Can Supplements Cause Food Intolerance?

This is a lengthier article.

I had a lot to say!

As I continue my journey of recovery, I continue to peel the onion, pulling back layers that are relevant to the cause-effect of symptoms and conditions.  Most recently, I stumbled on the realization that taking mineral supplements can lead to food intolerance.

At least, it did for me.

It also, as it turns out, caused a scary health symptom in a friend.

 To Supplement or Not?  Throughout the years, I have taken supplements on and off.

Maybe a multi-vitamin, or a specific supplement if I was trying to address something.

I prefer to take nothing unless necessary.

And then I take the minimum dose and quit as soon as the condition is resolved.

I do not take supplements as a preventative.

Too Much of a Good Thing?  One of the supplements I have had great success with is magnesium oxide.

I tried other forms of magnesium and had little to no success, and in some cases, a worsening of symptoms.

 Mineral Teeter-TotterA variety of minerals “cancel each other out” like two individuals on a teeter-totter.

Sodium and potassium act to control fluid balance in cells.  Too much sodium and/or not enough potassium, and you can experience symptoms associated with fluid imbalance, including water retention and high blood pressure.

Calcium and magnesium have a similar relationship.

Iodine and vitamin D (a hormone) play a critical role in regulating calcium in the body.  Interestingly, most Americans are deficient in all three nutrients.  Can we say excess calcium?  Hmm, could be…

Over the previous eight years, I took magnesium oxide more than any other supplement.  Weirdly enough, in the previous four, I’ve had mixed results with efficacy.

Turns out, if I lived in an area with hard [high calc] water, the results were different than if I didn’t.

The Teeter Totter At Work.  When I had hard water, the magnesium acted to balance the excess calcium.  When I didn’t – I was getting too much.  But I didn’t know it!

The Healing Begins.  In 2014, I began a serious detoxification regimen aimed at clearing heavy metals and reestablishing nutritional balance.  Unbknownst to me, during the process that took over two years, I moved to a place with hard water.

Unlike when we lived in Arizona, the dishes weren’t scored and our shower glass wasn’t almost beyond redemption from calcification, nor was the water cloudy.  

There were other signs.  Health symptom signs I didn’t catch until later.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

This significantly impacted the recovery process and my health.  I eventually moved away from the hard water but continued to take magnesium since I had come to realize just how many health problems were the result of excess calcium in the body.

Everything was going along swimmingly.  The longer I was away from the hard water, the better I felt.  All symptoms but one were clearing and I was confident that one would be a matter of time.

After about seven months, I started to experience symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Weird given I was taking magnesium supplements.

I made changes in my diet and added an additional 400 mg capsule of magnesium oxide.  The symptoms of magnesium deficiency worsened.

Around this time, I found myself talking to several individuals about magnesium supplementation.  During one of the conversations, I noticed a friend had developed tremors.  As time went by, they seemed to worsen.

The head and hands were tremoring badly.

This person otherwise felt fine and seemed fine.

We had many discussions about what was going on, what changes in diet, stress, and lifestyle might be taking place.  Research showed that tremors could be a sign of magnesium deficiency.  The thing was, this friend was also supplementing with magnesium.

More is not better.  When I passed on that it could be low magnesium, and that perhaps their body wasn’t absorbing what they were taking, they decided to up the dose.

The tremors became much worse!  

I immediately suggested they stop all magnesium supplements to see what happened.  You guessed it, the tremors stopped – almost.

A slight bit remained.

I initially figured over time, as the body cleared the magnesium, the tremors would cease.  They didn’t, though they were barely noticeable.  Careful questioning revealed that they were taking a multi-mineral supplement that contained magnesium.  I suggested they stop and the tremors disappeared.

Sometimes it’s just more.  I wasn’t entirely surprised by this. The body is incredibly efficient.  If it gets too much of something, it works to jettison the excess as quickly and as efficiently as possible!

Hard to do if you keep bombarding it by taking more.

What’s more, I’d known – and written – that a symptom can be associated with too much or too little of a nutrient.

bailing-iinNow me.  My friend’s situation made me wonder if the same might be happening to me.  Was I suffering symptoms of magnesium deficiency because I’d been taking too much when I no longer needed it, causing my body to jettison it by the boatload?

I immediately ceased taking magnesium and the deficiency symptoms began to resolve.

It took three months for some of them to resolve.

