What Are the Signs of Magnesium Deficiency?

Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2022

4 signs of magnesium deficiency

what are the signs of magnesium deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is often overlooked because symptoms often appear until your levels are dangerously low. Here are the 4 signs to look out for.

The four signs of magnesium deficiency include the following:

  1. Muscle twitches and cramps: Tremors, twitches, and muscle cramps are indications of magnesium deficiency. In worst-case scenarios, the deficiency can even cause seizures or convulsions. Researchers believe that these symptoms are caused by a greater flow of calcium into nerve cells, which hyperstimulates nerve endings.
  2. Irritability and mood swings: People with magnesium deficiency often develop symptoms such as irritability, aloofness, mental numbness, or absence of emotions. Worsened deficiency may even lead to delirium and coma. Moreover, some studies have reported a link between low magnesium levels and increased risk of depression and chronic fatigue.
  3. Osteoporosis: Magnesium deficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes weakened bones and an increased risk of bone fractures. In addition to weakening the bones directly, magnesium deficiency lowers blood levels of calcium.
  4. Irregular heartbeat: Heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) is among the most severe symptoms of magnesium deficiency. It is often seen on an electrocardiogram in severe cases.

What is a magnesium deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency, also called hypomagnesemia, is often overlooked. In many cases, magnesium deficiency may be underdiagnosed because the symptoms generally don't show up until your magnesium levels become seriously low.

Your body needs magnesium for vital bodily processes, such as muscle and nerve function, glucose levels, blood pressure, and synthesis of protein, bone, and DNA.

Medical conditions related to chronic magnesium deficiency include diabetes, poor absorption, chronic diarrhea, renal failure, overuse of antacids, celiac disease, and hungry bone syndrome.

10 causes of magnesium deficiency

Causes of magnesium deficiency vary, ranging from insufficient dietary intake to loss of magnesium from the system.

Common reasons for low magnesium include:

  1. Excessive alcohol consumption
  2. Burns that affect a large area of the body
  3. Chronic diarrhea 
  4. Polyuria (excessive urination)
  5. Hyperaldosteronism (a disorder in which the adrenal gland releases too much aldosterone in the blood)
  6. Kidney tubule disorders
  7. Malabsorption disorders such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease
  8. Malnutrition
  9. Pancreatitis (swelling and inflammation of the pancreas)
  10. Excessive sweating

How much magnesium do you need?

The amount of magnesium you need depends on your age and sex.

Daily suggested doses in milligrams are as follows:

  • Birth to 6 months old: 30 milligrams
  • Infants 7-12 months old: 75 milligrams
  • Children 1-3 years old: 80 milligrams
  • Children 4-8 years old: 130 milligrams
  • Preteens 9-13 years old: 240 milligrams
  • Teen boys 14-18 years old: 410 milligrams
  • Teen girls 14-18 years old: 360 milligrams
  • Men over 18 years old: 400-420 milligrams
  • Women over 18 years old: 310-320 milligrams


Foods That Aren't as Healthy as You Think See Slideshow

How is magnesium deficiency treated?

You can get enough magnesium in your diet.

Foods high in magnesium include:

  • Nuts, especially almonds, cashews, and peanuts
  • Spinach
  • Black beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Whole wheat bread

Other food sources of magnesium include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Kidney beans
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Fish such as salmon and halibut
  • Milk

Certain nutrients and conditions can influence how much magnesium your body absorbs.

If you want to increase the amount of  magnesium in your body, you can try:

Doctors may suggest magnesium supplements for people who have poor magnesium absorption or an underlying medical condition that can prevent magnesium absorption.

What happens if you don’t get enough magnesium?

Persistently low magnesium levels can result in symptoms such as:

Long-term magnesium deficiency may increase your risk of:

What do magnesium supplements do?

Magnesium is an important mineral that keeps bones strong, supports nerve and muscle function, and promotes energy production. Most fiber-containing foods such as leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains are good sources of magnesium.

However, while most of your daily magnesium needs can be met by eating a few servings of magnesium-rich foods, most Americans don’t get enough in their regular diets.

Magnesium supplements can help you if have conditions that make you lose magnesium faster than you can replenish in your diet:

Magnesium supplements can also help with conditions such as:

Magnesium is used as an antacid, a laxative, a preventative measure against birth defects, and a sleep aid:

  • Antacid: Oral magnesium supplements help neutralize stomach acids and reduce symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion.
  • Laxative: Magnesium is used as a laxative, treating constipation and clearing the bowels before certain medical procedures.
  • Preventative measures against birth defects: According to some studies, giving intravenous magnesium to pregnant women under supervision may reduce the risk of birth defects such as cerebral palsy.
  • Sleep aid: Some studies have reported that magnesium supplements taken at night can help relax your muscles and help improve sleep quality. 

Since magnesium supplements need stomach acid for absorption, it’s best to take them after eating a meal.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Who should not take magnesium supplements?

Magnesium supplements are not recommended for everyone. Always consult your doctor before starting any supplement. 

Your doctor will likely not recommend magnesium supplements if you have the following conditions:

Can magnesium supplements cause side effects?

Eating too much magnesium from natural foods is typically harmless, and taking magnesium supplements in doses less than 350 milligrams daily is safe for most adults. 

However, excess magnesium can accumulate in the body and cause side effects, including:

Extremely high magnesium levels can become life-threatening.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2022


Magnesium. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-998/magnesium

Nutrition and healthy eating. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/magnesium-supplements/faq-20466270