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Magnesium Deficiency? 7 Signs & What to Do

Dr. Don Colbert – Unfortunately, some serious health issues can result from magnesium deficiency. These include diabetes, poor absorption, chronic diarrhea, celiac disease, and bone issues.

You may have a magnesium deficiency and not even know it. And unfortunately, it can affect almost every aspect of your life.

Magnesium is involved with over 300 everyday reactions in the body.

Many adults are magnesium deficient. In fact, magnesium deficiency is a growing problem in the modern world. (Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash)

Here’s why it’s becoming worse, why it goes undiagnosed, common signs and symptoms, and how to increase your magnesium intake.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an incredibly important nutrient in the human body.

In fact, magnesium is a mineral involved in energy production, blood sugar regulation, bone health, sleep cycles, immune system and more (1).

And, while it largely goes undiagnosed, many individuals are at risk of deficient magnesium in the modern world.

Here are the signs of magnesium deficient, why it’s a modern problem, and what you can do.

Why Magnesium Deficiency is a Modern Problem

There are many reasons why magnesium deficiency is becoming more common.

The reasons include:

• Overuse of magnesium-depleting medications including diuretics and proton pump inhibitors
• Eating processed and refined foods (which are often very low in magnesium), Depleted soils result in lower magnesium in crops (2)
• Magnesium losses in sweat that are not replaced

Unfortunately, some serious health issues can result from magnesium deficiency. These include diabetes, poor absorption, chronic diarrhea, celiac disease, and bone issues.

People with alcoholism, or who follow a strict diet that eliminates high-magnesium foods are at an increased risk (3).

Magnesium Deficiency is Often Undiagnosed

When magnesium levels are tested, the amount in the serum plasma and red blood is tested. Unfortunately, this only accounts for about 1% of the total magnesium in the human body. Most of it is found in cells and tissues.

It is entirely possible, and even likely, to have adequate serum magnesium and still be deficient (4).

How can you tell? Start by reading our 7 Signs of Magnesium Deficiency.

7 Signs You Have a Magnesium Deficiency


If you often feel low in energy despite adequate sleep, you may be deficient in magnesium.

Of course, there are other reasons for fatigue. Stress, a busy schedule, a physically demanding job and more can cause fatigue. But, if you are unable to improve energy with adequate sleep or it’s unexplained fatigue, magnesium may be the culprit.

Another sign of magnesium deficiency is fatigue or weakness in your muscles themselves. This may be due to low magnesium directly, or a loss of potassium in the muscles, which is also associated with magnesium deficiency (5).


There are 3 ways adequate magnesium affects sleep. It:

Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases relaxation (6).
Regulates the hormone melatonin, which is crucial in sleep-wake cycles and circadian rhythms (7).
Binds a neurotransmitter that is responsible for calming nerve activity. This neurotransmitter is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors (this is a similar action as induced by medications like Ambien) (8).
Together, these attributes of magnesium make it easier to get good-quality sleep.


Do you suffer cramps or twitches in your legs, feet, or other muscles while you’re awake or sleeping?

Twitches, tremors, and muscle cramps are signs of magnesium deficiency (9). When magnesium is low, there can be an imbalance of calcium that enters cells (including nerve cells), and this may be the cause of the convulsing muscles.

Oftentimes, this condition can be effectively alleviated with magnesium supplementation.


Is it possible for low magnesium to cause a rise in blood pressure?

Animal studies suggest it is (10). What’s more, human studies with magnesium supplementation have shown a reduction in blood pressure, especially when it’s already elevated (11).

In addition, heart arrhythmias are linked to magnesium deficiency. Some people actually experience health palpitations and noticeable changes in heartbeat and rate. (12).

Other potential symptoms of arrhythmia include lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting.

Again, the issue is likely an imbalance of electrolyte minerals, which magnesium deficiency being a central cause (13).


While it’s not entirely clear whether lack of magnesium causes constipation or whether it just alleviates it, magnesium is one tried-and-true constipation remedy.

If you experience constipation, and especially if you have other signs of magnesium deficiency, it’s worth increasing magnesium to see if it helps.


If you’ve been diagnosed with low bone density, you may be low in magnesium. In fact, magnesium deficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Low magnesium may weaken bones directly, or it may cause issues with the absorption of calcium into the bones(14).

Animal studies have shown that low magnesium results in low bone mass. Human studies are needed to provide further confirmation (15).


Interestingly, low magnesium is often seen in individuals with asthma compared to healthy people (16).

Since magnesium and calcium balance affects muscles, it stands to reasons that muscles around the lungs could be affected.

In fact, many experts believe low magnesium causes a buildup of calcium in the muscles lining the airways of the lungs. They over-constrict, which causes breathing difficulties (17).


Like most nutrients, you can increase magnesium via supplement or food. Interestingly, magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin. To increase your intake:

Eat High-Magnesium Keto Zone Foods:

• Raw Cacao
• Hemp heart Seeds*
• Spinach
• Almonds, Cashews, and Peanuts*
• Avocado
• Plain Yogurt

*Nuts, seeds, and grains contain phytic acid. Phytic acids bind magnesium and make it more difficult to absorb, rendering some foods as low bioavailability for magnesium even though they contain the mineral.

Use Epsom Salts and Magnesium Sprays: Traditionally, magnesium soaks, oils, and lotions have claimed therapeutic increases in magnesium levels. However, most of these therapies must be used consistently, and any actual increase in magnesium in studies has been inconclusive (18).

Still, anecdotally, many people claim better sleep, energy, muscle strength, and more with Epsom salt soaks. If you want to use Epsom salts or footbaths, try 2 cups Epsom salt in a standard bathtub or 1 cup in a foot soaking pan, and apply for at least 15 minutes. If using another type of magnesium salt, lotion, or oil, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Magnesium Supplementation: Using a high-quality magnesium supplement is the most effective way to increase levels. Most adults need 200-400 mg per day to maintain healthy amounts of magnesium in the body. The best absorbed and most effective magnesium supplements are chelated and use magnesium citrate, malate or other well-absorbed forms. Magnesium oxide is generally the least-tolerated and absorbed form.

Bottom Line

Magnesium is a crucial mineral in human health. You, like many other modern adults, may have a magnesium deficiency and not even know. If you have symptoms of magnesium deficiency, take steps to correct it and monitor your signs and symptoms. Magnesium supplementation, along with a healthy diet, is the most effective therapy.

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