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Fatigue Solutions That Make Sense

Dear Pharmacist,

Dr. Oz said magnesium was the No. 1 thing for exhaustion. Do you agree? What are the best supplements? --C.T., Charlotte, North Carolina

I adore him and know it’s impossible to state everything about fatigue in a 20 minute segment, or for that matter, a 500 word column (which is what I’m given) so this week’s column isn’t about what else you need to know to overcome fatigue.

Magnesium is definitely needed for energy production, and I’ve written about the benefits of this mineral in prior columns because deficiency is epidemic. But no, I don’t agree it’s the “No. 1” thing you need. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include sugar and chocolate cravings (I’m not making this up), cardiac arrhythmias, irritability, panic attacks, anxiety, muscle weakness or spasms, tearfulness, depression, personality changes, constipation, leg cramps and fatigue.

Your body needs magnesium all day long, some of it’s used to fuel biochemical reactions, you urinate some out and require some to make dopamine (a happy brain chemical).

Here’s what Dr. Oz didn’t say on that segment: Magnesium is leached by medications, something I’ve termed the “drug mugging” effect.  Over 200 medications deplete magnesium, among them antacids, antibiotics, digoxin, heartburn/reflux medications, birth control, methylphenidate, corticosteroids, almost all blood pressure medications and diuretics. See chapter 12 of “Drug Muggers” for more drug names and how to supplement.

Surprise, there are other muggers too, including coffee, black and green tea, green coffee bean extract and white refined sugar. Just having Celiac disease, Crohn’s, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea can reduce magnesium.

Eating nutrient-dense foods is always my first choice to restore minerals, but in this case, eating magnesium-rich foods may not be enough to correct a serious deficiency. The best supplements are “chelated magnesium” or “magnesium glycinate” or my favorite “magnesium taurate.” That last one provides your body with both magnesium and taurine, and taurine is imperative for your heart cells. That’s a lot of bang for your buck right there. I buy Cardiovascular Research’s brand of magnesium taurate at Vitacost.com because it’s a specialty product, and I can’t usually find it at health food stores.

My point is that fatigue is not usually due to low magnesium. There’s more involved, such as iron deficiency anemia, or poor B vitamin status. You could have mitochondrial dysfunction, meaning your cells have trouble generating energy. That equals fatigue. 

Mitochondria suffer at the hands of heavy metals like mercury or cadmium (from cigarette smoke). Mitochondria can die from chronic undiagnosed background infections (we all have germs hiding in us). In this case, you might benefit from transfer factor supplements such as “NT Factor Energy.”

See where I’m going with this yet? It’s not all about magnesium. Your thyroid may be sluggish, so ashwagandha or iodine may help.

Adrenal fatigue responds to herbs like ginseng or licorice, or prescribed hydrocortisone. My column “Stressed Out?” can truly help you, so I’ve archived it at my site www.DearPharmacist.com.

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