When the skin develops a yellow tinge, you might wonder if nutritional deficiencies are to blame. Yellow skin is also known as jaundice, and it is a symptom of an underlying problem, not a specific health issue in itself. While the levels of magnesium in the blood may have an indirect relationship to the appearance of jaundice, the causes of yellow skin are generally more complex than a simple deficiency in magnesium or some other nutrient.
Jaundice develops as a result of too much bilirubin in the bloodstream. This bilirubin rise may be caused by blood diseases, liver diseases, infections, bile duct blockages or genetic disorders. Some medicines can also cause jaundice, and newborn babies often develop it as part of the normal physiological processes after birth. Someone exhibiting jaundice typically also develops yellowing in the whites of the eyes.
Jaundice is not generally a symptom of magnesium deficiency in healthy adults. Magnesium deficiency causes weakness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, numbness, tingling, heart arrhythmias and seizures. Because these symptoms are so general, it can be difficult to determine whether they are from a lack of magnesium or another cause. Your doctor can perform a blood test to determine whether you have too little magnesium in the blood. Taking magnesium supplements when your levels are already fine can cause other health problems, so you should only take extra magnesium when advised by a doctor.
Neonatal Jaundice and Magnesium
In some cases, low levels of magnesium may occur in conjunction with jaundice in newborns, although other studies have shown the opposite effect. According to a 2004 study in the journal "Pediatric Research," babies with higher levels of magnesium in the blood had higher levels of bilirubin, a cause of jaundice in newborns. However, this contradicted earlier studies that found lower levels of magnesium in jaundiced babies. The difference may be due to a difference in when the results were measured, since a baby''s cells may naturally release magnesium into the blood to try and combat high levels of bilirubin at birth.
One circumstance in which magnesium levels may indirectly affect the development of jaundice is in the case of gallbladder disease. Yellow skin is a potential symptom of gallbladder disease, and a lack of magnesium and other nutrients can lead to the development of this disorder. In some cases, adding magnesium supplements to your diet can reduce the incidence of gall stones and help heal gallbladder disease, thereby resolving the jaundice that is a symptom of that disease.
Magnesium Supplements and Jaundice
To make matters even more complicated, high levels of the magnesium-containing pain medication magnesium salicylate can cause jaundice as a side effect. So self-treatment with this form of magnesium may increase the likelihood of yellow skin. Because of all of these contradictory effects with regard to magnesium and jaundice, you should consult a doctor if you have any concerns about a potential lack of magnesium or any indication of yellow skin.