The Surprising Habit That May Be Depleting Your Magnesium Levels

magnesium deficiency
Photo Credit: Studio Firma

November 24, 2020

Gretchen Lidicker

Many of us assume that if we’re eating a healthy diet, we’re protected from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Unfortunately, that logic doesn’t quite hold up when it comes to magnesium. It’s thought that 50 to 90 percent of us have a magnesium deficiency.

We can thank medication use, soil depletion, chronic stress… and alcohol.

Why Magnesium Is Important

Magnesium is an important mineral for major bodily functions, such as blood sugar regulation, muscle contraction, and even DNA synthesis. According to Mayo Clinic, not getting enough magnesium in your diet — or losing to0 much because of alcohol — can cause irritability, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. Magnesium may also protect against diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain heart disease risk factors.

The Magnesium-Alcohol Connection

When we think about drinking too much alcohol, we often think of feeling hungover. But drinking can affect our health in ways that are far less obvious than nausea, headaches, and fatigue. Drinking affects the nutrients our body needs to function, especially magnesium.

“The process of metabolizing alcohol requires nutrients,” writes the Boulder Medical Center. “As the liver decreases its supply of these nutrients, the bloodstream is called upon to replenish the supply.” The result? Our cells are deprived of critical nutrients needed for normal body functions.

Magnesium is affected by alcohol intake in more ways than one, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. “First, alcohol acts acutely as a Mg diuretic, causing a prompt, vigorous increase in the urinary excretion of this metal along with that of certain other electrolytes.” Chronic intake of alcohol also causes the body’s stores of magnesium to become depleted, leaving a person vulnerable to deficiency.

How to Prevent Magnesium Deficiency

According to Cleveland Clinic, the recommended dietary allowances for magnesium are 400–420 mg for men and 310–320 mg for women. To protect yourself against a magnesium deficiency, keeping your drinking to mild or moderate levels is a good place to start.

You can also focus on eating magnesium-rich foods regularly but especially before and after a night out. The good news is that magnesium-rich foods are delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet. For example, 1/2 cup of spinach has 78 mg of magnesium, 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds has 168 mg, and 1 cup of avocado has 44 mg.

And, if you don’t feel confident you can consume enough magnesium through your diet, it might be wise to take a supplement.