Magnesium Deficiency and Type 2 Diabetes

Updated on April 13, 2018
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Darlene Norris has studied natural health and healing for many years. She enjoys sharing her knowledge about alternative remedies.

High Blood Sugar Levels May Be Related to Magnesium Deficiency

Type 2 diabetes and magnesium deficiency often go hand in hand.
Type 2 diabetes and magnesium deficiency often go hand in hand. | Source

Magnesium: An Overlooked Trace Mineral

Most people don't give magnesium a second thought. What's the big deal about magnesium anyway?

Magnesium is essential for your body to function properly. In fact, 300 enzymes in your body need this nutrient, including the ones that keep blood sugar levels normal.

What Does Magnesium Do?

  • Building block of DNA and RNA
  • Relaxes muscles, preventing cramps
  • Plays a role in breaking down and digesting carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
  • Helps with insomnia
  • Mitigates depression, anxiety, and panic attacks
  • Decreases the incidence of migraines
  • Improves dental health
  • Prevents twitchy eyes

Magnesium is essential for a healthy heart as well.

How Can You Tell if You Have a Magnesium Deficiency?

Unfortunately, a deficiency is often overlooked. Why? Because most of the magnesium in the body is found in the tissues, not the blood. Running a serum blood test to look for a deficiency will not tell you if you have low levels of magnesium in your body. There are some labs that offer a red blood cell test, which gives a better assessment of your magnesium levels.

As a result, you need to be on the lookout for signs of a magnesium deficiency:

  • Cramps and seizures
  • Problems sleeping
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Personality changes
  • Prediabetes and insulin resistance

What is prediabetes? You don't have any symptoms of diabetes yet, but your blood sugar is too high. This condition is considered to be a precursor of the full-blown disease.

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Magnesium and Insulin Resistance

So what is insulin resistance? When your body is producing insulin but is unable to use it, your blood sugar levels keep going up. Like prediabetes, insulin resistance is a sign that you're at risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as a host of other chronic diseases.

If you have insulin resistance, your body is losing magnesium in your urine. One of the symptoms of diabetes is higher levels of glucose ("sugar") in the urine. Higher blood sugar levels make you thirsty, which leads to the need to urinate more often.

Losing more magnesium in the urine causes lower the levels in your body. The result is that lower magnesium levels make you even more insulin resistant, causing higher blood glucose levels. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle.

Is There a Link Between Magnesium and Diabetes?

Several studies have confirmed that there is indeed a link between type 2 diabetes and magnesium deficiency.

One study in 2013 of prediabetics revealed that most of the subjects weren't getting enough magnesium in their diets. It was found that people who included magnesium-rich foods in their diets decreased their risk of metabolic problems, including type 2 diabetes, by 71%.

It's also been shown that middle-aged people with more magnesium in their diets were able to slow the progression of prediabetes into type 2 diabetes.

There is more and more evidence that magnesium plays a huge role in preventing metabolic problems like insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar levels, and type 2 diabetes.

Pumpkin Seeds Are a Rich Source of Magnesium

Save those pumpkin seeds! They are high in magnesium.
Save those pumpkin seeds! They are high in magnesium. | Source

What Causes Magnesium Deficiency?

Low magnesium levels are a result of several factors, including diet, age, and what prescription drugs you may be taking.

It's important to watch what you eat since certain foods can keep your body from absorbing magnesium properly. A high sugar intake causes your kidneys to excrete magnesium, as mentioned above. Avoiding foods with excess added sugar is essential. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar during the digestive
process. Cut back on the grains (even organic ones), bread, and pasta, and eat more wild-caught fish and fresh veggies.

Drinking too much alcohol keeps your body from absorbing vitamin D, which your body needs to absorb magnesium. Soda and caffeinated beverages also fall into this category.

Diuretics, antibiotics, prednisone, insulin, and antacids can block magnesium absorption. Be aware that drugs containing fluoride bind with magnesium, taking it out of the body as well.

Older adults and menopausal women don't absorb magnesium as well as younger adults. The elderly are often on medications which hinder the absorption of this mineral.

Leaky gut syndrome, Crohn's disease, and other digestive diseases make it difficult or impossible for your body to get the magnesium it needs.

What Foods Are High in Magnesium?

Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Bananas
  • Plain yogurt with no added sugar
  • Avocados
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach and swiss chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Black beans
  • Dark chocolate

These foods can help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, even if you're somewhat overweight. Cutting down on sugary and carb-rich foods can help you lose those extra pounds, while helping your body absorb more of the magnesium in your food.

Swiss Chard Is Full of Magnesium

Swiss chard and other green leafy veggies are a great addition to your diet.
Swiss chard and other green leafy veggies are a great addition to your diet. | Source

Should You Take a Magnesium Supplement?

Maybe. Some people believe that our soils are becoming depleted of minerals, due to intensive farming practices. Some herbicides can block the plant's uptake of certain minerals. Our food simply isn't as nutritious as it was 100 years ago.

Taking a magnesium supplement can be tricky, however. Magnesium has to be attached to another substance, so there are a wide variety of supplements on the market. Cheaper ones, like magnesium oxide, aren't absorbed by your body. Nearly all of it leaves your body via the intestine, which is good if you need a laxative, but it's not so good for your for magnesium deficiency.

Another issue is that magnesium, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2 must be carefully balanced to avoid vitamin D toxicity and heart problems due to too much calcium.

One way to get more magnesium into your system is to take Epsom salt baths. Or soak your feet in an Epsom salt solution. Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate, which is absorbed through your skin. You can also try rubbing magnesium oil on your skin. It contains magnesium chloride, which is absorbed through the skin as well.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient to keep your blood sugar at healthy levels, and also to prevent prediabetes and insulin resistance. If you already have diabetes, talk to your doctor about adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet.

Natural Treatments for Diabetes by Dr. Josh Axe

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