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Magnesium for Fluid Retention

Can magnesium reduce water retention? Let's find out.
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Fluid retention, also known as swelling, bloating, or edema, occurs when the body accumulates excessive fluids. 

Fluid retention means that the cells in the body are hydrated more than they need to be. It may be caused by hormonal changes, medications, illness, or changes in diet. 

There are several methods to reduce the excess water retention in the body. This can be achieved through some easy dietary changes. 

Supplementing the body with vital minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium may also help get rid of water retention

Magnesium is a vital mineral responsible for several body functions. But, can it treat edema? Let’s find out.  

How Important is Magnesium?

Magnesium is important in the body because of its affinity for phosphates in biological systems. For this reason, it is needed for any biochemical reaction involving ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), the chief energy molecule in the cell.

Magnesium is also required for synthesizing DNA and RNA. In humans, the mineral can be found mostly in the skeleton and inside the cells.

Magnesium levels in cells are strongly linked to the cellular levels of potassium. In addition, magnesium promotes the absorption of calcium.

The level of magnesium in the body requires a delicate balance. Therefore, different classes of cells maintain different magnesium concentrations. Magnesium is also regulated by being transported across cellular membranes and being bound by certain proteins.

Magnesium is needed for nerve conduction and to provide muscular strength. Because it can close some calcium channels on the membranes of neurons, high levels of magnesium can reduce the activity of nerves in the nervous system.

Hypomagnesemia and Hypermagnesemia

Hypomagnesemia and hypermagnesemia refer to two electrolyte imbalances of magnesium. In the hypomagnesemia, magnesium levels are abnormally low. This is not exactly equivalent to magnesium deficiency since hypomagnesemia is a measure of magnesium levels in the blood rather than in the body.

Hypomagnesemia can be caused by a number of factors including diuretics, stress, malabsorption of magnesium, diarrhea and chronic alcohol intake.

Hypomagnesemia is often diagnosed with hypokalemia. This is because magnesium inhibits the release of potassium from cells and improves its reabsorption in the kidney tubules. Therefore, when magnesium levels are low, potassium is increasingly lost.

The link between magnesium and potassium is one reason why some diuretics cause severe hypokalemia.

Magnesium and potassium are also interlinked in the development of arrhythmia. Magnesium is required for the proper functioning of the Na+/K+/ATPase pump in heart cells. During hypomagnesemia and magnesium deficiency, the depolarization of the heart is improperly done and so the heart beat goes out of rhythm.

Hypermagnesemia is a rare condition because the kidney regularly excretes excess magnesium from the body. However, this condition is common in people with kidney failure who are receiving drugs containing magnesium.

Hypermagnesemia usually involves hyperkalemia and hypocalcemia. Therefore, its symptoms include weakness, respiratory depression, hypotension, nausea, vomiting, arrhythmia and cardiac arrest.

How Does It Work? 

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral present in the body. It is essential for good health, and regulates more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It is also known to reduce edema.

Animal research supports the idea that perinatal magnesium deficiency can cause edema in infants. A study published in "Biology of the Neonate" in 1999 found that when pregnant rats were given a low-magnesium diet, the mortality rate of their babies increased. They also had considerably higher levels of edema and hemorrhages.

Magnesium and Diuretics

Diuretics are usually given to get rid of fluid retention in the body. They do this by increasing urine production in the kidneys when they block the reabsorption of sodium.

There are three classes of diuretics used in treating edema. These are loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics and potassium-sparing diuretics.

Loop diuretics and thiazide diuretics can promote magnesium loss in the kidneys. This is an unfortunate side effect involving another unwanted side effect of diuretics: potassium loss.

Diuretics belonging to these two classes inhibit sodium reabsorption by binding to transporters responsible for the reabsorption of sodium and potassium.

Loop diuretics, for example, block the Na+/K+/2Cl- symporter (a co-transporter of multiple ions) found in the thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle in the kidney nephrons.

Since the reabsorption of magnesium (and calcium) depends on the concentrations of potassium, sodium and chloride ions, the diuretic action preventing the reabsorption of these latter ions guarantee that magnesium will also be lost in urine.

Potassium-sparing diuretics, on the other hand, do not inhibit the reabsorption of magnesium. This is because diuretics in this class increase urine production by other means.

Spironolactone, a prime example of potassium-sparing diuretics, exerts its effect by inhibiting aldosterone which is a corticosteroid hormone produced by the renin-angiotensin system and responsible for promoting water reabsorption in the kidneys.

Amiloride, another potassium-sparing diuretic, blocks sodium pumps in the kidneys. In this way, it spares potassium ions and, by extension, magnesium ions too.

Other Drugs That Reduce Magnesium Levels

Diuretics are not the only drugs that can reduce magnesium levels and cause fluid retention.

Other drugs that can cause magnesium deficiency and hypomagnesemia are digitalis, cisplatin, ciclosporin, proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole and certain antibiotics including aminoglycosides, amphotericin and gentamycin.

What Are The Sources Of Magnesium? 

Green vegetables, such as spinach, are excellent sources of magnesium, as the chlorophyll molecule contains magnesium. 

Some legumes (beans and peas), whole unrefined grains, nuts and seeds, are also good sources of magnesium. 

Bread made from whole grain wheat flour contains more magnesium than bread made from white refined flour. 

Tap water can also be a good source of magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. 

If you have edema, follow a diet that includes a variety of nuts, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. 

Swiss chard and boiled spinach, among other green vegetables, are the excellent sources of the mineral. 

Fishes (such as halibut and cod) are good sources of magnesium. Some ready-to-eat breakfast cereals also contain magnesium. 

While magnesium oxide is the most common magnesium supplement, the bioavailability of magnesium from this source is low even though among magnesium salts, it has the highest magnesium content per weight.

Magnesium citrate provides the highest bioavailability of the mineral among its supplements.

Since the kidneys effectively remove magnesium from the body, hypermagnesemia is impossible from dietary sources. However, magnesium supplements can cause this accumulation of high levels of magnesium especially in patients with impaired renal functions.

Case Studies 

A study published in the Journal of Women's Health in 1998 reported 200 milligrams of magnesium oxide administered daily for two menstrual cycles notably reduced premenstrual water retention in the second month of taking supplementation. 

Recommended Dosage 

The Mayo Clinic recommends taking 200 mg of magnesium supplements two to three times a day to get relief from water retention. Women suffering from kidney or heart disease should avoid taking magnesium supplementation. 

Are There Any Side Effects?

Dietary magnesium does not pose any health risk; but taking magnesium supplements might cause some side effects such as abdominal cramping and diarrhea. 

Risk of magnesium toxicity increases with kidney failure, when the kidney fails to remove excess magnesium. 

High doses of magnesium-containing antacids and laxatives have also been related with magnesium toxicity. 

You should consult with your health care practitioner before taking magnesium supplements to determine the right dosage for you. 

For more information on Edema treatment, read these articles: Potassium & Fluid Retention, and Reduce Edema by Avoiding These Foods.

Next Article: Potassium and Fluid Retention
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