11 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency | Yuri Elkaim

11 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Discover 11 warning signs of magnesium deficiency that may be affecting your well-being. Safeguard your health by recognizing these symptoms.
Image of a man feeling nauseous and holding his stomach. Source: Pexels

Magnesium, often overlooked, is a vital element to our health. A study found that about half of all Americans don’t get as much magnesium as they should according to average estimates. What’s more, certain age groups take in even less than that.

When you find yourself anxious, fatigued, or struggling with persistent headaches, you might be overlooking an essential health puzzle piece—magnesium deficiency! Understanding these signs can help prevent bigger health issues, so let’s take a closer look at the 11 warning signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and what they might mean for your health.

11 Warning Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is often misdiagnosed because it doesn’t show up in blood tests, with only 1% of magnesium found in the blood. Most physicians don’t even include it in routine check-ups. However, paying attention to symptoms can provide essential clues:

1. Nausea and constipation

When your body lacks magnesium, it can disrupt the normal functioning of your digestive system. Magnesium helps relax the muscles in the intestines, which promotes regular bowel movements. So, when you’re low on magnesium, you might feel constipated and the resultant discomfort can also cause nausea.

2. Fatigue

We all know that drained feeling after a long day, but imagine feeling that way from the moment you wake up. Magnesium is essential for turning the food we eat into energy and affects the performance of mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of your cells.

So without enough of it, your body has to work harder to keep up, leaving you feeling worn out much quicker. You might feel unusually tired or struggle to muster energy, even for everyday tasks.

3. Muscle Spasms and Cramps

Magnesium helps muscles relax after contraction. When levels are low, muscles may contract too much and fail to relax, leading to spasms or cramps. This symptom is often noticeable at night or after physical activity.

4. Stiffness and weakness

Similar to its role in preventing muscle spasms, magnesium also helps maintain normal muscle tone. Deficiency can lead to a feeling of stiffness or an inability to perform physical tasks, indicating muscle weakness.

5. Abnormal heart rhythms

Magnesium is essential for maintaining a steady heart rhythm. It helps transport other electrolytes, like potassium and calcium, into cells, which are crucial for normal heartbeats. If magnesium is low, it can make it tough for your body to manage those electrical signals that keep your heart ticking regularly.

A deficiency can cause irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias. This might feel like fluttering or racing of the heart—a bit alarming, for sure.

6. Numbness and tingling

This occurs because magnesium is vital for nerve function. It helps regulate nerve channels that in turn manage muscle and nerve responses. Low magnesium may result in abnormal nerve firing, which can cause sensations of numbness or tingling, often described as limbs “falling asleep.”

Image of a man holding his leg. Source: Pexels

7. Personality Changes

Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system. When deficient, you might experience heightened stress, irritability, or even profound personality changes such as increased anxiety or feelings of depression.

Think about how a bad night’s sleep might affect your mood the next day. Now, imagine that impact stretched out over time. Low magnesium can mess with your nervous system, making you feel unusually irritable or down.

8. Seizures

This is one of the more severe effects and happens when the brain’s electrical activity goes haywire. Magnesium helps calm the nerves, and without enough of it, the risk of seizures increases, especially in extreme cases. This can happen because the lack of magnesium disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters and enhances nerve excitability.

9. Mental health issues

Magnesium impacts the brain’s chemistry, specifically neurotransmitters that regulate mood, including serotonin. Deficiency may result in psychological symptoms ranging from a lack of emotion (apathy) to severe mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

10. Osteoporosis

Magnesium is important for bone health as it helps regulate calcium and vitamin D levels, two crucial factors in bone density. When magnesium is low for a long time, it can lead to weaker bones, making them more susceptible to fractures.

11. High blood pressure

Magnesium helps blood vessels relax, which can reduce blood pressure. A lack of magnesium might cause blood vessels to constrict more, raising blood pressure, and increasing the risk of heart disease.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

The cause of magnesium deficiency often boils down to two things: inadequate magnesium intake or reduced magnesium absorption. Poor diet, alcohol consumption, and certain medications can all play havoc with your body’s magnesium levels. Additionally, conditions like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease might limit nutrient absorption, while certain medications can increase magnesium loss through urine.

How to Treat Low Magnesium

Treatment of magnesium deficiency typically involves dietary adjustments to include more magnesium-rich foods and, often, magnesium supplements. However, these supplements can sometimes cause diarrhea, requiring your doctor to modify your dosage. In cases of severe deficiency, intravenous (IV) magnesium may be necessary in a hospital setting.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting supplementation, especially at high doses.

Foods High in Magnesium

Simple dietary changes can significantly boost your magnesium intake. You can meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium by including magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, cereals, and legumes.

Some of the top sources of magnesium are:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Nuts, particularly almonds, cashews, and peanuts
  • Spinach
  • Black beans
  • Edamame
  • Peanut butter
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Avocado
  • Potato
  • Rice
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified cereals and other fortified foods

Additional foods that provide magnesium include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Kidney beans
  • Bananas and apples
  • Fish, including salmon and halibut
  • Milk
  • Raisins
  • Chicken breast
  • Beef
  • Broccoli and carrots
  • Quinoa
  • Dark chocolate (with high cocoa content)
  • Tofu
  • Artichokes
  • Dried figs
  • Mackerel
  • Pollock
  • Shrimp
  • Soymilk

If for any reason, your body doesn’t absorb their full nutritional value, or if your dietary preferences mean you can’t consume these foods, magnesium supplements are a practical solution.

When to Consult a Healthcare Professional

While these symptoms may suggest magnesium deficiency, they can also signal other health issues. Consult a healthcare professional if you’re often fatigued, dizzy, or experiencing persistent muscle weakness. If you have serious symptoms such as seizures or abnormal heart rhythms, seek immediate medical attention.

Ignoring these 11 warning signs of magnesium deficiency can have significant long-term implications. Over time, your body struggles to perform basic, vital functions leading to chronic health conditions. Long-term deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, and certain metabolic diseases.

The good news is, by noticing potential warning signs early and boosting your magnesium intake, along with regular medical consultation, you can avoid these complications.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Got more questions about the warning signs of magnesium deficiency? Check out some commonly asked questions below:

    What disease is caused by a lack of magnesium?

    Chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to several health problems, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, hereditary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

    What drink is high in magnesium?

    Drinks high in magnesium include mineral water, which can vary in magnesium content depending on the brand. Other magnesium-rich drinks include fortified plant-based milk, such as almond or soy milk, and certain fruit juices like prune juice.

    How can I raise my magnesium level quickly?

    To quickly raise magnesium levels, consider taking magnesium supplements, such as magnesium citrate, glycinate, or chloride. It’s also beneficial to increase dietary intake of magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

    What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency affecting the skin?

    Symptoms of magnesium deficiency affecting the skin can include dry skin and other skin disorders. There is also some evidence to suggest that low magnesium levels can exacerbate conditions like eczema and psoriasis.


    While these warning signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency seem common and general, this condition is more prevalent than you might think. Taking attentive actions towards ensuring an adequate magnesium intake is proven to be a preventive wellness initiative. Let’s not let this silent deficiency get the better of our health and take steps today towards a healthier future.

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