Magnesium is an electrolyte and mineral that has a very important role in the numerous functions of the body. Magnesium isn’t produced in the body, and it has to be consumed through a person’s diet. Magnesium plays an important role in the more than 300 enzyme reactions.
People with a mild magnesium deficiency might haven’t any symptoms, however, severe deficiency results in various symptoms such as weakness, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, etc.
Elderly people are more prone to magnesium deficiency; this topic includes how with age, magnesium level declines in the body, and precautionary measures to improve magnesium level in the body.
Role of magnesium in the body
Magnesium is the commonest component within the crust of the earth. Magnesium plays an important role in humans as well as plants. Magnesium is vital for various physiological functions. Magnesium plays a significant role in the body as it helps in the production of energy.
It is required for various functions such as protein synthesis, blood glucose level control, blood pressure regulation, and muscle and nerve function. Most of the magnesium is stored in bones, muscles, and non-muscular tissues. Magnesium is present within cells and provides a counter for ATP and nuclear acids.
Energy-rich ATP is required for protein synthesis, glucose utilization, and many other processes like muscle contractions and relaxations; normal neurological functions are dependent on magnesium metabolism.
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Source of Magnesium
The richest source of magnesium is in plants and animal foods. Green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, milk, and milk products are good sources of magnesium. Magnesium metabolism and absorption occur mainly in the intestine, bones, and kidneys.
The main absorption of magnesium takes place in the gut area, just like calcium. Magnesium is stored in bones, and its excretion occurs through kidneys. An adult body contains approximately 25g of magnesium withy 50 to 60 % present in the bones.
The daily requirement of magnesium is different irrespective of sex and age of a person. The average daily intake of magnesium for adult females is 310 mg and for an adult male is 400mg. Magnesium deficiency is uncommon in healthy people.
The deficiency of magnesium is mainly due to inadequate magnesium intake, but age and certain medical conditions are also responsible for deficiency of magnesium in the body.
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Conditions aggravating magnesium deficiency
There are certain health conditions that can aggravate magnesium deficiency. These conditions are explained below-
- Consuming low magnesium diet for a longer period
- Older people are more at risk when it comes to magnesium deficiency. As we age, our gut absorption capacity decreases, and renal excretion of magnesium increases, which results in magnesium deficiency. Gut absorption can be hampered due to the prolonged use of certain medicines.
- People with chronic diarrhea, celiac disorder, Crohn’s disease, and regional enteritis causes depletion of magnesium over time.
- Magnesium excretion is increased in type 2 diabetes mellitus that leads to magnesium deficiency. Hence people with type 2 diabetes mellitus can suffer from magnesium deficiency.
- Excessive consumption of Alcohol
- Genetic disorders that cause excessive loss of magnesium through sweat and urine.
- Pregnant women and lactating mothers.
- Kidney tubule disorders
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Cause of magnesium deficiency with age
Magnesium is an important element that is acquired through our diet. Magnesium deficiency can occur at any stage of life but is more common in older people. The main reason for the occurrence in older people includes:
- As we age, our appetite is reduced, and we are unable to get a sufficient amount of magnesium, leading to its deficiency.
- There are certain medications like proton pump inhibitors and diuretics can cause magnesium deficiency in older people if used for the long term.
- Aging results in decreased magnesium absorption, low storage in bones, and increased excretions through kidneys.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency
Initially, there are no signs and symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency but if it persists for a long period leads to below signs and symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness of muscles
- Numbness and tingling sensation
- Abnormal movement of eyes
- Mental confusion
- Irregular heartbeats
Magnesium deficiency is usually hard to diagnose as initial symptoms indicate several other health conditions.
[Also Read: Magnesium for Cramps]
How to cope up with magnesium deficiency in old age?
The nutritional requirements of older people are not well defined. Many health problems in older people are due to poor nutritional factors. As we get older, a balanced diet can save us from many health ailments.
1. Healthy eating habits are necessary for any age group. But as we age, diet becomes more important as our immunity system gets weak with age. In this condition, our body is more prone to diseases. If we start paying attention to our diet at an early age, we can prevent these conditions.
By eating healthy means, you have to include fresh food items into your diet and avoid processed food. Include almonds, black beans, broccoli, bananas, cashews, spinach, fax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains into your diet. These foods are the richest source of magnesium.
2. As we get older, our body is more prone to dehydration—the first step to eating healthy starts with an adequate water intake. Remember to drink water regularly for better digestion and absorption of food. Sometimes absorption of food is not proper, and our body is unable to get nutrients leading to nutritional deficiency.
3. Our body’s metabolism slows down with aging, and it becomes more important to stay active at this stage. Go for easily digestible food rather than packed food that hampers our digestion further. These precautions can avoid gastric tract disorders. Try to stay active by doing a walk or other light exercises.
4. Always keep a check on your health; go for regular health check-ups. Regular health check-ups are mandatory to avoid further progression of the disease. And these can be avoided by controlling our diet rather than going for medicines. As certain medicines can lead to magnesium deficiency, so it is better to monitor your health.
5. One should avoid carbonated drinks as they contain a high amount of added sugar as a conservative. These high amounts of sugar can hamper the intestinal absorption of magnesium. Go for natural fruit juices rather than carbonated drinks and packed fruit juices.
6. Quit smoking and reduce intake of alcohol is beneficial to maintain healthy magnesium level in the body.
7. Herbs like coriander, spirulina, and basil are a rich magnesium source, and we must include them in our daily diets.
Magnesium deficiency can occur at any stage of life, but older people are more prone to it as we discussed above. We can avoid this situation by simply following the above guidelines. As we all know, prevention is better than cure; hence we must keep a check on our diet in order to have a healthy life.
About The Author:
Dr. Vikram Chauhan – MD (Ayurveda) is the CEO and Founder of Planet Ayurveda and Krishna Herbal Company. He is an expert Ayurveda consultant from Chandigarh and practicing in Mohali, India.