Muscle cramps are the most common manifestation of magnesium deficiency.
To try to relieve her leg cramps, Mary began taking calcium at night, having read that it was good for cramps and sleep. At first, the calcium seemed to help, but after a week or two, the pains got worse. If she yawned and stretched in bed, her calf muscles would seize up and catapult her to the floor, where she would lie frantically massaging her muscles to try to release the spasm. All the next day, she would limp about with a very tender, bruised feeling in her calf.
Calcium appears to help leg cramps, at least initially, because excess calcium forces magnesium to be released from storage sites. But if someone is magnesium-deficient, the excess calcium will eventually cause more problems.
I’ve talked about my heart palpitations and leg cramps as my main magnesium deficiency symptoms. However, over the past 6 months, I began experimenting with reducing my magnesium intake. On less than 300mg a day I developed occasional leg cramps and heart palpitations and I just now realize that some low back aching resurfaced that I was plagued with many years ago! I remember going to conferences wearing a back brace to support my low back. Now I realize I was suffering from low back muscle spasms that came and went and I didn’t even associate them with my magnesium deficiency or their disappearance with my magnesium intake!
(An aching low back can be caused by muscle spasms or muscle cramping and is directly related to magnesium deficiency.)
When your muscles are engaged in the rapid-fire contraction and relaxation of physical exercise, if there is too much calcium (the initiator of contractions) and too little magnesium (the initiator of relaxation), muscle cramps and a buildup of lactic acid can result.
Too little magnesium is very common in athletes because so much is lost through sweating and instead of replacing with proper mineral electrolytes, including magnesium, you chug down sodium and sugar concoctions that cause brain swelling in the short term and diabetes in the long term.
Even though most athletes and coaches don’t know it, magnesium is one of the most important nutrients athletes can possibly take. As noted earlier, mitochondria in our cells make energy molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which are created under the influence of magnesium.
Years ago the coach of a Florida high school football team was concerned about his players’ frequent complaints of leg cramps, so he gave them a calcium supplement on a very hot day before a rigorous game. Early in the second half, eleven players became disoriented and had difficulty walking. Their speech was slurred, they complained of muscle spasms, and they were breathing very deeply. Within an hour, eight of the boys collapsed into full-blown seizures; two had repeated seizures. Those having the worst symptoms had been playing the hardest. Thirteen more players reported headaches, blurred vision, muscle twitching, nausea, and weakness.
Eventually all the boys recovered, but what happened to create such a frightening scene in this group of healthy young men? Consider the facts. Those that were affected had all eaten a pre-game magnesium-deficient fast-food meal consisting mainly of carbohydrates, fats, and sodas containing phosphoric acid. With the increased magnesium loss from excessive sweating plus the calcium supplement, their magnesium stores had been driven dangerously low.
The common side effects of diuretics include weakness, muscle cramps, joint pain, and irregular heartbeat; these are all symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
A dialysis patient reports, “I also began having horrendous nighttime calf and foot cramping on peritoneal dialysis, having to jump out of bed at night to try to soothe the unbearable pain. I was still afraid to take magnesium…I believe that the dialysis liquid they are putting in me is actually pulling magnesium out of my blood and depleting me. I feel my heart begin to palpitate in my chest towards the end of every treatment. Many patients have leg cramping during treatment. Many dialysis patients have heart issues; it’s the #1 killer of dialysis patients, and most likely caused by magnesium deficiency.
In a study of nursing home residents, low magnesium levels were significantly associated with two conditions that plague the elderly: calf cramps and diabetes mellitus.
Hippocrates Pure Food-Grade Magnesium Chloride is available.