Gretchen Lidicker is a writer, researcher, and the author of the books CBD Oil Everyday Secrets and Magnesium Everyday Secrets. She has a degree in biology and a masters in physiology with a concentration in complementary and integrative medicine. She's been featured in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Forbes, and Travel & Leisure.
When we think about drinking too much alcohol, our minds often jump right to the symptoms of a hangover — like nausea, headaches, and fatigue. But the truth is that drinking can affect our health in a plethora of ways, many of which are far less obvious than the symptoms of a hangover.
The effects of drinking affect the nutrients our body needs to function optimally, especially a mineral called magnesium. Magnesium is an important mineral for major bodily functions, such as blood sugar regulation, muscle contraction, and even DNA synthesis. And according to Mayo Clinic, not getting enough magnesium in your diet — or losing to0 much because of alcohol — can cause irritability, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. Magnesium also seems to have a protective effect against diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain heart disease risk factors.
Knowing this, it should be a top priority to make sure your happy hour habits aren’t sabotaging your magnesium levels. Here’s what you need to know about the magnesium-alcohol connection.
How alcohol depletes magnesium levels
“The process of metabolizing alcohol requires nutrients,” wrote the Boulder Medical Center in an online article detailing nutrition recommendations for those who consume alcohol. So what’s the consequence of this gobbling up of key nutrients? “As the liver decreases its supply of these nutrients, the bloodstream is called upon to replenish the supply. As a result, body cells are deprived of critical nutrients and normal body functions suffer,” they continued.
This thinking absolutely applies to magnesium (Mg), which is affected by alcohol intake in more ways than one. As the authors of a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition explained: “First, alcohol acts acutely as a Mg diuretic, causing a prompt, vigorous increase in the urinary excretion of this metal along with that of certain other electrolytes.” They go on to explain that chronic intake of alcohol causes the body stores of magnesium can become depleted as well, leaving a person vulnerable to deficiency.
Many of us assume that if we’re eating a healthy and diverse diet, we’re pretty well protected from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Unfortunately, that logic doesn’t quite hold up in the magnesium’s case. It’s thought that 50 to 90 percent of us are deficient in magnesium.
And we don’t just have alcohol to blame for that, either; we can also thank medication use, soil depletion, chronic stress, and the fact that refined and processed foods are basically devoid of this mineral.
How to prevent a magnesium deficiency
To protect yourself against a magnesium deficiency, keeping your drinking to mild or moderate levels is a good place to start. You can also focus on eating magnesium-rich foods regularly but especially before and after a night out. The good news is that magnesium-rich foods are delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet.
- Spinach (78 mg in ½ cup)
- Dark chocolate (50 mg in 1 ounce)
- Pumpkin seeds (168 mg in 1 ounce)
- Avocado (44 mg in 1 cup)
- Cashews (74 mg in 1 ounce)
- Black beans (60 mg in ½ cup)
According to Cleveland Clinic, the recommended dietary allowances for magnesium are 400–420 mg for men and 310–320 mg for women. If you don’t feel confident you can consume that amounts through your diet, it might be wise to supplement—especially considering the many factors putting us at high risk for magnesium deficiency.