MAGNESIUM Deficiency – 10 Signs You Should Know

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Magnesium is a mineral element that is essential to cellular life and responsible for various processes into the body, such as the synthesis of proteins, muscle and nerve function, and even the regulation of blood pressure. [1]

Magnesium deficiency is very common: Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency, or hypomagnesemia, can occur in as much as a 10-30% of a given population. Some estimates claim that over half of us have cellular magnesium depletion. In certain population groups such as postmenopausal women, the prevalence of hypomagnesia rises to an astonishing 84%. [2]

Dr. Ken Berry, a family doctor and health Youtuber, discusses the signs of magnesium deficiency in one of his popular videos. According to Dr. Berry, one of the most important things to remember is that serum magnesium levels don’t always reflect magnesium deficiency. He’s absolutely correct – studies have shown that subclinical hypomagnesemia is an ever-present health problem, because 99 percent of the body’s magnesium is found inside the cells, not in the blood (which makes up the serum magnesium levels you see in blood tests). [2]

Because our body doesn’t naturally produce magnesium, we have to get it from the food that we eat or take supplements for it. When your serum magnesium levels fall below normal, that’s when your body will start to pull it out of your cells in order to balance out the serum levels. That’s a big problem as magnesium is responsible for many of the body’s homeostatic processes.

So how do we recognize magnesium deficiency? Here are 10 signs to look out for.

1. Low Energy And Fatigue

According to Dr. Berry, while fatigue and low energy can be caused by a variety of conditions, they are common signs of low magnesium levels. When the body produces energy, magnesium is one the vital components – because it binds to the ATP molecule, which is responsible for energy production. [3] Low intracellular magnesium could lead to less energy being produced by the cell, leading to fatigue. If you feel tired all the time or find that your energy is always running out, you may be experiencing magnesium deficiency.

2. Tachycardia

Tachycardia is a medical term for a fast heartbeat of over 100 beats per minute. Various studies have focused on magnesium as a potential therapeutic agent for managing tachycardia and other arrythmias, because of its inherent anti-arrhythmic properties. [4] In fact, a study in 2012 reported that drug-induced hypomagnesemia or magnesium deficiency contributed directly to tachycardia due to prolonged QT-intervals (seen in your heart’s electrocardiogram tracing). [5]

3. Numbness And Tingling In Your Fingers Or Toes

Peripheral neuropathy (numbness, tingling, pain, loss of motor control) of the extremities is typically attributed to chronic conditions such as diabetes, but it can also be caused by low magnesium. Low magnesium levels could cause numbness and tingling in the tips of the fingers or toes because magnesium plays an important role in the conduction of impulses through our nervous system. Studies have even shown how magnesium supplementation could potentially be used in the management of chronic pain and neuropathy. [6][7]

4. Muscle Cramps, Twitching

Magnesium also plays a big role in the neuromuscular conduction of impulses, which is why one of the most common signs of low magnesium is muscle cramps and twitching. [6][7] Different articles and studies have reported that hypomagnesemia is of the major contributors to cramping and twitching of muscles; in fact, Varghese, et. al. studied increasing dialysate magnesium during hemodialysis sessions in order to reduce the frequency of muscle cramps. [8][9] According to Dr. Berry, recurrent episodes of a “charley horse” (muscle spasm or cramp) could be a sign that you may be needing more magnesium in your diet. More severe deficits could even manifest as Chvostek’s or Trousseau’s signs, the former characterized by facial twitching when tapping on the facial nerve and the latter as spasms of the muscles of the hand and forearm when a pressure cuff is used. [11]

5. Constipation

Constipation is a pretty vague symptom that could be caused by many things – but did you know that taking magnesium supplements could actually help with passing stool? Too much magnesium can even cause things to go to the opposite and cause diarrhea. [10] So how does low magnesium lead to constipation? Magnesium increases osmotic pressure in the large intestine, thereby increasing the water content and volume of stool. Lower magnesium levels could do the opposite, causing stool to become hard and dry, contributing to constipation. [12]

