Ask Larry:

Your Question: In reading about magnesium deficiency, it mentions autism, and also growth retardation. My nephew has both. He is 2 1/2, is autistic and not growing well.

One article mentioned testing children with hair samples to determine deficiencies since blood tests aren’t accurate. The article also connects autism with lack of B6.

One article from the University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that a child between ages 1-3 can be supplemented with 40-80mg of Magnesium daily, but it doesn’t mention in this article anything about B6.

I wonder if I stumbled upon something. Maybe a first step would be to do a hair sample test. What do you think?

Larry’s Response: Magnesium is one of the MOST important minerals in the body. Deficiencies are associated with many chronic conditions and diseases. The key word is “associated”, which must not be confused as some form of cause or cure. Adding magnesium can be helpful, but I am not aware of proper dosing for a very young child.

Hair analysis has many supporters, but far more detractors. I think there may be some value, especially in identifying toxic materials, but I am not convinced it has any diagnostic value for identifying deficiencies, especially of common minerals. Like ALL tests, it has extremely limited value when trying to establish treatment approaches. That is one of the major stumbling blocks in today’s medicine. The deep seated BELIEF is that “this test will identify that disease and offer specific suggestions for treating or curing”. That doesn’t happen and I don’t suspect it never will (except in a few lucky exceptions and I suspect that LUCKY is the operative word).

The most notoriously common test is for low thyroid. The patient has all the symptoms but the TSH (the gold standard) says all is well. Therefore the patient must continue to suffer symptoms BECAUSE the test said so.

If there is a suspicion of low magnesium, the approach would be to use a magnesium supplement – with the approval and guidance of the doctor. A larger question would be WHY IS THE PERSON deficient in magnesium? Soy can reduce magnesium absorption. There is a lot of soy in infant feeding products. Drugs for GERD can also impede magnesium absorption, as can inadequate flora in the gut (probiotics).

Magnesium supplements must be used with caution in children. Just a little too much and you can cause diarrhea which, for a small person, can be severely damaging if not handled quickly. There is a rapid loss of fluid and major electrolytes. This is why a doctor must be involved. Magnesium is important and it is NOT benign.

The whys and causes are vital for health, yet many of us pick out a diagnosis or two and keep our focus there. For example, someone today reports that “being out in nature” helps reduce the incidence of dementia in older people. While a nice observation, it would be foolhardy to think NATURE is a cure for Alzheimer’s – but I know some people will make that connection – without even considering the overall diets and the rampant diabetes. Note that these days dementia is sometimes referred to as Type III Diabetes.

I do not think hair analysis would offer anything useful and I wouldn’t suggest it.

I would suggest working with the doctor and a natural doctor – maybe even a nutritionist who understands REAL nutrition – to get everything working optimally. That means eliminating all sugars, artificial sweeteners, grains, soy, minimizing fruits (no fruit juices at all), eating grass-fed beef and free range chicken, eliminating all dairy (using coconut milk instead), and loading up on vegetables and clean water. I’d also suggest plenty of sunshine and outdoor activities.

There may be a need for supplements, mostly in the B category. However, D3 is also important if there isn’t enough sunshine. As always, with someone that young, a doctor must be directly involved.