ADHD And Magnesium: Can Magnesium Help Symptoms of ADHD?
Importance of Magnesium
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals necessary for human survival. Magnesium serves hundreds of functions within our cells, yet studies show that between 68% and 80% of Americans do not consume the governments recommended daily intake of magnesium. Even more frightening are studies showing that around 1 in 5 Americans do not consume even half of the government’s recommended daily intake of magnesium.
Magnesium is important because it has been shown to build and strengthen our bones, contribute to a healthy immune response, relax our muscles, produce enzymes responsible for energy, help in transmitting nerve signals, regulate blood pressure and essential vitamins and minerals in our body.
Why Is Magnesium Deficiency So Prominent?
There are a number of factors that contribute to low magnesium levels:
- Consumption of too much alcohol
- Stress and sickness
- Drug dependency, over the counter drugs, or taking prescription drugs such as antibiotics, birth cortisone, control pills, asthma medications or diuretics, to name a few
- Diuretics found in tea and coffee (caffeine) also raise excretion levels
- Diets high in sugar cause Magnesium to be excreted from the body
- Modern farming techniques contribute to the depletion of magnesium from topsoil
- Consumption of highly processed foods
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Although having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have magnesium deficiency-they should be explored with your doctor:
- Potassium deficiency
- Calcium deficiency
- Decreased attention span
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle cramps
- Respiratory issues
- High blood pressure
- Poor memory
- Type II diabetes
- Poor heart health
Magnesium and ADHD
A number of experts believe that children with ADHD may have a mild magnesium deficiency. In one preliminary study of 75 magnesium-deficient children with ADHD, those who received magnesium supplements showed an improvement in behavior compared to those who did not receive the supplements. It has been found that magnesium can interfere with certain medications such as blood pressure medications and antibiotics. It is for this reason and others, that we caution parents that adding too much magnesium to the diet can be dangerous so consultation with a doctor is essential.
Meanwhile, many researchers believe increased magnesium intake in children and adults could drastically lower rates of chronic symptoms related to insulin resistance, heart health, nervous system disorders, and pain from muscle cramps and tension. More and more research and information is being made available regarding the benefits of magnesium supplementation, and scientists are beginning to understand the factors that link, for example, magnesium’s use in preeclampsia and its benefits toward heart health.
It has been noted that some ADHD symptoms have some similarities to magnesium deficiency, which include irritability, mental confusion, and decreased attention span. A University of Maryland Medical Center study of 75 children with ADHD and magnesium deficiency found that those who received magnesium supplements showed behavioral improvement compared to the children who did not consume the magnesium supplements.
Magnesium supplements, if taken as directed by a physician, can be a safe, effective way to ensure an adequate magnesium intake to ensure good health. Magnesium supplementation therapy is recommended by both researchers and health practitioners alike when experiencing symptoms of low magnesium.
Magnesium and Diet
Most medical professionals with knowledge of magnesium deficiencies report that in order to obtain enough magnesium from the diet it takes a concerted effort and one must gain knowledge of magnesium-rich foods so that they can eat more of these foods.
Foods rich in magnesium include green vegetables, tofu, almonds, whole grains, cashews, peanuts, buckwheat, pecans, and Brazil nuts.
Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. When buying first ask your doctor what type is best for you as some can cause side effects or interfere with medications. There are also transdermal magnesium products which are better absorbed and which prevent problems associated with the GI tract. Examples include Epsom salt baths (magnesium sulphate) as well as magnesium oils, gels and lotions (usually magnesium chloride), which can be a better way to increase the amount of magnesium in your body.
The main factor to consider when determining supplement quality is the bioavailability of magnesium; how well it is absorbed by the body. Magnesium Gluconate and Magnesium Citrate are the two best types of magnesium supplements due to how well they are absorbed by the body and their record of safety. And Magnesium Glycinate is also a great alternative if you have digestive trouble with the other types of magnesium. However, as we have done throughout this article- we want to stress the importance of speaking with your primary care doctor in determining the best type for you.
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Liebscher DH, Liebscher DE. About the Misdiagnosis of Magnesium Deficiency. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):730S-731S. [↵]
Dean C. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books; 2007. [↵]
King D, Mainous A 3rd, Geesey M, Woolson R. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun 24(3):166-71.
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