- Medications: Prescriptions and Over the Counters can both deplete our magnesium stores – as well as caffeine. Not to mention that the fluoride in your toothpaste competes for absorption with magnesium too.
- Processed Foods: Foods that are processed (which account for 85% of what is on the shelf in stores) NEED magnesium in your body in order to be metabolized.
Here are several things that can ultimately affect your body’s ability to handle magnesium.
Too much sugar: Sugar laden foods consume your body’s nutrients when ingested, but actually have anti-nutrients. Items with refined sugar cause the body to get rid of magnesium through the kidneys – so not only are they lacking nutrients, they strip your body of nutrients and magnesium entirely.
Sugary drinks: Not only are sugary drinks similar to eating sugary foods, darker colored drinks that are carbonated like soda have phosphates. Phosphates bind with magnesium inside your digestive tract. While eating a balanced diet is great, washing it down with soda is actually doing nothing good for you as it’s flushing the magnesium out of your body.
Phytic Acid: Phytic acid (aka phytate) is a substance found in many types of plant foods, such as grains, legumes (including peanuts and soybeans), nuts, and seeds. It’s the storage form of phosphorus, an important mineral used in the production of energy as well as the formation of structural elements like cell membranes.
Phytic acid is a mineral blocker that is found in grains, seeds and beans – 80% of phosphorus in grains and beans is bound to phytic acid, which makes it unabsorbable. This blocks phosphorus availability in humans and the molecules bind minerals necessary for oral health. As a result, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium aren’t available for utilization in your body. Phytic acid prevents these minerals from being absorbed from the food you eat and drink – it also takes minerals out of your body, too
Caffeine: The Kidneys are the #1 “controller” of your body’s magnesium levels… as they filter and excrete excess magnesium and various other minerals. Caffeine consumption encourages the body to release excess magnesium – even if you don’t particularly need it.
Alcohol: Much like caffeine, alcohol lowers the magnesium available to your cells too – alcohol, too, encourages your body to release excess magnesium.
Medications: Many people are on prescriptions – from asthma to birth control, estrogen replacement or even heart problems – medications that can cause magnesium deficiency include antibiotics, painkillers, and diuretics, estrogen (found in birth control), anticancer drugs, radiation, and medications used to treat asthma (Src). Medications impair absorption of magnesium by the kidneys or increase excretion OF magnesium by the kidneys.
Stress: When you are stressed, your body uses and requires MORE magnesium …. unfortunately, your continued stress worsens the problem as it pulls magnesium . Aging and illness also increase the body’s need for magnesium, as they both reduce the acid levels in the stomach.
Your current health: is a huge factor in how successful magnesium is absorbed into your body – if you are deficient in minerals (iron, calcium) then your body will struggle to break down that magnesium and further, make it harder for the small intestine to absorb, too.
The amount of magnesium your body actually absorbs is very dependent on the changes you make to your diet and lifestyle – everything from caffeine to dark sodas, mediations, alcohol, aging, stress, and more can all inhibit absorption and cause LESS magnesium to be absorbed.
One of the best ways to increase your magnesium intake is to buy local organic food from your farmers market.. as they have higher levels of magnesium. Focus on eating green leafy vegetables that contain chlorophyll
Other foods high in magnesium include:
- Raw Milk Yogurt or Raw Milk Kefir
- Black Beans
- Spinach or Chard
- Dark Chocolate
If you find yourself with headaches, frequent anxiety, or even sleep problems, or even high blood pressure, you might want to take a look at your lifestyle and dietary habits. Not only can drinking more water help with some of those issues, so can eating better and avoiding foods that are lacking in nutrients.