Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, The Magnesium Miracle
01 Aug, 2007
Dr. Carolyn Dean is the author of The Magnesium Miracle, published by Ballentine Books. The book has just been released in its second edition, revised and considerably expanded. It is an excellent reference on magnesium, its importance and many benefits. Dr. Dean is a medical doctor, naturopath, acupuncturist, homeopath, and certified clinical nutritionist, who conducts phone consultations with patients and maintains a very informative website at www.carolyndean.com.
OC: What would you consider are the most important magnesium-related health issues that people should be educated about today?
CD: I guess one would have to be heart disease. People don’t seem to have any idea that the heart is one big muscle and that magnesium is the most important mineral for creating muscle relaxation. When you have magnesium in balance with calcium, you have properly functioning muscles: the heart, the muscles in the blood vessels, and the muscles in the skeletal structure. So with the deficiency in magnesium that up to 80 percent of the population is suffering, you do have an excess of calcium, you have muscle contraction symptoms and people are suffering with heart symptoms: palpitations, angina and up to and including heart attack just from simple magnesium deficiency.
Another issue, and one which I expanded on in my book, is the fact that magnesium deficiency is one of the indicators of diabetes. Magnesium seems to function in about half-a-dozen metabolic diabetes-related functions in the body. These include keeping blood sugar in balance, helping promote the production of insulin, helping open up the cells to insulin, and allowing glucose into the cells. It’s very important for blood sugar balance. I have found people who simply add magnesium to their supplements and find that their blood sugar can normalize. Diabetes is very diet dependent, so I find it very surprising that a lot of doctors consider that when somebody starts exhibiting symptoms of diabetes, then the patient should just take diabetic medication or insulin. No one really has come out and told people that magnesium deficiency can be a cause. We know chromium and vanadium are important in blood sugar control, but it’s very new research that is showing the importance of magnesium.
OC: What type of diabetes?
Type 2 adult onset diabetes. What seems to be happening is people who are overweight or obese for 10 to 15 years and people who are eating a high-sugar diet for 10 to 15 years have a very high incidence of developing diabetes.
OC: What kinds of experiences have you had in your own practice in relation to magnesium?
CD: I do a telephone consulting practice and I put pretty much all my patients on magnesium. I get a lot of reports from people that they start sleeping better right away, they feel calmer, they feel less irritable, they feel more in control; so it begins to affect the day-to-day feeling of well-being. It stops muscle cramping: people who get charley horses when they stretch their legs at night—those symptoms go away. Again, it really helps with heart symptoms; people have control over their heart palpitations and angina. Women with PMS find that magnesium really helps control their premenstrual symptoms—they don’t have as much fluid retention. I have people who tell me that taking magnesium makes them completely stop having kidney stones because the magnesium helps dissolve the calcium that is mostly responsible for the buildup of kidney stones. There are many, many more.
OC: I’m going to mention some specific areas. Can you address magnesium as it relates to each one? First, bone health.
CD: Without magnesium, the bone isn’t formed properly in a sound structural state that can withstand falls and bumps. The bone is brittle and suffers more fractures.
CD: Stress is interesting. People with magnesium deficiency do tend to have more anxiety, more irritability. If your muscles are on the edge of being in spasm, then you’re holding your body tense. It’s almost like the magnesium deficiency starts first, your muscles are tense, then you think you’re tense. When you feel tense, you start excreting more adrenalin and the adrenalin starts speeding up the heart.
Magnesium is actually required to manufacture adrenalin. With the overuse of adrenalin due to tension, a vicious cycle occurs where low magnesium starts creating the surges of adrenalin that can come if you have a minor stress or a minor scare. You secrete the adrenalin, your heart races and then you feel you’re having an anxiety attack. Unfortunately when people are in the middle of that, they can go to their doctor and say, “I’m having an anxiety attack,” and instead of being diagnosed with a magnesium deficiency, the doctor prescribes valium or, worse, an anti-anxiety medication. So it’s really important to look at low blood sugar and low magnesium as a cause of anxiety symptoms.
OC: Women’s health.
CD: One of the main medical treatments using magnesium is for eclampsia and preeclampsia. Eclampsia is a condition in pregnant women when they’re about to deliver, bringing high blood pressure, fluid retention and even seizures. And it’s mostly due to magnesium deficiency. The treatment is with intravenous magnesium and the fluid drains off, the seizures stop and the blood pressure comes down. So the question has always been, for people who look at nutrition, why aren’t pregnant women told to take increased levels of magnesium during their pregnancy to prevent this from happening? Because, unfortunately, women who have eclampsia have a higher incidence of children with cerebral palsy and children who have sudden infant death syndrome. In populations where moms take enough magnesium, there’s much less cerebral palsy and sudden infant death. So it’s extremely important.
OC: Children’s health.
CD: Kids drinking a lot of soda, or even drinking fruit juices, are getting high amounts of sugar but not magnesium. If you think of kids who do athletics, they’re sweating a lot. We know you lose sodium from the skin—if you lick your sweat, it tastes salty—so a lot of the sports drinks tend to replace sodium and sugar. But you lose equal amounts of magnesium and sodium and you also lose potassium. So it’s really unfortunate that kids—and adults—in athletics, when using the sports drinks, are not replacing magnesium.
Kids without magnesium also suffer irritability, insomnia and constipation. So when I have a parent telling me about their child who can’t sleep at night, has trouble with constipation, and gets really moody or edgy or angry or irritable, I just put them on magnesium immediately. Those symptoms, usually diagnosed as ADHD, clear up very quickly. You can’t concentrate in school when you’ve got a magnesium deficiency. Your brain is irritated. So with magnesium, everything calms down.
I also treat a lot of autistic children, and they too have constipation. The added benefit with magnesium in the autistic population is that it actually helps detoxify heavy metals, which a lot of these kids are suffering with—mercury toxicity.
OC: What would be your form of choice for the taking of magnesium?
CD: The powdered form is probably the best because you start absorbing it straight away, even in the mouth. So, powdered first, and then capsules, and then tablets. The tablets usually have a lot of binders and fillers and are harder to dissolve than capsules.