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Can Your
Acid-Base Balance Effect Your Magnesium Levels?

atomic chart for Mg
  Mg supports 300+ biochemical reactions in the human body.

Acid Load as a Possible Cause of Magnesium Deficiency

Based on my personal experience, as well as those of my family, I think that it may be easier to become magnesium deficient when your body's pH is out of balance. I've noticed that when I eat too many acid forming foods, I'll have an increase in magnesium deficiency symptoms - especially tight muscles, vertigo and headaches. I suspect this is because magnesium is very alkaline and as such is one of the minerals the body uses up to help balance the pH of body fluids. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, nutrition researchers found that, "Magnesium deficiency could thus, apart from an insufficient intake, partly be caused by the acid load in the body. " 1

Western diets are often high in grains, dairy and meat, which tend to be acid producing foods, and low in mineral rich, alkalizing fruits and vegetables. Many holistic health experts believe that acid forming diets are a major cause of mineral and other nutritional deficiencies, which results in major health issues in the Western World. Recently my husband was eating a lot of acidic foods in order to try to kill off the bacteria from a sore throat. It worked as far as getting rid of the sore throat, but the next day he started getting signs of a migraine. When he went back to a less acidic diet high in magnesium rich foods, the migraine symptoms went away.

Hypochlorhydria and Mg Absorption

While a too acid body may not be ideal, I think magnesium may be best absorbed when the body's pH is within a normal range - neither too acid nor too alkaline. I have have found that eating too many alkaline foods or consuming too many non-magnesium based antacids also seems to cause magnesium deficiency symptoms, especially anxiety. I suspect this may occur when there is not enough stomach acid, a condition called hypochlorhydria, in which the body cannot absorb nutrients, including magnesium, as easily.

Consumer Reports has an article that notes that long term use of heartburn drugs, which basically lower acid levels in the body, can cause dangerously low Mg levels, a condition technically known as hypomagnesemia. Symptoms include irregular heart beats, muscle spasms, convulsions and tremors. You can read the official FDA warning here.

The FDA warning includes the following heavily advertised prescription drugs:

  • Nexium
  • Dexilant
  • Prilosec
  • Zegerid
  • Prevacid
  • Protonix
  • AcipHex
  • Vimovo

It is interesting to note that advertisements for these drugs are everywhere, yet the FDA warning about the drugs and the possibility of hypomagnesemia do not seem to have the same million dollar advertising budgets.

I think the major logic flaw in the FDA's warning is that they are focusing on drug causes, and not other causes of low alkaline levels. The main take away point of the warning should logically be that low alkaline levels can cause hypomagnesemia - whatever the cause. There are many foods that are known in traditional medicines for lowering acid levels, especially cabbage. Yet, because the FDA does not recognize the power of simple foods affecting health for good or bad, the end result is that health care consumers are left missing the bigger picture. Warnings like this leave people with the impression that only drugs count - that what you eat the rest of the day doesn't matter.

Another possible reason why Mg may be too short when the body is over-alkaline involves the immune system. Stomach acid is one of the body's defenses against pathogenic bacteria, fungus and yeast. Magnesium is one of the nutrients the body uses to help support the immune system, 2 so I suspect low stomach acid may tax magnesium reserves on two fronts. The first is by making magnesium that is ingested less easily broken down and absorbed. The second reason is that I suspect the body uses up magnesium as an immune response to an increased invasion force of bacteria, yeast and fungus that normally would have been killed off of by higher levels of stomach acid.

Reader Feedback

Many people write to me through my web site to let me know that that either they or their children have been helped almost immediately from various health conditions by taking magnesium supplements. While I personally advocate diet changes rather than supplements, I do get a lot of email about the benefits of magnesium supplements from some people, especially for helping tics in children. Many parents who find magnesium supplements helpful for their children also tell me that their children don't like vegetables and live off diets of carbs, dairy and meat. I suspect that these kids may have an acid load from eating a typical American diet, and the supplements not only help to increase magnesium levels but they act as antacids to help restore their body's pH balance.







Selected References

1. Rylander, Ragnar, Thomas Remer, Shoma Berkemeyer, and Jürgen Vormann. "Acid-Base Status Affects Renal Magnesium Losses in Healthy, Elderly Persons." The Journal of Nutrition Sep (2006): 2374-2377. 19 Dec. 2007. [Full Text]

2. McCoy H, Kenney MA."Magnesium and immune function: recent findings." Magnesium Research : Official Organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium. 1992 Dec;5(4):281-93. [Abstract]

Related Pages in This Site:

How to Get More Magnesium in Your Diet

Symptoms Associated with Low Magnesium Levels, Part II

Supplements and Epsom Salts

Getting More Magnesium in Your Child's Diet

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