Signs of Magnesium Deficiency in the Body

Understanding Magnesium Deficiency: Common Signs and Symptoms

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for a healthy body. Every single cell in our body needs it, making a deficiency potentially devastating to one's health.

Unfortunately, a magnesium deficiency is difficult to test for as blood levels only reflect a small amount of total body magnesium. Blood levels may appear to be completely normal, despite extreme deficiencies at the cellular level.

A leading driver of deficiency may be stress, as our bodies use up magnesium in stressful times to help our bodies cope. Lower levels of magnesium tend to make stressful situations harder to deal with, creating a difficult stressful cycle.

There are several well-documented symptoms that are related to a lack of magnesium in the body which include:

Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps are perhaps the most well-known symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Despite some studies showing that increasing magnesium levels has little or no effect due to the cramps being caused by things such as stress or high levels of caffeine there is, however a strong case for magnesium deficiency. Research has shown that in people who get cramps from a lack of magnesium have an increased flow of calcium to the nerves in the body. The increased levels of calcium cause the nerves to overexcite and thus twitches and cramps occur.


Because Magnesium is such a vital mineral for the growth and sustained strength and health of bones in the body, a magnesium deficiency is a contributory factor in Osteoporosis. Magnesium deficiency can weaken bones and reduce the levels of calcium needed for bones to thrive.

Mental Issues

Early studies are beginning to show a link between certain mental conditions such as apathy and increased levels of anxiety however the evidence is still very much lacking in this area. It is known, however, that Magnesium is required for parts of the nervous system to function fully.

High Blood Pressure

Recent studies into magnesium deficiency are providing a link between it and high blood pressure. Controlled tests, mainly on rats, have shown that a lack of magnesium does reduce high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a common stress related problem in the world today and a balanced diet, with good levels of magnesium, is a well known way to combat stress.

Tiredness and fatigue

While tiredness and fatigue affect us all and there is no one reason for it, magnesium deficiency can be a reason for sustained tiredness. Too little potassium in the blood cells, often caused by a lack of magnesium is a well-documented symptom. However, if there if suffering from sustained tiredness Magnesium may not be the issue and medical advice is recommended.

Irregular Heart Beat

Magnesium is well-known to support healthy heart muscles and magnesium deficiency can cause an imbalance of potassium in the heart muscles. This imbalance can lead to an irregular heart beat or light headedness in some people. In people with known heart issues this can be cause for concern but in most people is almost unnoticed.


Asthmatic people have often been noted to have low levels of magnesium. Some research has shown that low levels of magnesium cause a calcium build up in the lung muscles causing airways to contract and make breathing a challenge. Asthma medication with magnesium is often used to relax the lung muscles to open up the airways. However, research into the effects of magnesium and magnesium deficiency in asthma sufferers is inconclusive.

Psychological and Emotional Clues: Uncovering Magnesium Deficiency

Apart from physical signs, magnesium deficiency can also manifest in psychological and emotional symptoms. It might surprise many to learn that an insufficiency of this nutrient can lead to mood disorders, insomnia, stress, anxiety, and even depression. These symptoms are not to be overlooked and should be considered alongside physical symptoms when diagnosing a magnesium deficiency.
It's important to understand the connection between these mental health conditions and magnesium deficiency. The mineral plays a crucial role in brain function and mood regulation, and studies have found that a low magnesium diet may increase the risk of depression.

Dietary Factors: Exploring Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

Certain dietary choices can cause or exacerbate magnesium deficiency. The modern western diet, high in processed foods and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, often lacks sufficient magnesium. Additionally, excessive consumption of alcohol, salt, coffee, soda, and phosphoric acid found in sodas can lead to decreased magnesium levels by increasing its excretion by the kidneys.
Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Including these in your regular diet can help maintain adequate magnesium levels and prevent deficiency.

The Role of Chronic Illnesses in Magnesium Depletion

Chronic illnesses can lead to or exacerbate a magnesium deficiency. Conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, type 2 diabetes, and other gastrointestinal diseases can hinder the body's ability to absorb magnesium. Furthermore, those with alcoholism are at a higher risk for magnesium deficiency.
Older adults are also at a higher risk due to reduced magnesium intake, decreased absorption efficiency in the gut, and increased losses in urine. As a result, it is vital for individuals with these risk factors to monitor their magnesium levels closely.

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency in the Body

How much magnesium do I need?

The World Health Organisation have published reports that estimate around 75% of Americans do not meet the minimum recommended daily intake of magnesium which sits at 320-420mg per day. However, according to experts this currently recommended daily intake is inadequate to prevent magnesium deficiency and is nowhere near the optimal daily intake which sits around 500mg for females and 750mg for males on average. This realisation would push true deficiency rates in the US towards 90%.

In the year 1900 the average magnesium intake was 500mg per day and now it is around 200mg per day. This huge reduction in magnesium levels is largely due to the modern day diet of processed foods, the slow depletion of minerals from soil, and the stressful lives we live.

If you want to see how much magnesium you should be getting check out our magnesium calculator.


Testing and Diagnosis: How to Determine Magnesium Levels in the Body

Testing for magnesium deficiency is primarily achieved through a simple blood test, which measures the level of magnesium in your blood. However, this test may not be the most accurate representation of total body magnesium levels as less than 1% of total body magnesium is in your blood.

Advanced tests such as the EXA Test, which measures intracellular magnesium levels, provide a more accurate picture of magnesium status. Your doctor will interpret the results based on your symptoms and medical history.


