Tag Archives: magnesium

TMJ: a total PIA

I have never been officially diagnosed with TMJ. I’m just assuming that the term applies to the condition I experience every few years or so wherein sitting in one place longer than 20 minutes makes want to rip my jaw out and stomp on it. I keep moving it around, trying to get it to fit together in a way that will stop the dull pain that spreads into my cheeks and face.

After the last miserable episode of this during a layover at the airport, which found me contemplating how one goes about locating strangers willing to share their prescription opiates, I looked TMJ up online. The TMJ page on Sandy Simmons’ Connective Tissue Disorder site mentioned magnesium, so I added that to my daily regimen. I also began doing this yoga stretch, but holding a yoga block between my hands and pressing into it. I think I also took vitamin B12. It stopped bothering me after a week or so.

In the meantime, thinking that my less-than-movie-star-quality teeth alignment was one of the contributing factors, I visited an orthodontist who specialized in adult braces. He took X-rays of my jaws and spent an hour with me discussing them and different treatment options.

His explanation of why teeth misalignment happens made a lot more sense to me than the “it’s genetic” line everyone else throws at you. He said that breathing with your mouth open, as people with allergies are wont to do, puts your tongue in a different place than when the mouth is closed. Tongue placement influences the way your teeth grow and shift. Mine definitely lean in a bit, although in a very tidy and straight way thanks to two years of orthodontia. When my teeth bite down they’re not actually crown to crown but bottom-outside-edge to top-outside-edge. Which causes shocks to the enamel, which travel upward and cause damage that results in my gums receding, among other things.

He described a process whereby a digital model of my mouth would be taken, some sort of device would be fitted, I’d occasionally come in to have the device adjusted, and after a year my teeth would be aligned more optimally.

I don’t actually remember what he said about the TMJ connection. I don’t remember much of anything that happened after I heard the $4,200 price tag, which was not covered by insurance and was not even remotely a possibility for me. But at least the appointment was free and the information interesting.

Another weird deficiency symptom: oversensitive hearing

Over the past 10 years I’ve discovered that when my magnesium gets really low I develop an annoying sensitivity to noise. It took me a few years to put it together after the first time it happened. In that case it eventually resolved by itself, but not before I spent several months plotting the demise of an upstairs neighbor.

During my last attempts to improve my vitamin D3 status with 15,000 IU a day, I experienced it again. Vitamin D supplements in big enough doses can affect your levels of the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and for me, vitamin K. And probably something else I’m forgetting at the moment. After a few weeks at this dose, the sensitivity to noise seemed to spring up in a matter of hours. I could suddenly hear the downstairs neighbor open and close her front door and all her other doors, too. I could also hear every other apartment door on my floor. Usually I only notice those sounds when a new tenant with bad door habits has just moved in.

(Speaking of which, if you are a parent who has allowed a child to go out into the world without knowing how to properly close a two-inch thick, solid wood door, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat the following: “I am a horrible person. Ebola is too good for me.”)

Luckily, this was an easy fix. After two days on maybe 800 mg of magnesium, the problem disappeared. One good thing about magnesium is that you don’t have to worry too much about how much to take. Unless you have a major heart problem, all you risk is the complete loss of your dignity should you overshoot the dose and not get to the bathroom in time.

Oddly enough, I first got wise to the idea that sensitivity to noise was a deficiency thing from a couple of novels. In one of Patrick O’Brian’s Capt. Aubrey books, the ship’s surgeon, treating either a scurvy or syphilis patient, refers to the painfully acute hearing of the terminally ill. Later I came across a novel set in Egypt, probably by Arundhati Roy but don’t quote me, in which the narrator refers to the extremely sensitive hearing of the very old or infirm. By that point I had learned that nutrients are depleted in illness and old age, so I figured that must be the problem.

Sandy Simmons has a page on her Connective Tissue Disorder site about her family’s experiences with hearing problems and nutritional deficiencies.

My experience with the Perfect Health Diet’s supplement plan

by guest blogger Steph

Steph is maharani at Midlife Makeover Year, where she’s exploring new approaches to her health, diet, attitude, family life, and shoes, among other things. She is also one of my few commenters to refrain from mentioning w-bcam s-x, for which I will be eternally grateful. — mr

When I went on the Perfect Health Diet plan, I hoped to clean up my eating habits and address some of my thyroid issues through food choices. As it happens, the PHD plan is not just about food; there is actually a pretty aggressive recommended supplement plan. (Aggressive, that is, for me, as I’ve traditionally been a “multi-plus-maybe-some-vitamin-D” person.) Since the supplement plan didn’t involve drastically cutting sugar or giving up the fresh, hot gluten-filled rolls I was habitually baking for my family (as the food plan does, sigh), I did the pills first.

