If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that my question last Wednesday about whether I should consider taking magnesium supplements caused my doctor to scratch herself, yell at me, and accuse me of being constipated. OK, the part about being constipated was not directly caused by my question about magnesium, but it helps make the story funnier if I suggest that it was. Forgive my artistic license.
So I decided against medical advice to try magnesium supplements anyway. I’ve seen many sources – both scientific and anecdotal – that connect low magnesium levels to both depression and widespread body pain. Over the weekend I sat down and did some more extensive research, and the basics of what I learned are as follows:
The body needs magnesium and cannot make it. Several elements of the typical 21st century American lifestyle contribute to the depletion of magnesium within the body. Two of these elements – high stress levels and caffeine consumption – apply to me in spades. The other two – high alcohol consumption and a reliance on blood pressure medications – don’t apply to me so much. I have never had blood pressure problems of any kind, and it’s been years since I’ve consumed alcohol to excess even occasionally. A fifth element of the American lifestyle that contributes to magnesium depletion is a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar. I would rate myself ‘average’ in this area. I generally like to eat a healthy diet, and I love fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. However, when I start to surrender to one of my cycles of stress, body pain, and exhaustion, my diet is the first thing I sacrifice, as I begin skipping meals and relying on junk food. So I would say that three of these factors apply to me seriously enough to merit trying magnesium supplements.
Once I started researching the consequences of having a magnesium deficiency, I became aware yet again that the American lifestyle is in fact guided and crafted by the hand of Satan. (When EXACTLY did we sell our souls? The War of 1812? The whole Louisiana Purchase thing? Making it to the moon ahead of the Soviets? Were there Kennedys involved? Anyone else want to weigh in on this?) A deficiency of this one little mineral within the body sets off a convoluted chain reaction. The most common symptom of a magnesium deficiency is depression. The medical establishment most often treats depression by prescribing an SSRI or an SNRI – drugs that cause deficiencies in folic acid, Vitamins B5 and B12, and – you guessed it – magnesium. The second most common symptom of a magnesium deficiency is bone loss and early-onset osteoporosis – conditions that, if detected, are usually treated with hormone replacement therapy, which causes deficiencies in folic acid, Vitamins B5 and B12, and – you guessed it – magnesium. (I’m pretty sure that the concept of the flow chart was invented for this topic.) A third symptom of magnesium deficiency is a thickening of the blood and vasoconstriction, leading to high blood pressure, which is treated with blood pressure medications, which cause magnesium deficiency. Again, I haven’t had any trouble with my blood pressure, but this third symptom just supports the idea that our medical establishment might as well be treating us with leeches for all that it understands about how magnesium affects the body.
At this point I also want to take some time to think about my mom, who died in 2010. For most of my life she took hormone replacement therapy for symptoms of menopause, blood pressure medication, and antidepressants – and she also consumed alcohol daily. Now my mom had a life story that would make anyone depressed – but I have to ask myself if her body was caught in a self-defeating cycle like the one I think I might be caught in. But in a way I’m glad she’s not here for me to suggest that she take magnesium supplements. There is no way she would have listened to me, and I would have ended up so frustrated. If there’s one thing my mother would never do, it was to second-guess a doctor. If my mom were in the situation I’m in now, she would be gorging herself on prunes and Metamucil. And Scotch.
Finally, a primary symptom of magnesium deficiency is muscle spasms and pain. Again, these symptoms are often treated with medications that simply exacerbate the magnesium deficiency, and living with pain increases stress levels, and some people also self-medicate with caffeine, alcohol, and junk food.
What all of this adds up to is a LOT of people spending a LOT of money on a LOT of medications. So at least someone’s happy, right?
So last night I went to the grocery store and spent $3.29 on a bottle of 100 250-mg magnesium tablets. That’s three cents per tablet. Supports healthy nerves and muscles, It says on the container. Apparently this product has just been sitting there on the grocery store shelves all this time, minding its own business. At lunch time today, I took one. And then around 4:30 today, I noticed something. I noticed that I actually felt like getting up and washing the dishes. I sang a little bit. I brushed my hair, even though I wasn’t going anywhere and no one was coming to visit – I just thought it might be nice to look decent for once.
And who knows what will happen tomorrow?