Mind your minerals
Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 11/7/2013, 11:05 a.m.
Mrs. M was a 42-year-old file clerk for the social service department of the city. She visited her doctor only when she had an acute physical or mental problem; otherwise, she medicated herself based upon the opinions and advice of friends and relatives. During this office visit, she complained of her nails breaking easily and her hair falling out. Mrs. M smoked approximately one and a half packs of cigarettes and drank four to five cups of coffee daily. She never missed a highball for dinner.
Upon further questioning, she revealed that she felt weak in her legs and had been frequently experiencing an irregular heartbeat. For the past five years, she had also been taking a diuretic (water pill) for hypertension. A physical examination of Mrs. M substantiated her complaints of brittle nails, thinning hair, an irregular heartbeat and a tremor of her hands. She was also underweight.
Mrs. M was a prime suspect for a mineral deficiency. Tests revealed a low magnesium level. This is an essential mineral that is necessary for the normal functioning of the body. A deficiency can be due to many causes, such as not eating foods high in this element (green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and animal protein). The consumption of alcohol, caffeinated drinks (coffee, colas and teas) and water pills can cause a loss of magnesium in the urine. Poor absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, due to the combining of magnesium with phytates found in corn, bran, soybeans and cereal products or with oxalic acid found in vegetables like spinach, can lead to a deficiency of this mineral.
The average person needs about 500 to 700 milligrams of magnesium daily to maintain adequate health. This mineral can be taken in the form of magnesium chloride or magnesium oxide, balanced with an adequate amount of calcium. There is a tablet on the market containing 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 750 milligrams of magnesium. One tablet a day is all that is needed to provide these essential elements.
Mrs. M was practicing many poor health and nutritional habits that led to a magnesium deficiency. She was started on a vitamin and mineral therapeutic diet, including a magnesium supplement. In about six weeks, her nails became stronger and her hair got thicker. She related that her legs were much stronger and the irregular heartbeat had subsided.
Mrs. M started correcting her poor lifestyle and diet. She also began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to curb her increasing appetite for alcohol. She also contacted the American Cancer Society about its smoking cessation program, for which she enlisted. At our last meeting, this magnificent lady was living a magnificent life, thanks to her consumption of magnificent magnesium and other behavioral changes.