Because I was not expecting to get any bang for my vitamin and mineral buck, I didn’t watch for any reactions, good or bad, that I might have to this or that supplement. I didn’t take a scientific approach to starting on a new pill or capsule. I included each recommended supplement in my morning cocktail as it arrived in the mail. Pretty quickly (thanks to Amazon Prime), I had added the following to my multi-vitamin and 1000 IUs of vitamin D3: vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin K2 (100 mcg), copper (2 mg), chromium (200 mcg), iodine (500 mcg), magnesium (400 mg), and selenium (200 mcg).

Within a few days after I was on everything, I noticed a major change, not physically, but mentally — a major reduction in OCD symptoms and general anxiety. I was first struck while I was driving to the food store. I had a feeling of competence and ease. I was not gripping the steering wheel. I was, in fact, steering with one hand. This is not something I do. Generally, I drive waiting for an accident, acutely aware of my killing potential. But now I felt…not indifferent to others’ wellbeing, by any means, but as capable as the other drivers on the road.

This was strange! And it took a little mental work for me to accept that perhaps I felt like a competent driver because I am one, not because I was suddenly drugged and delusional.

A few days later, I began to feel that I was perhaps a bit too mellow. In poking around a little, I learned that the recommended dose for magnesium for women is 200 mg (400 mg is the recommended dose for men). Also, I have low blood pressure, and I was concerned that too much magnesium would lower it even more. So I bumped my dose down. That felt more natural.

Then, the real test: I had an upset in my personal life, the sort of thing that generally sets me off in a spiral of obsessing, “phoning in” my obligations to my sons, driving my husband crazy, clenching my jaw, eating obsessively, and just generally getting sucked into a vortex of negativity and pulling my family and friends down with me. Only I didn’t. I was upset for a bit, processed the situation, and moved on. This was major, and completely unexpected.

With minimal research (laziness being central to my character), I learned that many folks with OCD find symptom relief with selenium supplementation, so I’ve decided that this was likely key to my newfound mental health improvement. I’ve taken magnesium in the past with no reduction in OCD symptoms.

I may in the near future try eliminating selenium for a bit to see if my OCD symptoms ramp up. The trick will be finding a “good” time to invite that lovely obsessing back into my psyche.

If you grapple with OCD, you might want to give selenium a try. Note that too much selenium is toxic, so monitor your intake. And if you regularly eat Brazil nuts, you are already getting a big hit of selenium, so be careful.

I have since stopped taking the copper, iodine, and vitamin K2. My multi-vitamin already included the recommended amount of copper and I became concerned about taking too much. The iodine was making my thyroid feel “wonky.” I have since switched from sea salt to regular, supermarket iodized salt, and this is working better for me. I stopped the K2 after I developed a superficial blood clot on my leg. So far as I know, K2 assists the body’s clotting mechanism, but doesn’t cause blood clots. Nevertheless, I figure I probably clot OK on my own.

A list of supplements that don’t work very well in the versions sold in the US

This past year I’ve learned that some of the nutrient supplements on the shelves in the US don’t work very well, either because a significant part of the population can’t process them, or because the version used is poorly absorbed by the body, or because they are so cheaply formulated that the filler would make you sick before you could get enough of the active ingredient to resolve your deficiency.

Here’s everything I know so far. Needless to say, the better versions are more expensive and harder to find.

Folic acid: Processing this synthetic vitamin into its active form requires methyl groups and those of us who are methyl-challenged (low methylators) need to use the methylfolate version. Some sources say that the folic acid formulation is pointlessly inefficient for anyone. Using methylfolate instead certainly can’t hurt.

Calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate requires stomach acid to work, and is hard on the stomach for some people. Calcium citrate absorption doesn’t require stomach acid. (This issue isn’t as big a concern as the others listed here.)

Magnesium oxide: This is not as bioavailable as other options, such as magnesium citrate. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are even better options, but they are harder to find in pill form. You can also absorb magnesium through the skin in the form of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium chloride, which can be found in a spray oil.

