Do You Have a Magnesium Deficiency?

magnesium deficiency

A mind-blowing statistic I discovered recently was that over 50% of Americans have a magnesium deficiency.[1] This is one of the causes of the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiencies because magnesium is needed to move vitamin D through the bloodstream.[2] Moreover, you may be magnesium deficient and may not realize it. 

Magnesium is an electrolyte that supports many of your body’s functions. It is needed to regulate muscle and nerve function, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure and to make bone mass, DNA, and proteins. Low magnesium levels can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis.[3] 

I will tell you how to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium, why you might not be getting enough, and the different forms of magnesium. First, let’s discuss the common signs of magnesium deficiency.

Table of Contents

10 Signs of a Magnesium Deficiency

Despite the importance of having optimal magnesium levels, many people do not consume enough magnesium in their diet, leading to magnesium deficiency. Here are some signs of a magnesium deficiency:[4]

1. Muscle Cramps And Spasms

One of the most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency is muscle cramps and spasms. Magnesium is essential for muscle function, and a deficiency can cause muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily, particularly in the legs.

2. Fatigue and weakness

Magnesium promotes the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which gets generated in your mitochondria. ATP is the body’s primary energy currency for most of your body’s biochemical and physiological processes, such as growth, movement, and hemostasis. A magnesium deficiency can lead to fatigue and weakness as the body struggles to produce enough energy to function.

3. Insomnia

Magnesium regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and a deficiency can lead to insomnia. People with magnesium deficiency may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

4. Anxiety and depression

Magnesium supports the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins, which affect mood regulation. A magnesium deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression.

5. High blood pressure

Magnesium helps to relax the muscles in the blood vessels, which can help to lower blood pressure. A magnesium deficiency can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

6. Osteoporosis

Magnesium promotes healthy bones. A magnesium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures.

7. Irregular heartbeat

Magnesium is involved in the regulation of the heartbeat. A magnesium deficiency can cause an irregular heartbeat, which can be dangerous in severe cases.

8. Migraines

Magnesium supports your nervous system, and a magnesium deficiency can lead to migraines and headaches.

9. Tingling or numbness

Magnesium is involved in transmitting nerve impulses, and a magnesium deficiency can cause tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.

10. Digestive issues

Magnesium supports healthy bowel patterns. A magnesium deficiency can lead to constipation, as magnesium helps relax the intestines’ muscles and promote bowel movements.

Research has linked magnesium deficiency with various health conditions, including Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and migraine.[5] A magnesium deficiency can be challenging to recognize because the symptoms mirror other conditions. I’ll tell you how to check your magnesium levels at home later. So, why is magnesium deficiency so widespread? Let’s talk about it.  

Why You Might Not Be Getting Enough Magnesium

Despite the importance of magnesium, many people need to get more in their diet. There are several reasons why magnesium deficiency is so common, but most of it links to our poor diets.

The Standard American Diet (SAD), or Western Diet, is about 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 35% fats. It’s full of ultra-processed foods, sugary drinks, refined sugar, and industrialized oils such as vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean, and margarine. These oils are highly inflammatory and contribute to metabolic syndrome and heart disease.[6] Processed foods are often low in magnesium and other nutrients. 

Another reason for the high rate of magnesium deficiency is soil depletion. Modern farming practices have led to a decrease in the magnesium content of the soil, which means that the plants grown in that soil are also lower in magnesium.

Certain medications, such as diuretics, antibiotics, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), lead to a magnesium deficiency. Prilosec is a common over-the-counter PPI used by people. 

Alcohol use can interfere with the absorption and utilization of magnesium in the body. Alcohol can lead to an electrolyte imbalance as well. 

Finally, health conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and type 2 diabetes can lead to a magnesium deficiency.[7]

Why You Need Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral naturally present in many foods, including almonds, leafy green vegetables, peanut butter, avocado, and whole grains. It is also available as a dietary supplement and included in multivitamins and mineral supplements.

