Magnesium Deficiency In Alcoholics And Alcohol Abusers

Magnesium Deficiency In Those Who Abuse Alcohol

Magnesium Deficiency from Alcohol

The effects of alcohol abuse are commonly known, but fewer Americans recognize the dangers of magnesium deficiency caused by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. 

Read on to learn more about what magnesium deficiency means to the body, why alcoholics are at a heightened risk, and how to maintain healthy levels of magnesium in the body.

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Magnesium Deficiency? 

Clinical studies report that magnesium deficiency is widely prevalent among alcoholics. Further studies showed that this deficiency was aggravated by liver damage caused by heavy and binge drinking.

Heavy drinking is more than four drinks on any day for men or more than three drinks for women.

Binge drinking is five or more alcoholic drinks for males or four or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion.

What Types of Alcohol Cause Magnesium Deficiency? 

Any type of alcohol can cause a drop in Mg levels in the body. Ethanol, the main ingredient in alcohol, works as a magnesium diuretic, pulling magnesium and other electrolytes out of the body through the kidneys. 

When someone consumes more alcohol than recommended regularly, their bodily stores of magnesium slowly become depleted. 

Why Magnesium Is Vital to Overall Health 

Magnesium is an essential element in the human body. Despite its importance, many people–including those struggling with alcoholism–may not know the role magnesium plays in managing their health. 

Magnesium is vital to many bodily processes, including regulating: 

  • muscle and nerve function 
  • blood sugar levels
  • blood pressure
  • making protein
  • bone maintenance
  • DNA creation

Magnesium deficiency is particularly dangerous because magnesium plays a crucial role in several body processes at the cellular level. Magnesium aids the human body in protein synthesis, internal cell functions, and energy production. 

Additionally, it also aids in the production of neurotransmitter chemicals like neuronal nitric oxide. This compound keeps neurons healthy, which means that a magnesium deficiency can lead to neuronal damage, depression symptoms, and a long list of other health problems.

Risk Factors For Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is prevalent among alcoholics and is found to contribute to osteoporosis and various cardiovascular diseases. Several factors in a typical alcoholic’s life contribute to magnesium loss:

  • lack of magnesium in a regular diet
  • gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea
  • diuretic use
  • renal magnesium waste (studies show that magnesium leaves the kidneys at 260% the typical rate within minutes of consuming alcohol)

Symptoms of Magnesium Loss

Magnesium loss is common among those struggling with alcohol abuse. Even worse, many of these individuals are predisposed to becoming dangerously magnesium-deficient. This is a significant health risk as magnesium plays a role in every part of the human body, especially the muscles, kidney, and heart. 

About 99% of the magnesium in the human body is found in the soft tissues, muscles, and bones. The remaining 1% resides in red blood cells and plasma.

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  • insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • irritability and mood swings
  • anxiety
  • joint pains
  • muscle aches
  • low energy levels
  • depression

Foods That Contain Magnesium:

One way to combat magnesium deficiency is to adjust what you eat. However, alcohol intake must be decreased or stopped for the body to resume its natural absorption of vital nutrients, such as magnesium. 

Some foods that are high in magnesium content include: 

  • legumes
  • nuts & seeds 
  • whole grains
  • green leafy vegetables (such as spinach & kale)
  • fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified foods
  • milk, yogurt, and some other milk products

All of the above can be eaten to improve magnesium levels and offset the adverse effects of a deficiency. 

It is equally important to note that a person’s diet can also impair the body’s ability to absorb magnesium during digestion. For example, brown rice and oat bran contain a high amount of magnesium, but the magnesium in these foods is bonded to phytates. 

The human digestive system cannot absorb phytates, so oat bran and brown rice may be poor choices for deficient individuals looking to correct their magnesium levels. 

Multivitamins and certain supplements, such as those with a high dose of zinc, can hinder absorption through interactions with the body’s digestive enzymes.

Conditions Made Worse By Magnesium Deficiency

Long-term alcohol abuse carries numerous risks, and every alcoholic will have unique personal health factors that can contribute to these risks. 

Since magnesium deficiency is common among long-term alcohol users, it’s crucial to understand how long-term magnesium deficiency can exacerbate other afflictions, such as: 

Additionally, magnesium deficiency in alcoholics also increases the risk of these individuals developing alcohol-related health conditions such as: 

  • sarcopenia (muscle loss)
  • brain stroke
  • cirrhosis
  • cardiomyopathy (thickening and hardening of the arteries, making it more challenging to pump blood)

Treating Magnesium Deficiency and Alcohol Addiction 

In addition to eating foods naturally rich in magnesium and limiting one’s alcohol intake, magnesium can be taken as a supplement as a means of correcting a deficiency.

With the right magnesium source, patients can mitigate the depression and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms reported by alcoholics. 

Replacing the body’s magnesium levels also helps restore lost cell and enzyme function, leading to a better metabolism, more energy, and healthier organ function.


This page does not provide medical advice

Written by Elevate Addiction Services | ©2020 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved

Medically Reviewed by

Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.

December 7, 2020

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