Test Your Own Magnesium Levels
Self-diagnosis is simple and effective
In an increasingly data-driven world, figures, measures, and numbers shape our perception of reality and ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to our health. The idea that “knowledge is power” extends to assessing magnesium deficiency in our bodies. It is not symptoms, but the millimole (mmol) content in the blood serum that determines whether or not we need to supplement. But is this really accurate?
Opinions vary on the usefulness of preventive medical examinations. Examining individuals who don’t have symptoms or a heightened risk of disease can seem somewhat strange: we are searching for something with no indications that it exists. Critics often argue that most of the time, screening tests reveal nothing significant. One might spend a considerable amount of money just to confirm what they already knew: they are healthy. Further, critics argue that screening is merely a snapshot in time. Additionally, any discovered abnormalities, such as a deviant blood value, often lead to further medicalization in the form of additional testing and medication, even though many people have these sorts of anomalies without being sick.
However, on the other side of the coin, a positive screening result can bring a wave of relief and joy; celebrating the good report by enjoying a special meal or lighting up a celebratory cigar. But even if the result is not so positive, like discovering a burgeoning tumor in a vital organ, you would still appreciate the screening for catching the issue early. If discovered later, the treatment would have been more invasive and riskier. In this sense, screening is like a lottery where you always win, in one way or another.
Let’s imagine you frequently suffer from cramps, have trouble sleeping, struggle to concentrate, and blink excessively. These symptoms would be enough to warrant a visit to the doctor. Here, the doctor would likely suggest a blood test since measurements and numbers are increasingly crucial in diagnostics. A conscientious doctor would recognize your symptoms as potential signs of magnesium deficiency and would request this to be measured. You go for a blood test and a few days later, the doctor reassures you that your magnesium levels are within the prescribed range.
But the question arises: Is this conclusion accurate? Standard practice in the Netherlands involves measuring magnesium in the blood serum, which contains about 1% of the 24 to 28 grams of magnesium we have in our body. The rest resides in our teeth, bones, muscle tissue, and intercellular fluid. The blood, being an expert at maintaining stable levels, draws magnesium from the rest of the body if it is deficient. In other words, the outcome of a blood serum measurement does not guarantee that you do not have a magnesium deficiency. It seems that the best course of action is actually self-diagnosis.
There are several tests available today, although they might not be covered by insurance, that can measure your magnesium status more reliably. The so-called RBC (Red Blood Cells) test, for example, offers a better picture. This test, which costs around €60, measures the magnesium content in cells, not the serum. The Ionized Magnesium Test, apparently even more reliable, is unfortunately only available in America where it was developed. There’s also the Exa test that measures magnesium through the cheek mucosa but costs a few hundred euros, although it’s quite reliable. Moreover, many therapists working with bio-photon or bio-resonance devices claim they can detect a magnesium deficiency. This method is simple and reasonably accessible, though scientifically debatable.
Just like water and oxygen, our bodies constantly need magnesium, but can only store what is not immediately required for a short period: the magnesium your body takes in is used within 24 to 36 hours, and any surplus is excreted via urine, sweat, or feces. Moreover, the amount of magnesium your body needs varies from day to day due to factors such as exercise, stress, medication, diet, and genetic disposition. This poses an additional problem when measuring magnesium levels in the body; it is a snapshot. Even the most reliable tests cannot escape this fact. Therefore, it is advisable not only to rely on a single test for magnesium levels but also investigate other ‘circumstantial evidence’, such as hormonal values like melatonin, cortisol, testosterone, and insulin.
In the end, it seems the best approach is simple self-diagnosis. Try supplementing a certain amount of magnesium for a period of three weeks. After three weeks, listening to your body should give you a fair idea if you benefit from extra magnesium.