Magnesium plays a role in many bodily functions, including:

  • Energy production  – The production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) requires magnesium. ATP is the body’s primary energy currency.
  • Muscle and nerve function – Magnesium plays a vital role in muscle and nerve function by regulating the flow of calcium into cells. This is important for muscle contraction and relaxation, as well as the transmission of nerve impulses.
  • Regulates blood glucose levels – Magnesium helps regulate blood glucose levels by influencing insulin secretion and sensitivity.
  • Regulates blood pressure – Magnesium helps to relax the muscles in the blood vessels, which can help to lower blood pressure.
  • Bone health: Maintaining and developing healthy bones requires magnesium.
  • Promoting Restful Sleep – Magnesium prepares your body for sleep by relaxing your muscles.
  • Supports Healthy Bowel Patterns – Magnesium is involved in nearly every digestive process and helps move waste through your large intestine.

If you look at magnesium supplements in your local vitamin store to boost your magnesium levels, you might notice different names and wonder, “which one do I need?” Let’s talk about the various forms of magnesium.  

Different forms of Magnesium

It is nearly impossible to get enough magnesium from diet alone. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 metabolic reactions in your body. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, bananas, artichokes, figs, avocados, and wild-caught salmon. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. 

There are several forms of magnesium supplements, so deciding which one is right for you depends on your specific needs. Here are the most common:[8]

  • Magnesium citrate: This is the most common form of magnesium and is highly bioavailable. That means it’s easily absorbed in your body. It’s used to treat constipation naturally. 
  • Magnesium oxide: This is the most common form found in most multivitamins and mineral supplements. It’s not as easily absorbed as other forms but helps with heartburn and indigestion. 
  • Magnesium glycinate: This is another popular magnesium supplement because it has good bioavailability. It combines magnesium with the amino acid glycine, which builds collagen and promotes healthy sleep patterns.[9]
  • Magnesium chloride: This is often used in topical solutions like magnesium oil. It is highly absorbable through the skin and can help to alleviate muscle cramps and spasms.
  • Magnesium sulfate: You know this as Epsom salt, which is added to baths to help relax and relieve sore muscles after exercise. It can also be taken orally to relieve constipation. 
  • Magnesium taurate: This is a form of magnesium bound to taurine, an amino acid that helps regulate heart function. It is often used to help support cardiovascular health.
  • Magnesium malate: Magnesium malate is a form of magnesium bound to malic acid. It is often used to help with energy production and alleviate fatigue.

Now that you know the forms you can find in supplements, let’s discuss ways to increase magnesium levels in your body. 

How to Get More Magnesium

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adults is 400 to 420 mg per day for men and 310 to 320 mg for women. Magnesium is water soluble, meaning that your body removes any excess it doesn’t need through your urine.

It’s almost impossible to get that much magnesium from food alone. Just one cup of almonds has just 80 mg of magnesium, meaning you’d have to eat 4 to 5 cups of almonds daily to get the recommended daily value. You may consider taking a magnesium supplement if you are not getting enough magnesium from your diet. 

Plenty of foods are rich in magnesium, including legumes and grains. However, a lot of people are sensitive to legumes and grains. If you have a gluten intolerance, you should avoid those foods. 

8 Foods With High Magnesium Count

FoodMg Per Serving
Pumpkin seeds, 1 ounce156 mg
Chia seeds, 1 ounce111 mg
Almonds, 1 ounce80 mg
Spinach, 1/2 cup78 mg
Peanuts, 1/4 cup63 mg
Black beans, 1/2 cup60 mg
Peanut butter, 2 tbsp49 mg
White potatoes, baked, 3.5 ounces43 mg
Banana, 1 medium32 mg

If you believe you have a magnesium deficiency, you can order a home mineral test online to check your magnesium levels. The normal range is 1.7 to 2.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). It’s important to note that the RDV is the bare minimum needed to prevent disease. For optimal health, magnesium levels should be between 2.2 to 2.5 mg/dL.

Final Thoughts on Magnesium Deficiency

We often overlook mineral deficiencies when considering nutrition. Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the United States. As a sports nutritionist, I understand the importance of getting enough magnesium, especially if you’re an athlete. 

Your body needs magnesium for a variety of functions, including muscle contraction, metabolic health, brain health, strong bones, and to promote healthy bowel patterns. If you want to learn more about optimizing your nutrition and increasing magnesium in your diet through The Living Very Well Method™, let me help! Schedule a free discovery call, and let me help you get on the path of Living Very Well™.

About Michael
About Michael

Michael is a functional health coach and sports nutritionist based in Austin, Texas. He has a master's degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas and advanced certification in sports nutrition from the International Society of Sports Nutrition.