Vitamin B1 – thiamine hydrochloride. This is poorly absorbed by the body. If you are only mildly deficient, it might be all you need, but I needed a fairly large dose and couldn’t stomach it at all. When I switched to the more efficient benfotiamine, I had no trouble and noticed results much faster. Another version is thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD), which is what I use.

Vitamin B2 – riboflavin. This is also poorly absorbed. Riboflavin phosphate AKA riboflavin-5′-phosphate AKA flavin mononucleotide (FMN) is a better formulation.

Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine. Some people have trouble converting pyridoxine to its active form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). You can buy the active version in supplement form, usually referred to as P5P. Some experts say you just have to use a part of your dose in that form; the rest can be pyridoxine.

Vitamin B12 – cobalamin or cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin (used in injections).
Like folic acid, it requires a methyl group to convert to its active form. I’ve followed a discussion group on B12 whose members are adamant that these types are pathetically inefficient and that methylcobalamin should be used. (There is also adenosylcobalamin AKA dibencozide AKA coenzyme B12, but I was never clear what the difference is.) If you are having injections, you might have to search a bit to find a compounding pharmacy that can prepare the methylcobalamin shots, which is less stable than the other versions and has to be carefully shipped and stored.

The reason B12 tablets come in doses with such large numbers — 1,000 mcg., 5,000 mcg. — is because the body can only absorb about 1% of it at a time.

Vitamin D2 – ergocalciferol. Depending on what you read, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is either three or five times more bioavailable than vitamin D2.

Vitamin K1 – phylloquinone. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is the preferred version, but I don’t know a lot about it. Vitamin K3 (menadione) has been banned so you shouldn’t have to worry about that one.

Hair loss and hair thinning: a few causes and solutions

Long before I figured out the whole gluten-ruining-my-health thing, I noticed that I felt better the less I ate. This was because like most Americans I ate wheat (gluten) at almost every meal. This revelation eventually led me to such a low caloric intake that I developed a palsy in my hands, stopped sleeping, and lost a third of my hair.

To give you an idea of how much hair: I used to wear it in a half ponytail (like this) and about every three weeks the 1/4-inch, spring-loaded barrette I used would break from being stretched too far. Two years later I could put all of my hair in the same type of barrette and the barrette would slide off onto the floor.

The switch to gluten-free and back to eating like a horse slowed but did not stop the hair loss. It took me a few years to figure out the reason, during which I was on a daily regimen of all the basics: calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, etc. When I read that magnesium deficiency can be involved in hair loss, I took extra but it didn’t help. The same happened with biotin. When I read that the two work together in some ways, I tried them both at the same time and in about a week the hair loss stopped.

It did not grow back much, though, and since nothing else has worked, and since my iron levels have never even remotely high for various reasons, I am assuming that iron deficiency is the cause. An oft-repeated statistic among hair-loss experts is that if low iron is responsible for your hair loss, your iron ferritin level has to be at 70 for three months before it will start growing back.

When I finally learned to look at my medical test results myself, I discovered my ferritin level, which had been 6 for two years, was by European standards so low as to warrant hospitalization and a blood transfusion. In two years not one of the dozens of doctors I consulted even commented on it. Finally an alterna-doc, who had seen me before, mentioned that it should ideally be 50-60.

After that episode I lost another chunk of faith in doctors and in lab ranges. To give you an idea of the widely disparate opinions about lab ranges, my conventional doc said a ferritin level of 12 is fine. In 10 years I haven’t been able to get it past 26.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the thickness/fullness of the hair can change in a matter of days based on my protein and iron intake. Drinking/eating large amounts of peppermint in the form of tea or Peppermint Patties, for example, will lower my iron levels and make my hair wimpy in a few days. Not eating protein for a few days will do the same.

Other things I’ve tried are taking apple cider vinegar and betaine hydrochloride on the theory that I wasn’t producing enough stomach acid to absorb needed nutrients, but no dice. I also tried rinsing my hair in apple cider vinegar to remove whatever buildup our notoriously hard water here might be creating, but I couldn’t take the smell. There’s no point in having great hair if you smell like a pickled egg.

Niagarrhagia

Update December 24, 2013: See also the post on methionine.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyMy ob/gyn has only two treatment suggestions for menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Or, as I call it, Niagarrhagia. The first treatment is a prescription NSAID that can reduce output by 40%. Since my body freaks out at every Rx besides antibiotics, it not an option for me.

