Magnesium for Constipation, or Hidden Calcium Problem?
"I have to have my magnesium every night or else I won't go to the bathroom." I hear this one every week. I have no doubt that these folks are correct about their magnesium and its bowel benefits, but what is really going on here? Recall from previous articles, that every nutrient is balanced with at least one other nutrient on a physiological teeter-totter. The primary balancing mineral for magnesium is calcium. So, if taking magnesium works to improve some common symptom like constipation or muscle cramping or headaches, then based on the teeter-totter, magnesium is likely on the low side and calcium is on the high side. This is in fact, what is taking place, but why?
Calcium is one of the most important nutrients in the body, but, it can also become one of the most difficult to absorb for two reasons. 1. Low stomach acid levels and 2. The abundance of alkalized calcium in most food products.
One of the more common types of calcium in food products is calcium carbonate, which is chalk, and consequently, is the most alkalizing of the calcium forms. High alkalinity decreases absorption and utilization of the minerals in the body even under normal circumstances and much more so when stomach acid is already low for other reasons. Calcium phosphate is the next most difficult calcium form to absorb. Interestingly, these are the two most common forms of calcium found in cow milk. They are also two of the cheapest types of calcium supplements.
For this reason, when a food manufacturer wants to grab your attention with stickers like, “calcium fortified!” it is one of these inexpensive and poorly utilized kinds of calcium they have added. For example, dairy-free milks such as almond, rice or coconut, are often ‘chalked’ full of cheap calcium, to the tune of 45% of the RDA per cup, or, as their proud stickers declare, “50% more calcium than milk!” Not surprisingly, the symptoms of poor calcium absorption will often be made worse with milk alternatives versus milk itself.
The most common reasons for poor calcium utilization are 1. High ingestion of milk-based products and 2. Low acid levels in the stomach. Low acid levels occur by the consumption of milk-based products themselves, by other high alkaline foods, by too many raw foods (nuts, seeds, vegetables, etc.), or, perhaps the most significant cause: high adrenaline from stress. (see: Toothless Diet)
Poorly absorbed or “bound,” calcium causes constipation, muscle spasms, headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, trouble falling asleep, bone spurs, increased joint degeneration and kidney stones. To alleviate these issues, people have turned to magnesium with good success in some cases. The reason for their improvement? Again, it is the teeter-totter effect. By adding magnesium, the teeter-totter between calcium and magnesium becomes more balanced, but not in an optimal range. Now, they are both temporarily elevated in the body.
In this state, some noticeable symptom resolution will occur, such as better bowel function, and decreased muscle spasms, but these are short-lived and do not address the primary imbalance of high bound calcium. Worse yet, poor physiological and metabolic states become established, assuring greater health consequences in the future. Does the teeter-totter show up on a blood test? Rarely. This is because blood levels of minerals are highly fine-tuned by the body. As levels rise in the bloodstream, minerals are shunted into the tissues - hence muscle spasms or bone spurs in the case of calcium. As mineral levels drop, the body extracts its needed minerals from the bone and soft tissues. Osteopenia/osteoporosis are perfect examples. With long-term ingestion of bound calcium, the body is forced to shunt the excess into the tissues. However, useable calcium is still required at a cellular level for a plethora of metabolic functions and is therefore, pulled from the calcium storage centers - the bones and teeth – at the same time. If a child or an adult with good dental hygiene suddenly develops dental carries, it is likely this process is at work. Taking magnesium can help the bone and teeth situation, but again, the primary issue of elevated bound calcium is not being addressed. As a reminder, calcium also works on another important teeter-totter with vitamin D. Too much vitamin D in a state of high bound calcium, will also promote bone loss because of vitamin D’s high affinity for calcium. See my article: Take Vitamin D Always, Except… To be continued…
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