If you haven’t been feeling your best lately, you may be low in magnesium. In this blog, you’ll discover the top signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and how you can make sure you’re getting enough of this vital mineral.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for good health. It is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body, and it plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions.1
Approximately half of the body’s magnesium is commonly found in our bones, while the other half is mainly found in the cells of our organs and tissues.
While only 1% of the body’s magnesium is found in blood, this essential mineral helps maintain normal blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels.
As mentioned above, this mineral has a vital role in many important functions in the body. It is required for energy production, blood sugar regulation, protein synthesis, and proper nerve and muscle function. It also fosters a healthy immune system and helps keep bones strong. Apart from this, magnesium plays an important role in the management and prevention of certain ailments and diseases including heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Low magnesium is not uncommon, with about 50% of Americans consuming less than the daily Estimated Average Requirement (EAR).2, 3 As such, many people are at risk for subclinical magnesium deficiency, which can lead to more serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes.4
The reasons for magnesium deficiency vary. Some causes include lack of magnesium-rich foods in the diet and malabsorption or loss of magnesium from the body due to illness, disease, or medications. Consumption of certain substances such as sugar, carbonated beverages, alcohol, and caffeine can deplete the body of this mineral. Another reason magnesium may be lacking in your diet is due to soil depletion of minerals.
Strenuous exercise can also have a negative effect on magnesium status. It increases inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, and because of losses through sweat and urine magnesium requirements may increase by 10-20%.5
While not a complete list, here are 10 signs and symptoms that can indicate that you may need more magnesium, and some suggestions on how to incorporate more of it into your daily life.
Magnesium plays a vital role in central nervous system function and energy production. Therefore, it makes sense that a deficiency in this mineral can lead to fatigue. Studies have found that magnesium levels and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are interrelated, with an increase in magnesium intake having a beneficial effect on CFS symptoms.6, 7, 8
2. Muscle Cramps, Soreness, and Twitching
In addition to many other processes in the body, magnesium is an important cofactor for many functions within the nervous system and affects electrolyte balance. As such, if you experience muscle cramps, soreness, or twitching it could be related to low levels of magnesium in your body.9
3. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be a symptom of many health issues, one of which could be magnesium deficiency. It is well documented that magnesium helps regulate blood pressure, with low levels leading to hypertension.10, 11
4. Digestive Issues
Constipation, loss of appetite, acid reflux, and nausea are some of the digestive issues that can arise from a lack of magnesium in the body.
Additionally, it is worth noting that low stomach acid can lead to poor magnesium absorption, in turn playing a role in magnesium deficiency. Some reasons for low stomach acid include certain medications, chronic stress, or certain nutrient deficiencies.
5. Heart Palpitations or Arrhythmia
Experiencing heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) can be more serious signs of a magnesium deficiency.12, 13 A review published in 2016 that focused on the ability of magnesium supplementation to treat arrhythmias concluded that “Magnesium has a number of potential beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, most notably antiarrhythmic properties.”14
6. Weak Bones/Osteoporosis
Among its many other roles in the body, magnesium levels can both directly and indirectly impact bone health.15 Because it contributes to the maintenance of our bones, having a deficiency in magnesium can be a risk factor for osteoporosis.
The results from a large study of postmenopausal women showed that low magnesium intake corresponded with lower bone mass density.16
7. Depression and Anxiety
The connection between magnesium deficiency and psychiatric disorders has been noted in research for decades.17 Many studies agree that depression and anxiety can be symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and that supplementation of this mineral can have a positive effect on symptoms.18, 19, 20, 21
8. Cognitive Impairment
Memory and concentration can be negatively affected by a deficiency in magnesium. Evidence of the correlation between magnesium intake and cognitive impairment is growing. Published in 2012, a large study of individuals aged 60+ in Japan concluded that “Higher self-reported dietary intakes of potassium, calcium, and magnesium reduce the risk of all-cause dementia.”22
Another study published in 2014 looked at the association between intake of certain minerals and risk of mild cognitive impairment, concluding that their “investigation provides new evidence linking increased magnesium intake with decreased risk of cognitive impairment.”23
9. Trouble Sleeping
Because of its integral role in regulating the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, being deficient in magnesium can lead to sleep issues including insomnia.
Additionally, magnesium intake helps increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Being the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, GABA has a calming effect and can help reduce stress and anxiety, playing a role in sound restful sleep.24, 25
One study that looked at the effect of supplemental magnesium on elderly individuals with insomnia concluded that it can effectively improve symptoms.26
For a lot of people, migraines are debilitating and can interfere with daily life. This type of headache can be a symptom of many health conditions, including magnesium deficiency. Low levels of magnesium are a common factor among individuals suffering from migraines.27, 28
Several studies have shown that magnesium supplementation is associated with a reduction of frequency and severity of migraines.29 However, other research indicates that this mineral is most effective for migraines accompanied by aura or visual disturbances.32
Getting Tested for Deficiency
While there are a number of tests that can be done to find out if you are deficient in magnesium, there is no reliable biomarker for magnesium status available at this time.31
The aforementioned signs and symptoms may also be indicators of other health issues. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health or suspect you may have a magnesium deficiency.
Having too much stress in our lives negatively impacts our overall health and wellbeing. It can also cause the body to waste magnesium. As such, finding strategies to reduce the amount of stress in your life is of great importance. Find out more info on how to reduce stress in our blogs 5 Quick Tips to Relieve Stress & Relax and Could Reading Be the Ultimate Stress Reducer?.
If you are under a lot of stress, it can also be beneficial to take a magnesium supplement or incorporate more magnesium-rich foods to your diet. As mentioned above, one of the many roles of magnesium in the body is to help keep stress in check.
How Can I Get More Magnesium?
It is fairly easy to incorporate more magnesium into your diet. There are many supplemental magnesium powders and pills available in most health foods stores, and even some grocery and drug stores. However, there are many forms of supplemental magnesium, and each may affect you in a different way. Well+Good has a blog that looks at various magnesium supplements and what area(s) of health each can be beneficial for.
Additionally, you can get this important mineral from a variety of healthy, plant-based foods. Some great food sources of magnesium include many leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.32 And much to the delight of many people, dark chocolate is also a rich source of magnesium!33
You can also get more magnesium into your body by using topical magnesium creams, lotions, or sprays. Epsom salts are another great source of magnesium and are commonly used in baths or foot soaks. Find out more about Epsom salt baths in our blog 5 Ways to Boost the Benefits of Your Epsom Salt Bath.
Always consult a medical professional before taking a new supplement, especially if you are on medications.