The second treatment, ablation, was probably thought up by Torquemada and involves cauterizing the lining of the uterus. The resulting scar tissue prevents or at least severely hinders the accumulation of blood. In theory, I’d then have a pleasant, light period, instead of having to trot off to the loo every 20 minutes for three days a month.

My particular brand of Niagarrhagia started 20 years ago. It was neither painful nor prolonged but was still a PIA. Three years ago it developed a nails-on-a-chalkboard quality that sent my insomnia to near-total levels. Dr. Ob/gyn explained that if the flow gets to a certain point, you can actually feel the pressure on the cervix, which makes you want to hiss and grind your teeth. There was also an increase in pain, but I’m assuming that was just a subset of the lovely abdominal pain that started three years ago.

Once again, multiple tests say I’m perfectly healthy in the affected regions and the usual culprits have been ruled out: endometriosis, thyroid or hormone wackiness, etc.

Over the years I have found three things to help considerably and reliably. First of all, getting my calcium and magnesium levels up to what I assume is normal helped by about 30 percent for a while. But it eventually crept back.

From Sandy Simmons’ site I got the idea of increasing my vitamin K intake. She recommended lots of leafy greens, but most of them are goitrogenic (affecting the thyroid, usually by lowering iodine levels) so I went for alfalfa tablets instead. After six weeks of 9 tablets a day, (3, 3x day) I had a normal, manageable cycle and continued to as long as I took them, about 18 months. Eventually I got tired of the flipping things and quit, and after six weeks the old status reigned again.

I was about one month away from scheduling the ablation when for other reasons I decided to go crazy with the vitamin B12. I read Sally M. Pacholok’s book Could it Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses and discovered that a newer form worked better for some people and that the old recommended dosages weren’t really very helpful for repleting deficiency.

After one month taking 25,000 mcg of methylcobalamin a day (that’s 5 5,000 mcg lozenges a day), I had what for most people would be a light period. Then I had another one 13 days later. The two together were still only 20 percent of the usual, but you see the problem. After three months of the B12 it started lowering my iron levels (everything lowers my iron levels), so I quit it. (The B12 also ended the headaches that niacin, iron, and B6 used to cause, and they still haven’t returned.)

Not only does Niagarrhagia cause low iron, it can also be caused by low iron. But since I couldn’t raise my iron levels if I ground up a cast-iron pan and free-based it, there is no point in speculating.

I finally learned that vitamin K comes in supplement form and that the amount in the alfalfa tablets was smaller than in a serving of kale, so I probably wasn’t repleting vitamin K so much as just barely getting by. How I missed the supplements before, I don’t know. I started experimenting with much larger dosages. At first I was confused by all the choices — K1, K2 M-4, K2 M-7 — but finally just went with whatever K2 was on the shelf at the health food store.

Anyway, I started at 500 mcg, which might be the equivalent of one large serving of kale, depending on who you ask, and saw a definite difference the next cycle. I went up to 700 and there was even more improvement. When I realized that some people take 15 mg a day to prevent osteoporosis (vitamin D needs vitamin K to move calcium into bones, I think), I became emboldened, ordered the liquid stuff, which gives you 1 mg (milligram) in a tiny drop, and started at 2 mg/day. Much better than swallowing 20 flipping capsules and all that magnesium stearate. (Update 12/24/13: I’ve found that taking 15 mg once a week is just as effective.)

My cycles since then have been like a normal person’s, finally, although I’m still sick of the whole damn thing. Those health class teachers in junior high who tell girls that menstruation is a beautiful thing and a sign of nature’s power, yada yada, can go #$@!& themselves. Or as my Ob/gyn put it, “They’re full of shit.”

(Here are two lists of the vitamin K content in foods which differ quite a bit: Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and The World’s Healthiest Foods site.)

If this turns out not to resolve the issue permanently, I will seriously consider ablation. I have hesitated to resort to that because I don’t like the idea of concealing a symptom without actually solving the problem that created the symptom. The cause of this particular symptom undoubtedly has other symptoms, too, that I just haven’t connected yet. To put it another way, if wasps keep getting in the parlor, I want to know where the nest is.
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Illustration: 1940s American Airlines travel poster by E. McKnight Kauffer. Remix by MRhea.