When a patient in the hospital becomes unconscious and we don’t know why we go running to them with lifesaving drugs in our crash cart. Magnesium is one of those drugs, although it is actually a mineral.
We commonly use magnesium on cardiac units for life-threatening conditions such as irregular heart rhythms, open-heart surgeries, Torsades de pointes, and mitral valve prolapse.
On the maternity ward, magnesium is used to save the lives of mothers and babies in preterm labor. It’s sort of like a muscle relaxer in that it relaxes the contracting uterus.
Magnesium is also used for hypertension and migraine prevention, as well as throat spams and another spasticity. It helps regulate other minerals in the body and is used to prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Magnesium is used in combination with other drugs to partially restore the brain in Wernicke’s disease, which is also known as the wet brain, Korsakoff’s psychosis, and alcoholic encephalopathy. The mineral has also been used for improving postoperative pain, detrusor instability of bladder, type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hyperphosphatemia.
In combination with potassium, magnesium prevents low potassium. It’s even used for osteoarthritis and muscle pain in the form of a bath salt such as Epsom salt.
But the most interesting use for magnesium, in my opinion, is energy.
Magnesium is used for so many biochemical functions that when we restore a patient’s levels to normal, good things seem to occur.
A patient once asked me, “What did you give me that made me breathe so much easier?” What we gave him was intravenous magnesium.
I explained to him that he can take it orally at home, but one of the side effects is diarrhea. He said he suffered from chronic constipation and would use it to stay regular. He had normal kidney function, so I gave him the thumbs up.
It’s important to note that the benefits of magnesium supplementation usually occur as a result of restoring a magnesium deficiency to normal. The exceptions are pregnant women and postoperative cardiac patients, in whom we will take a normal level and elevate it even higher for the relaxation effect, though the patients are closely monitored.
Those at risk of developing a magnesium deficiency include:
- Patients with stomach or malabsorption problems
- Patients with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis
- Weight-loss surgery patients
- Vegetarians and picky eaters
- Patients over 50
Medications taken for years can also cause magnesium deficiency over time. This is especially true for heartburn medications such as proton pump inhibitors.
Be sure to tell patients who are buying magnesium supplements that it can quickly accumulate to dangerous levels in those who do not have good kidneys. Magnesium does not directly harm the kidneys; rather, it simply cannot leave the body in the presence of kidney dysfunction.
Remember: whole foods rich in magnesium are always best.