Mind your minerals

| November 4, 2013
Dr. Gerald Deas

Dr. Gerald Deas


Mrs. M. was a 42-year-old file clerk for the social service department of the city. She visited her doctor only when she had an acute physical or mental problem. Otherwise, she medicated herself based upon the opinions and advice of friends and relatives. At this office visit, she complained of her nails breaking easily and her hair falling out. Mrs. M smoked approximately one and a half packs of cigarettes and drank four to five cups of coffee daily. She never missed a highball for dinner.

Questioning her further, she revealed that she felt weak in her legs and had been experiencing an irregular heartbeat frequently. For the past five years, she also had been taking a diuretic (water pill), for hypertension. A physical examination of Mrs. M substantiated her complaints of brittle nails, thinning hair, irregular heartbeat and tremor of her hands. She was also underweight.

Mrs. M was a prime suspect for a mineral deficiency. Test revealed a low magnesium level. This is an essential mineral that is necessary for the normal functioning of the body. A deficiency can be due to many causes such as not eating foods high in this element (green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and animal protein). The consumption of alcohol, caffeine-containing drinks (coffee, colas and teas) along with water pills can cause a loss of magnesium in the urine. Poor absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, due to the combining of magnesium with phytates found in corn, bran, soybeans and cereal products, as well as combining with oxalic acid found in vegetables like spinach, can lead to a deficiency of this mineral.

The average person needs about 500 to 700mg of magnesium daily to maintain adequate health. This mineral can be taken in the form of magnesium chloride or magnesium oxide, balanced with an adequate amount of calcium. There is a tablet on the market containing 1,500mg of calcium and 750mg of magnesium. One tablet a day is all that is needed to provide these essential elements.

Mrs. M was practicing many poor health and nutritional habits that led to a magnesium deficiency. She was started on a vitamin and mineral therapeutic diet, including a magnesium supplement. In about six weeks, her nails became stronger and her hair got thicker. She related that her legs were much stronger and the irregular heartbeat had subsided.

Mrs. M started correcting her poor life style and diet. She also began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to curb her increasing hidden appetite for alcohol. She also contacted the American Cancer Society about its smoking cessation program, for which she enlisted. At our last meeting, this magnificent lady was living a magnificent life, due to magnificent magnesium and other behavioral changes.

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Category: Health

About the Author ()

Gerald W. Deas, MD, MPH, MA is a physician, poet, patient advocate, playwright, media personality, political activist and public health crusader. Read his full bio at http://www.downstate.edu/giving/funds/deas.html/.

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