Sunday, May 03, 2015

Magnesium and Muscles

Throughout my life since 1988 when I had my first incident of kidney disease I have recommended magnesium to anyone complaining of muscle cramps.

What happened to me was I needed a kidney biopsy and for some reason I had a huge lock down of neck muscles that were cramping to the point that they caused me huge pain and would not relax.  My doctor recommended taking Robaxisal.  This was just a few days after my biopsy.  I read the ingredients and I had my concerns about the aspirin, which I knew to be a prostiglandin from university human biology.  That meant that it would prevent platelets from clotting.  I had my concerns, as with a kidney biopsy they rely on your body's ability to clot to stop the bleeding from the biopsy.  I also knew, from human biology, that my kidneys received 20% of my blood flow, so when they told me not to move much in my hospital bed for 24 hours after my biopsy, I diligently obeyed.  So, here's my doctor telling me to take something that can cause bleeding for strong muscle cramping, but he's a doctor so he knows what he's doing, right?

Well, long story shortened, Roboxisal caused me an extra week of huge extra pain from my biopsy and when I specifically asked my doctor about bleeding and Roboxisal and questioned why not the Roboxacet which had acetaminophen instead of aspirin, he immediately said to stop the first and said to take the latter.  At the end of two weeks, still taking the Roboxacet, I still had no relief from the muscles cramps and the doctor was going on to giving me more drugs.

I didn't take more drugs.  Somewhere in this process I remembered my human biology course yet again and I remembered our lab where we tested muscle fibers and saw that without minerals, magnesium being an important one, the muscle fibers remained tight and locked.  With the minerals we could manipulate the muscle tissue and relax it.  I purchased magnesium instead of getting a prescription filled and my muscle cramps felt better in a day or two.  Since then, I have always turned to magnesium for muscle cramps and suggested it to others when they mention cramps, and it is probably where the holistic side of me was born, and also my belief that sometimes we know more than our doctors and that we still need to carefully consider what they tell us to do.

So, with ALS there is muscle cramping and locking up and it is obviously painful.

To learn more about magnesium, I purchased "The Magnesium Miracle" by Carolyn Dean and it is recommended reading for everyone, actually.  Magnesium deficiency is a huge problem population wide, but it is especially a problem with ALS.

According to Dr Dean magnesium has these roles and my comments are in red:

  1. Catalyzing most chemical reactions in the body.
  2. Producing and transporting energy (My read of the ALS literature, this is a problem with ALS and part of what is causing the death of the nerve cells)
  3. Synthesizing protein (Has anyone heard of muscle wasting with ALS?)
  4. Transmitting nerve signals (And what about this problem with ALS?  Anyone having problems controlling their muscles?)
  5. Relaxing muscles (Anyone with ALS have locked muscles?)
Ok, so what can we see here?  Magnesium has a role in so many of the issues with ALS.  Is it a cure?  No idea, but for sure people with ALS are having problems in all of the areas that require magnesium.

Dr Dean lists 14 functions of magnesium:
  1. Magnesium is a cofactor for the enzyme ATP (adenosine triphospate).  With ALS your body has impaired ATP production and this is related to neuron death.  The Wahl's protocol is a diet designed to heal mitochondria.
  2. Magnesium is an important membrane stabilizing agent.  The nerves cells in ALS are not stable.
  3. Magnesium is required for the structural integrity of numerous body proteins.
  4. Magnesium is required for the structural integrity of nucleic acids.
  5. Magnesium is a cofactor for the enzyme guanosine triphosphate (GTP).
  6. Magnesium is a cofactor for the enzyme phospholipase C (PLC).
  7. Magnesium is a cofactor for the enzyme adenylate cyclase.
  8. Magnesium is a cofactor for the enzyme guanylate cyclase.
  9. Magnesium is a required cofactor for the activity of hundreds of enzymes ... estimate 700-800.
  10. Magnesium is a direct regulator of ion channels, most notably of the other key electrolytes, calcium, sodium and potassium.  There is something seriously wrong with channels with ALS.  I don't understand it right now, but that there is a problem is enough for me to take it seriously.
  11. Magnesium is an important intracellular signaling molecule itself.
  12. Magnesium is a modulator of oxidative phosphorylation.
  13. Magnesium is intimately involved in nerve conduction.
  14. Magnesium is intimately involved in muscle function.
She has a list of 56 conditions associated with magnesium deficiency, several of which are problems that ALS patients also have.  She encourages people to get a RBC test and says that usually when people say they are taking it and still have problems, they aren't taking enough.

What she specifically says about magnesium testing is that the magnesium RBC test is more accurate than the serum magnesium test and that you can get these tests from or if your doctor won't order it for you.  She says you want your range to be between 6.0-6.5 mg/dL which is the higher end of the normal range.  The low end of "normal" is a full 1/3rd lower.

She says to not take magnesium the day of your test.  Repeat, do not take magnesium the day of your test.

If your test results come back with the units mmol/L, multiply by 2.433 to convert to mg/dL.

She says you want to get tested to have a baseline and then get tested every 3-4 months and that it can take up to a year to correct a magnesium deficiency.

You need your doctor to be looking at and helping you to monitor magnesium supplementation.  There are 4 areas that can be a problem with magnesium therapy according to Dr Dean:
  1. Kidney failure.
  2. Myasthenia gravis - hugely serious and potentially a massive problem with ALS, especially if there are already respiratory problems.  What she says, "Intravenous administration could accentuate muscle relaxation and collapse the respiratory muscles." So, work with a doctor.
  3. Excessively slow heart rate.
  4. Bowel obstruction.  
What she says about magnesium supplements is that for the average person oral magnesium, even in high doses, has no side effects except loose stools, which is a mechanism to release excess magnesium.  From my understanding, what you are doing by taking excess magnesium is giving the body a chance to build up its stores of magnesium, and that is a slow process.

To find out the best magnesium to take according to Dr Dean, visit Dr Dean's website.  She recommends ReMag.

And then, because we are considering ALS and what things do to the brain, Dr Blaylock, a neurosurgeon, recommends avoidance of magnesium aspartate because aspartic acid causes unwanted brain stimulation.

Half the magnesium in foods is absorbed, but only about 4% from supplements.  Dr Dean has a whole section devoted to figuring out the kind of magnesium and the dosage, and tables about this.  You can also check out what other ALS patients have done and why, but keep your doctor in the loop with what you are doing, but it might be better to seek out a doctor that is willing to treat you from a whole body holistic approach that helps you to sort out what it is you are putting into your body and what you are removing and why.  But, in terms of magnesium supplementation, Kim Cherry of describes his supplements, including magnesium.  

No post on magnesium would be complete without sourcing how to get magnesium from food, and your dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and swiss chard are you best choices.  Those choices are also very good for other nutritional problems with ALS, like helping your Glutothione system, which is your body's system for removing toxins.

It is important to understand that magnesium is not associated with lowering ALS risk, but rather, when we look at magnesium's role in the body, many of the problems associated with ALS are also linked to magnesium deficiencies. There are huge absorption issues with ALS, so it also makes sense that the body is struggling to get what it needs.

And, this post would not be complete without including a link to a site named for another one of my heroes, at The Linus Pauling Institute, and the write up on magnesium.

As this post did get into muscle cramps, holistic tips that others have shared on helping muscle cramps also include regular mustard, which has helpful ingredients, and then there is a holistic amish recipe, which also has ingredients with other healing properties.  And then there is rubbing the coconut oil onto muscles.

All articles are a work in progress and are advisory for the reasons given.  Everyone should do their own research to verify or refute and make their own decisions about whether they think it is helpful or not.

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