6. Insomnia

There are various studies that have highlighted magnesium as a sleep aid. These illustrate the role that magnesium plays in sleep regulation, because the magnesium ion is a GABA-agonist. GABA or gamma-amino butyric acid is a neurotransmitter that has sedative effects, which could help with your sleep cycle. Magnesium deficiency could cause problems in sleep regulation, leading to insomnia. [13]

7. Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, Bone Weakness / Brittle Bones

Although calcium is typically the mineral associated with bone strength, magnesium is also vital in maintaining bone health; with Barbagallo reporting that dietary magnesium deficit was a potential risk factor for osteoporosis and bone loss. [11] With around two-thirds of the body’s magnesium found in bones, low magnesium could cause a decrease in bone mineral density, causing bone weakness and the development of brittle bones. Studies have also found that poor magnesium intake was linked to an increased rate of bone loss amongst post-menopausal osteoporotic women.

8. High Blood Pressure

Magnesium is also involved in the regulation of blood pressure, through the contractility of the smooth heart muscle. Barbagallo reported on magnesium’s modulatory action on hypertension and hypertensive disorders; with magnesium deficits directly contributing to the elevation of blood pressure due to vascular hyperreactivity. [11] Magnesium has long been prescribed as a cardiac supplement in order to keep magnesium levels within the normal range. [14]

9. Arrythmias, Atrial Fibrillation

Arrythmias can be caused by different heart conditions, with low magnesium levels being a potential risk factor. Magnesium deficiency was linked to the development of tachycardia and hypertension because of its role in the regulation of the contractility of the heart muscle. Bouida in 2019 also found that low-dose magnesium supplementation between 4.5g and 9g could be used in managing atrial fibrillation, being able to regulate the rate and rhythm of the heart because of its inherent anti-arrhythmic properties. [15]

10. Morning Sickness

Dr. Berry even mentions a lesser-known tenth sign, but only amongst pregnant women – morning sickness. While morning sickness may be a common symptom of pregnancy, it can be in part due to magnesium deficiency. There are very few studies that focus on magnesium deficiency and morning sickness, but one of the clinical manifestations of low magnesium is nausea and vomiting, which can worsen morning sickness among pregnant women. [16]

Action Steps:

In order to help prevent magnesium deficiency, you can include a variety of magnesium-rich food in your diet, such as nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds), legumes (black beans, edamame, lima beans), whole grains (quinoa, shredded wheat), greens (spinach), and even dark chocolate / cacao. [16]

Magnesium supplementation may also be valuable, but note that you need a form that is bioavailable. Here’s an amazing “complete magnesium” that contains 7 high quality, bioavailable forms of magnesium: BiOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough.

MAGNESIUM Deficiency - 10 Signs You Should Know
MAGNESIUM Deficiency – 10 Signs You Should Know Graphic © Illustration: Pixabay (PD)


[1] National Institutes of Health. Magnesium.

[2] DiNicolantonio, J., et. al. (2018). Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis.

[3] Tardy, A., et. al. (2020). Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence.

[4] Piotrowski, A. & Kalus, J. (2004). Magnesium for the treatment and prevention of atrial tachyarrhythmias.

[5] Classen, H., et. al. (2012). Drug-induced magnesium deficiency.

[6] Kirkland, A., et. al. (2018). The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders.

[7] Cleveland Clinic. Feeling Fatigued? Could It Be Magnesium Deficiency? (And If So, What to Do About It!).

[8] Bosman, W., et. al. (2021). Genetic and drug-induced hypomagnesemia: different cause, same mechanism.

[9] Varghese, A., et. al. (2020). A Higher Concentration of Dialysate Magnesium to Reduce the Frequency of Muscle Cramps: A Narrative Review.

[10] Michigan Medicine. Magnesium for Constipation.

[11] Barbagallo, M., et. al. (2021). Magnesium in Aging, Health and Diseases.

[12] Mori, H., et. al. (2021). Magnesium Oxide in Constipation.

[13] Abbasi, B., et. al. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.

[14] MIMS. Magnesium chloride.

[15] Bouida, W., et. al. (2019). Low-dose Magnesium Sulfate Versus High Dose in the Early Management of Rapid Atrial Fibrillation: Randomized Controlled Double-blind Study (LOMAGHI Study).

[16] Cleveland Clinic. 7 Foods That Are High in Magnesium.

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