Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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How Can I Get Enough Magnesium?

Monday, 19 Jul 2010 11:43 AM

Question: I keep hearing how important it is to have enough magnesium in your body and how we don't get enough from the foods we eat. I have tried to take supplements several times and I always get diarrhea. When I stop taking it I go back to normal. I have tried taking it because I stand on my feet all day when I work and I get achy legs and sore knees. I read magnesium could help this, but since I can't seem to take it, do you have any other ideas?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Do not be misled by the random claims of Internet supplement vendors. Actual magnesium deficiency is not common. Diabetes, diuretic use, and alcoholism are risk factors for deficiency, and when present, it does need to be corrected. Our kidneys will usually adequately compensate for mild dietary deficiency. However, prolonged deficiency may cause depletion of magnesium stores that requires supplementation.

Excessive use of magnesium supplements will cause diarrhea. I advise you to consult your medical doctor for review of your magnesium supplementation needs. A serum magnesium level is very simple to obtain, and will save you all kinds of headaches.

Many electrolyte deficiencies have an interdependency with other body electrolytes. For example, some patients, especially those on diuretics who have hypokalemia (low potassium levels), may also have a low magnesium level that when corrected will help normalize their serum potassium level. Avoid guessing. Have your blood levels checked if you are uncertain. Often our body tolerances are quite narrow, and blind supplementation can be harmful.

The National Institute for Health has a great website for guidance and explanation of dietary magnesium. Go to http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov and search "magnesium" or search "magnesium nih" with your favorite search engine and select the nih site for an excellent description of foods to use and more detail on magnesium.

There are many causes of aching legs and sore knees, and magnesium deficiency is very low on the list of likely causes. I advise you to make an appointment with your medical doctor for a proper evaluation of your complaints.

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