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  • nicoladiepdael

My High Magnesium Burn Rate and Getting To The Root

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

Sitting on the couch today, feeling like I need a nap at 11am, I suddenly realize that I haven't been taking magnesium for a couple months. It makes sense now that exercise has felt tiring lately.

I'm on a custom mineral balancing powder that includes magnesium, but my Herxeimer (detox) reactions have been intense, so I've been taking the powder very sporadically. Which means I haven't been getting much magnesium beyond what I'm getting from my diet.

The last time I can remember going without my magnesium supplements was two years ago. After 2 weeks without, I was bed bound with extreme fatigue, heart palpitations, depression and anxiety. This has been a normal response to foregoing magnesium since I started taking it about 8 years ago.

The fact that I haven't been taking magnesium for TWO WHOLE MONTHS without noticing feels like a miracle.

Beginning high dose magnesium about 8 years ago completely changed my life. Honestly, it may have even saved my life. It didn't solve everything for me but it gave me my mental health and energy back and made my menstrual cycles bearable. I believe it was the boost I needed to dig myself out of a life that didn't fit me.

A "maintenance" dose for me is about 1800mg... that's a lot of magnesium (and not counting what I already get from my healthy diet). So, although I'm incredibly grateful for what magnesium supplementation has done for me, the last few years I've been trying to uncover why I need SO much magnesium to stay afloat.

Magnesium is an antioxidant, which means it neutralizes free radicals in the body. The more 'stress', the more free radicals, the more magnesium is required. This is referred to as your 'Magnesium Burn Rate'. When I say 'stress', you likely think of mental/emotional stress but stress can also be toxicity, infection, nutrient deficiencies etc.

My old life had an incredible amount of mental/emotional stress, so it made sense to me that my magnesium burn rate would be high. But once I entered this new chapter of low stress, my burn rate stayed much the same. I needed to take roughly the same dose of magnesium to keep symptoms away.

My telltale signs that my magnesium is low


Eye twitches


Chronic muscle tension and pain

Extreme fatigue

Heart palpitations

I asked colleagues in the functional medicine space, why my magnesium burn rate would be so high, and no one could give me answer that felt true to me.

It wasn't until I uncovered a few other health mysteries that it all started to make sense.

I've had iron deficiency symptoms since my early adult years, and late into adulthood, with the adoption of a vegan diet, my symptoms of iron deficiency drastically increased.

I remember in 2016, slouched on the couch in my Naturopath's office, feeling as if I was made of paper, Dr. Mathews telling that my magnesium was the lowest she had ever seen in a patient and that my iron didn't look good either. I started supplementing magnesium and iron, which brought me back to life.

I was getting into genetics around this time and had discovered that I convert beta carotene (inactive Vitamin A) into retinol (active Vitamin A) very poorly. At the same time, I also discovered that I'm at risk for Hemochromatosis (iron overload), which I thought was strange, since I've struggled with iron deficiency most of my life.

How can those two things exist together? Iron deficiency and iron toxicity.

I didn't know it at the time, but this was the beginning of putting the puzzle together.

In 2020 I decided to give cod liver oil a try. It's high in retinol and I wanted to see if I noticed a difference, given my Vitamin A conversion issue. I immediately broke out in a rash on my face and got loose stools. My body obviously didn't like it and so I stopped. I continued supplementing my high dose magnesium and iron, which were the only things that kept my mental health and energy levels in check.

Fast forward to 2023, I started diving into mineral imbalance and dysregulation as a root cause to a variety of symptoms and conditions.

Up until this point I had been able to get myself to place where I had energy, I felt happy and my body felt healthy...

But I felt like I was being held up by scaffolding. I needed a large supplement regime, strict diet and lifestyle routines to keep it all together.

I felt good, but I didn't feel flexible or resilient.

On my Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA), I found that I had hidden copper and iron toxicity. Light bulb moment! Copper together with Vitamin A make Ceruloplasmin, which is required for iron conversion and transport. Without Vitamin A, there's no Ceruloplasmin, leaving copper and Iron to settle into the the tissues. This left me with iron deficiency symptoms (because iron isn't the blood where it should be) and iron toxicity symptoms (because iron is rusting in the tissues). The rusting causes free radicals which needs to be neutralized by... there it is.. Magnesium!

Genetically my poor Vitamin A conversion already put me at risk of low Ceruloplasmin and on top of that, my genetic susceptibility for Hemochromatosis put more iron in my blood. So, on a good day, I was storing a lot of iron in the tissues (particularly the liver), but on top of that, I decided to adopt a vegan diet and stayed on it for 7 years.

There is no way to get active Vitamin A on a vegan diet, which is fine for those who produce it well, but for me, it meant health disaster.

liver spot
A 'liver spot' right over my liver, caused by iron toxicity.

Unbound iron stores in a lot of different areas of the body, rusting and causing free radical damage, but its favourite place to sit is in the liver. Years ago I developed a small copper coloured mark on my skin, right where my liver sits. Intuitively I knew it wasn't good, but now I know that it's oxidized iron. My liver is so full of iron that it's showing up on my skin. In the last few years, I've had other spots show up on my hands and face as well.

Iron overload in the liver can be the root cause of way too many conditions to name. Our liver performs an incredible amount of processes for us and if it gets sluggish, our health will suffer. For me, my liver's weak point is estrogen detoxification and blood sugar regulation. Genetically these are weaknesses for me, so my liver needs to be in tip top shape to do them well. For me, poor liver function has manifested in PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and Endometriosis, two aweful hormone dysregulation conditions.

Over the years I've been able to get my Endo and PCOS symptoms into remission, but again, holding it together with supplement and lifestyle scaffolding.

I want a body that is resilient and flexible, so I've begun balancing my minerals, which in my case means taking Cod Liver Oil for active Vitamin A. The reactions I had previously from taking CLO were signs that iron was being liberated from my tissues (a good thing!), causing oxidative stress. I just needed to go slower and up my antioxidants. I'm taking a few other things based on my entire mineral picture and the things that are shifting in my body are incredible.

Small skin cysts and spider veins are disappearing, my menstrual flow has gotten way lighter, my skin discoloration above my liver is fading and..... my magnesium burn rate is way down!

When you have less iron rusting in your tissues, you aren't using as much magnesium to counteract the free radical damage. That means that you can use your magnesium for other things, like making energy.

So I guess the moral of my story is; Supplements are great. They can hold us together while we dig deeper. If I didn't have high dose magnesium, I wouldn't have had the energy to continue my health journey. But at some point, the training wheels need to come off. And that can only happen when you find the root.

Fixing these foundational things means you can avoid disease down the road, and live a vibrant life. Health journeys are not easy, and they take time and patience. But the pay off is a body that doesn't get in the way of you enjoying your life.

If you're in the early stages of your health journey, I still recommend taking high dose magnesium. It's the single most important supplement for the general population in my opinion. If you're ready to dig deeper, I recommend a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) to begin the journey of balancing your minerals.

x Nicola

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