A Laboring Electrolyte

It’s Labor Day here in the United States. I feel a special affinity for this holiday and wanted to explain the day some more. Oh, I already did in SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“For those of you in the United States, here’s hoping you have a healthy, safe Labor Day. I come from a union family. So much so that my maternal grandfather was in and out of jail for attempting to unionize brass workers. That was quite a bit of pressure on my grandmother, who raised the four children and ran a restaurant aimed at the men who were saving up funds to bring their families here from Europe. I knew there was more than my personal history with the holiday so I poked around and found this from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/09/04/labor-day-history/89826440/

‘In the late 1800s, the state of labor was grim as U.S. workers toiled under bleak conditions: 12 or more hour workdays; hazardous work environments; meager pay. Children, some as young as 5, were often fixtures at plants and factories. The dismal livelihoods fueled the formation of the country’s first labor unions, which began to organize strikes and protests and pushed employers for better hours and pay. Many of the rallies turned violent.

On Sept. 5, 1882 — a Tuesday — 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in a parade from City Hall to Union Square in New York City as a tribute to American workers. Organized by New York’s Central Labor Union, It was the country’s first unofficial Labor Day parade. Three years later, some city ordinances marked the first government recognition, and legislation soon followed in a number of states.’”

Now, how do I transition from Labor Day to magnesium? Hmmm, my hard working daughter brought up the subject in today’s phone conversation, but that doesn’t seem like a good transition. Aha! Magnesium is a hard working electrolyte. Okay, that works for me.

Let’s start off with the basics. This passage from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease will give you an idea of what magnesium is and what it may have to do with you as a CKD patient:

“In order to fully understand the renal diet, you need to know a little something about electrolytes. There are the sodium, potassium, and phosphate you’ve been told about and also calcium, magnesium, chloride and bicarbonate. They maintain balance in your body. This is not the kind of balance that helps you stand upright, but the kind that keeps your body healthy. Too much or too little of a certain electrolyte presents different problems.”

Problems? With magnesium? Maybe we need to know what magnesium does for us. The medical dictionary part of The Free Dictionary by Farlex at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/magnesium tells us:

“An alkaline earth element (atomic number 12; atomic weight 24.3) which is an essential mineral required for bone and tooth formation, nerve conduction and muscle contraction; it is required by many enzymes involved in carbohydrate, protein and nucleic acid metabolism. Magnesium is present in almonds, apples, dairy products, corn, figs, fresh leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seafood, seeds, soybeans, wheat germ and whole grains. Magnesium may be useful in treating anxiety, asthma and cardiovascular disease; it is thought to prevent blood clots, raise HDL-cholesterol, lower LDL-cholesterol, reduce arrhythmias and blood pressure, and to help with depression, fatigue, hyperactivity and migraines.”

All this by an electrolyte that constitutes only 1% of extra cellular fluid? I’m beginning to suspect that magnesium is the under explained electrolyte.

All right then, what happens if you have too much magnesium? Keep in mind that as CKD patients, electrolytes are not being as effectively eliminated by our kidneys as they could be since we have some degree of decline in our kidney function.

The U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services of the National Institutes of Health at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ lays it out for us:

“Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur …. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low serum calcium or potassium levels, respectively) because mineral homeostasis is disrupted….”

Well, who’s at risk for magnesium deficiency? The same source tells us:

“Magnesium inadequacy can occur when intakes fall below the RDA but are above the amount required to prevent overt deficiency. The following groups are more likely than others to be at risk of magnesium inadequacy because they typically consume insufficient amounts or they have medical conditions (or take medications) that reduce magnesium absorption from the gut or increase losses from the body.

People with gastrointestinal diseases
The chronic diarrhea and fat malabsorption resulting from Crohn’s disease, gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease), and regional enteritis can lead to magnesium depletion over time …. Resection or bypass of the small intestine, especially the ileum, typically leads to malabsorption and magnesium loss ….

People with type 2 diabetes
Magnesium deficits and increased urinary magnesium excretion can occur in people with insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes…. The magnesium loss appears to be secondary to higher concentrations of glucose in the kidney that increase urine output ….

People with alcohol dependence
Magnesium deficiency is common in people with chronic alcoholism…. In these individuals, poor dietary intake and nutritional status; gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, and steatorrhea (fatty stools) resulting from pancreatitis; renal dysfunction with excess excretion of magnesium into the urine; phosphate depletion; vitamin D deficiency; acute alcoholic ketoacidosis; and hyperaldosteronism secondary to liver disease can all contribute to decreased magnesium status ….

Older adults
Older adults have lower dietary intakes of magnesium than younger adults …. In addition, magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and renal magnesium excretion increases with age …. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases or take medications that alter magnesium status, which can increase their risk of magnesium depletion ….”

Notice how many times the kidneys were mentioned. Quick, go check your lab results. You’ll notice there’s no magnesium level. If you’d like your magnesium tested, you or your doctor need to order a specific test for that. Some labs will allow you to order your own magnesium test; others will require a doctor’s orders.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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