We pay special attention to restoration of magnesium in the Wheat Belly lifestyle. This is because magnesium deficiency is universal, affecting virtually everyone, is severe, and has substantial implications for health.
But why? Why has everyone become so depleted in magnesium in the modern world? There are five major reasons:
- Water filtration—We filter our water out of necessity, since modern waterways are contaminated by sewage runoff, pesticide/herbicides, algal overgrowth, etc. So, rather than drinking from a nearby stream or river that runs freely over rocks and minerals rich in magnesium, we drink water filtered by your municipality or your home device. Water filtration removes 99.9% of all magnesium, meaning you obtain virtually zero magnesium from drinking water.
- Reduced magnesium content of modern produce—Modern agricultural practices have led to widespread soil nutrient depletion. Larger, high-yield, high-volume strains of vegetables and fruit have led to reductions in potassium, calcium, vitamin A, magnesium, and others. The quantity of magnesium in modern produce is typically 30-50% less than that grown several decades ago, sometimes much more.
- Wheat and grain consumption—I continue to be shocked that conventional sources of dietary advice advise whole grains because they are rich in magnesium, ignorant of the fact that the phytate content—enriched in modern strains of wheat for their pest-resistant properties—blocks the absorption of most magnesium, causing you to pass it uselessly into the toilet, regardless of the magnesium content of grains. Grains are magnesium-depleting, not restoring.
- Prescription drugs that deplete magnesium—Among the worst culprits are thiazide diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) or chlorthalidone that are the first choice among primary care physicians to treat hypertension; thiazide diuretics cause substantial loss of magnesium in the urine, thus the occasional sudden cardiac death from diuretic use. Widely-prescribed stomach acid-suppressing drugs (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Protonix likewise cause magnesium depletion.
- Diabetes and pre-diabetes cause urinary magnesium loss—The 100+ million Americans with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes—nearly one in three Americans—have reduced ability to reabsorb urinary magnesium. (Combine type 2 diabetes with a thiazide diuretic and/or a PPI and you have a recipe for magnesium-depletion trouble.
Inflammatory bowel diseases, especially those associated with diarrhea such Crohn’s and celiac disease, also cause magnesium loss.
Magnesium deficiency is therefore the rule, not the exception. Restoration of magnesium accordingly provides substantial improvements in numerous aspects of health. Magnesium supplementation exerts bone density-increasing effects on reversing osteopenia and osteoporosis, for example, with a magnitude of effect that matches or exceeds that of osteoporosis drugs. (Then why doesn’t your doctor advise magnesium supplementation first before resorting to prescriptions for Boniva or Fosamax and advocating ineffective strategies such as calcium supplementation? You should no longer be shocked that mainstream doctors are not doing their jobs if restoring health is their mission.) Add improvements in insulin sensitivity, reduction of blood pressure, reduction in heart rhythm abnormalities, relief from migraine headaches and muscle cramps, and improved bowel regularity to the list.
Don’t be falsely lulled by “normal” serum magnesium blood levels, or even the somewhat more accurate RBC magnesium levels, as they underestimate the severity of magnesium depletion in tissues such as bone. You can have a normal blood level but still have deficiency. But if your blood level is low, you know that you have profound deficiency, even life-threatening. (In my days of working in coronary care and intensive care units, megadose intravenous magnesium was a staple, as people come to the hospital with life-threatening magnesium depletion, often due to diuretic use. Severe magnesium deficiency leads to sudden cardiac death via unstable heart rhythms such as ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and Torsade de pointes.)
As I’ve discussed previously, oral magnesium supplementation is problematic, as magnesium supplements are excellent laxatives, limiting dose tolerance. So if restoration of magnesium is among your goals—and it should be—go for the best absorbed form of magnesium that money can’t buy, Magnesium Water that you make from my recipe here.