IBD and Magnesium
Last updated: September 2020
We've all heard about being low in iron and perhaps B12, but actually, there are many more potential deficiencies at play with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I've already blogged about my experiences with low vitamin D. so today I thought I'd turn my attention to a little-discussed mineral: magnesium.
Having low levels of magnesium is starting to become more common. A UK study found that around 70% of people in the UK were low in the mineral.1 Magnesium levels can be depleted for many different reasons: when we're stressed, dehydrated, or if we are drinking less tap water. Since lots of tap water is so rich in this mineral, those who switch to bottled water might be affected.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include fatigue, low moods, sleep issues, muscle cramps and cravings.
How is Magnesium linked to IBD?
Having IBD definitely makes us more at risk of low magnesium levels. "The people at highest risk for low magnesium are those with diarrhea and other forms of malabsorption, like Crohn's disease and coeliac disease, says Dr. Levine, Assistant clinical professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.2 It seems therefore poorly absorbing nutrients can put us at risk of IBD.
Also, when we have frequent diarrhea, we can quickly become dehydrated. We lose water through our stools, but can also lose electrolytes too, such as magnesium and potassium. These can quickly be flushed out and many of us remember to replace the water, but not the electrolytes.
But can magnesium help IBD patients? Another study showed that actually, low magnesium (whether in the short or long term) can actually play a part in altering our gut bacteria.3 It goes on to argue that the levels of magnesium we have may go some way to helping with inflammation in Crohn's disease patients.3
Finally, many of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are also those of IBD. Such as fatigue, poor sleep, and muscle cramping, so it's important to be able to distinguish between the two. In some cases, patients might put these down to IBD; but find great improvements once getting their magnesium levels under control.
What should I do next?
Magnesium deficiency can be tested for by blood test, so talk to your doctor about getting checked out regularly. Sources of magnesium in your food includes things like leafy greens, dark chocolate and avocado; so it might be worth making sure you've got plenty of those in your diet regardless.
One of the best things I've tried for magnesium levels is using magnesium salts in a bath (or foot bath). It's thought magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, and as I don't digest supplements particularly well, I have focused on adding these salts to my bath regularly. Not only is it a great way to relax, but the salts can do wonders for achy muscles and joints.
I hope this blog post was useful. I'd love to hear your experiences: are you deficient in magnesium? What's helped get your levels back to normal?
Does living with IBD impact you financially?