Then a Strange Thing Happened.  Mysterious food intolerances began to disappear.

I had been totally baffled when foods and beverages I’d eaten for years began to cause problems.  The irritating part was that most of the foods are considered super foods and are purported to be very healthy.

 I was cautious.  By this time, my diet had been reduced to very few foods – irritating – and tiresome.

Hopeful, I continued to test problematic foods.

I was as puzzled by the ability to suddenly eat foods that had been problematic as I was that they’d become problematic in the first place.

A Break in the Case.  I was reading an article about foods and their effects on inflammation in the body.  At the bottom of the article was a note that in recent studies, magnesium had been shown to have an inverse relationship to inflammation – and caused it.

The article stated more studies needed to be done before drawing conclusions.  After all, magnesium is a miracle mineral – right?  Or is it?

While that little tidbit was interesting, what caught my eye was the list of foods included in that segment of the article.  They were all foods I had developed an intolerance to!

detectiveFollowing a hunch, I decided to look into what foods were high in magnesium.  I found a list of 21.  Eliminating two that I don’t eat, I saw that I had developed an intolerance to all but two of the foods on the list!

Light Bulb!  In light of the fact my body had been flushing magnesium because I’d taken too much in supplemental form, it made perfect sense that any foods high in magnesium would cause an immune response!

I had become “allergic” to magnesium!

Further research illustrated that the beverages I’d become intolerant to, including red wine, were also high in magnesium.

Time Heals.  Many autoimmune recovery programs start with elimination diets.  They include all sorts of speculation about why these foods are a problem.

Big on the list?  Genetically modified wheat.

What none of them suggested was that taking too many supplements of a nutrient can lead to the body flushing the excess – leading to a deficiency of that nutrient and a sensitivity to foods rich in that same nutrient.

But they do recommend a veritable pharmacy of supplements you should take.

There is plenty of excellent information is in these books, and the elimination of foods that cause an immune response is important to healing.  Andddd, taking supplements when appropriate can certainly accelerate healing.  However…

 When Can I Eat?  There are varying theories regarding how long someone should be on an elimination diet.  A good consensus is three months.  For myself, after three months of no magnesium supplementation, I was able to eat foods and drink beverages that have significant sources of magnesium.

Including as I verified last night – red wine!

These are foods I had mysteriously become intolerant to!


I am still “recovering” from the sensitivity, so I will limit foods high in magnesium – including red wine – for several more months.



The Bottom Line. 

  •  I have observed that the health protocol I followed while living in a place with hard water will not work in a location that does not have hard water.  
  • Taking too much of a nutritional supplement can cause the body to flush the excess, leading to deficiency symptoms.
  • Taking too much of a nutritional supplement when you do not need it can result in a sensitivity to foods high in this nutrient.
  • Taking supplements when you don’t need them can cause health problems.
  • Realizing you no longer need a supplement – and that you are actually getting too much – is tricky business. It isn’t always obvious.  It is imperative to pay attention to your body and adjust your health regimen as appropriate.

 A Word of Caution.  In the mid-20th century, it became fashionable for doctors to tell their patients to treat their high blood pressure by cutting back on sodium.

If high sodium is the problem, this is wise advice. 

However, as often as not – if not more so – it was low potassium that was the root cause.

Reducing sodium will allow potassium levels to come up but it doesn’t address the root cause of low potassium.

Treating health symptoms that are ultimately caused by excess calcium and not low magnesium by taking magnesium supplements  is not necessarily the right approach.  Doing so can cause a slew of health issues, including tremors, hormonal issues, and gum issues.

It can also lead to food intolerances.

 The appropriate solution?  Deal with the excess calcium!

 Harvard and other institutions have released information suggesting calcium supplementation is excessive and should be considered with caution.

Between fortified foods, hard water, and other environmental factors, it’s probably more common than people realize to get too much calcium.  Simply increasing magnesium does not solve the problem!

A Final Note.  For those who associate low vitamin D as the reason for autoimmune problems, note that The Vitamin D council cautions against taking vitamin D if calcium serum levels are high.

Many foods, including orange juice, are enriched with calcium and vitamin D.

Given how many people pop calcium supplements like they were M & Ms and take vitamin D drops – you have to wonder – what’s really making people sick?

Even more interesting when you considered the longest lived peoples in the world do not include supplements as part of their health regimen.


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