Treating Magnesium Deficiency: Natural Remedies and Medical Interventions

Once diagnosed, magnesium deficiency is typically addressed by increasing dietary intake or by taking magnesium supplements. Foods high in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

In severe cases, or for those who are unable to absorb magnesium from their diet, doctors may recommend oral supplements or even intravenous magnesium.


Prevention and Maintenance: Strategies to Maintain Optimal Magnesium Levels

Preventing magnesium deficiency starts with a balanced diet. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains into your daily meals ensures you receive an adequate supply of magnesium.

In addition, reducing intake of processed foods and substances that interfere with magnesium absorption, such as excessive caffeine and alcohol, can also help maintain healthy levels.

Regular exercise can also stimulate magnesium uptake in your muscles and bones and improve overall health. However, excessive sweating through strenuous workouts without replenishing can deplete magnesium levels, so it's important to maintain a balanced approach.

In conclusion, understanding the signs of magnesium deficiency and the importance of this mineral in the body is crucial for maintaining optimal health. By listening to your body, making informed dietary choices, and seeking medical advice when needed, you can ensure your body gets the magnesium it requires for its numerous physiological functions.


The Impact of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency can significantly impact a person's overall well-being, affecting both physical and mental health. Without prompt and proper intervention, it can lead to various chronic health problems.

Physically, the impact can manifest as persistent fatigue, recurring muscle cramps, and in severe cases, irregular heartbeat and osteoporosis. Such symptoms can significantly affect daily life activities and productivity, and if left unchecked, could lead to serious health risks.

On the mental health front, chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to increased susceptibility to stress, anxiety, and depression. These conditions could affect a person's quality of life, impairing their ability to function effectively at work, in relationships, and in social settings.



Magnesium is a vital mineral playing several crucial roles in our body's functions, ranging from energy production to mood regulation. However, its importance is often understated, with deficiency symptoms being subtle and commonly mistaken for other health issues. From physical signs like muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat to psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, the impacts of magnesium deficiency are far-reaching.

Recognizing these symptoms and understanding the significance of magnesium in our body can prompt necessary dietary changes and lifestyle modifications. Incorporating magnesium-rich foods into our daily diets and maintaining a balanced approach towards exercise are steps in the right direction.

Individuals with chronic illnesses or those undergoing specific medical interventions should be especially aware, as these conditions can further deplete magnesium levels. Regular testing and timely treatment, under professional medical guidance, are crucial to manage and prevent magnesium deficiency.

The challenges associated with balancing different factors to manage magnesium levels are not insignificant. It requires a concerted effort to change dietary habits, modulate lifestyle choices, and for some, manage chronic health conditions. Despite these challenges, the resulting improvement in overall health and well-being is certainly worth the effort.

In summary, an informed, proactive approach towards understanding magnesium deficiency can lead to healthier choices, better management of symptoms, and overall improved health. Remember, your body's well-being depends heavily on the delicate balance of nutrients it receives, and magnesium is a vital part of this equation. The power to maintain this balance, improve health, and enhance quality of life lies within our hands, guided by awareness and informed decisions.




1. Muscle cramps and spasms: A common sign of magnesium deficiency is muscle cramps, spasms, or twitching, as magnesium plays a crucial role in muscle relaxation and nerve function.

2. Fatigue and weakness: Low magnesium levels can cause fatigue and generalized weakness, as magnesium is involved in energy production and maintaining optimal cellular function.

3. Numbness and tingling: Magnesium deficiency can cause numbness and tingling sensations in the hands, feet, and other parts of the body due to its role in nerve function and transmission.

4. Irregular heartbeat: A deficiency in magnesium can lead to an irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia, since the mineral is essential for maintaining a normal heart rhythm.

5. Insomnia: Difficulty falling or staying asleep may be a sign of magnesium deficiency, as magnesium helps regulate the sleep hormone melatonin and supports relaxation.

6. Mood disturbances: Low levels of magnesium can contribute to mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, irritability, or even symptoms similar to those of ADHD, as magnesium is involved in regulating neurotransmitters that affect mood.

7. Osteoporosis: Magnesium deficiency can contribute to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, because magnesium is essential for proper bone formation and maintaining bone density.

8. Hypertension: Inadequate magnesium intake can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), as magnesium helps relax blood vessels and maintain proper vascular tone.

9. Constipation: Magnesium deficiency can cause constipation, as the mineral helps regulate muscle contractions in the gastrointestinal tract and promotes bowel movements.

10. Decreased immunity: Low magnesium levels may weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses, as magnesium is involved in supporting immune cell function and maintaining a healthy inflammatory response.

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For everything you need to know about magnesium and magnesium supplements, check out our comprehensive information page here.

Magnesium Information


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Ron Goedeke MD, BSc Hons MBChB, FNZCAM

Dr. Ron Goedeke, an expert in the domain of functional medicine, dedicates his practice to uncovering the root causes of health issues by focusing on nutrition and supplement-based healing and health optimisation strategies. An esteemed founding member of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine, Dr. Goedeke's professional journey has always been aligned with cutting-edge health concepts.

Having been actively involved with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 1999, he brings over two decades of knowledge and experience in the field of anti-aging medicine, making him an eminent figure in this evolving realm of healthcare. Throughout his career, Dr. Goedeke has been steadfast in his commitment to leverage appropriate nutritional guidance and supplementation to encourage optimal health.

This has allowed him to ascend as one of the most trusted authorities in the arena of nutritional medicine in New Zealand. His expertise in the intricate relationship between diet, nutritional supplements, and overall health forms the backbone of his treatment approach, allowing patients to benefit from a balanced and sustainable pathway to improved wellbeing.


Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read on this website.

Last update 12th April 2023

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