Are You Low on Magnesium?

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Magnesium Benefits and Uses
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Are You Low on Magnesium?

The answer is likely “Yes” that you are deficient in Magnesium.

Magnesium is the eighth most abundant mineral on earth, and the third most abundant in sea water. More importantly, it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and it is necessary in over 300 reactions within the body.

Magnesium isn’t just abundant in the body, but vitally important too. As this article explains:

Every single cell in the human body demands adequate magnesium to function, or it will perish. Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well functioning detoxification pathways and much more depend upon cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissue containing the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart—two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency.

Proper magnesium ratios are important for the body to correctly use calcium in the cells. Even a small deficiency can lead to a dangerous calcium imbalance and lead to problems like calcification and cell death. This manifests itself with symptoms like heart trouble, migraine headaches, muscle cramps and premenstrual cramping.

Where Has All The Magnesium Gone?

Unfortunately, most modern farming processes tax the soil, depleting it of its natural magnesium. On top of that, many hybrids are selectively bred to survive low levels of magnesium and most conventional fertilizers use nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, and do nothing to replenish magnesium levels.

Water was once a good source of magnesium, but now:

Fluoride in drinking water binds with magnesium, creating a nearly insoluble mineral compound that ends up deposited in the bones, where its brittleness increases the risk of fractures. Water, in fact, could be an excellent source of magnesium—if it comes from deep wells that have magnesium at their source, or from mineral-rich glacial runoff. Urban sources of drinking water are usually from surface water, such as rivers and streams, which are low in magnesium. Even many bottled mineral waters are quite low in magnesium, or have a very high concentration of calcium, or both.

These additional dietary factors can also deplete magnesium:

  • Consumption of caffeine
  • Consumption of sugar (It takes 28 molecules of magnesium to metabolize a single glucose molecule! source)
  • Consumption of processed food
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Consumption of produce from depleted soil
  • Consumption of foods high in phytic acid

Additionally, drugs like birth control pills, hypertension medicine, diuretics, insulin, and certain antibiotics (among others) deplete magnesium levels. Sweating often from exercise or other causes can also deplete magnesium.

What Does Magnesium Do?

Magnesium is necessary for hundreds of functions within the body, but is especially important for:

  • Gives rigidity AND flexibility to your bones (more important than Calcium in many cases)
  • Increases bioavailability of calcium
  • Regulates and normalizes blood pressure
  • Prevents and reverses kidney stone formation
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Helps prevent congestive heart failure
  • Eases muscle cramps and spasms
  • Lowers serum cholesterol levels and triglycerides
  • Decreases insulin resistance
  • Can prevent atherosclerosis and stroke
  • End cluster and migraine headaches
  • Enhances circulation
  • Relieves fibromyalgia and chronic pain
  • Treats asthma and emphysema
  • Helps make proteins
  • Encourages proper elimination
  • Prevents osteoporosis
  • Proper Vitamin D absorption
  • protection from radiation
  • To aid weight loss
  • Lessen or remove ADD or ADHD in children
  • in proper digestion of carbohydrates
  • emerging evidence is showing a preventative role in many cancers
  • (source)

Even though magnesium deficiency is rarely addressed in medical settings, the National Institutes of Health website states that:

Some observational surveys have associated higher blood levels of magnesium with lower risk of coronary heart disease [50-51]. In addition, some dietary surveys have suggested that a higher magnesium intake may reduce the risk of having a stroke [52]. There is also evidence that low body stores of magnesium increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which may increase the risk of complications after a heart attack [4]. These studies suggest that consuming recommended amounts of magnesium may be beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

Are You Low in Magnesium?

As I said above, the answer is likely ‘yes’ in today’s world, as over 80% of tested adults are. Unfortunately, blood tests are relatively ineffective in gauging magnesium levels as less than 1% of magnesium is in the blood.

Low magnesium levels are often diagnosed by symptoms alone, and the following symptoms can point to low magnesium levels:

  • Inability to sleep or insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Mental disturbances
  • Anxiety, depression or restlessness
  • Muscle soreness or spasms
  • Infertility or PMS
  • High levels of stress
  • Headaches
  • Heart “flutters” or palpitations
  • Fatigue or unusual tiredness
  • Coldness in extremities
  • Fuzzy brain or difficulty concentrating
  • Allergies and sensitivities
  • Lack of appetite
  • Back pain
  • Body odor
  • Bad short term memory
  • Poor coordination
  • Insulin resistance
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Constipation
  • Frequent cavities or poor dental health
  • Gut disorders
  • Kidney stones
  • Thyroid problems

If you have more than one of the above symptoms and especially if you have more than five, it is highly likely that you could benefit from magnesium supplementation.

How To Get Enough Magnesium

Unfortunately, magnesium is often not well absorbed by the digestive tract, and is even more difficult to absorb if you are deficient or are low in vitamin D, have poor gut bacteria or suffer from a number of other conditions.

On top of that, most foods are depleted of their natural magnesium levels and the water supply is lacking also. For this reason, I often use topical magnesium supplementation for our family.

There are several ways to supplement, and a mixture of more than one type of magnesium supplementation seems to be most effective. It is important to start slow and work up, as high doses will not be completely absorbed at first and most will be wasted.

Oral Magnesium Supplements

Leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, kelp, and especially nettle are good dietary sources of magnesium, though if you have a deficiency, it will be difficult to raise your levels enough through diet alone. There is also evidence that over half of all magnesium taken internally is not used and leaves the body as waste. I take this timed release formula and B-vitamins and folate for better absorption. (I like it so much I reached out to them and they offered a 10% discount for Wellness Mama readers with the code wellness10.) Another great magnesium option is from BiOptimizers.

Transdermal Magnesium Supplements

Unlike internal doses of magnesium, topical magnesium does not have to pass through the digestive system and kidneys and can more quickly enter the blood and tissues of the body.

I now cycle a quality magnesium supplement like the one above with topical magnesium spray. I find topical to be the most effective (and cost effective!). You can make your own magnesium spray using this recipe or can try these hand-crafted jars of Magnesium Lotion as well.

Healthy Magnesium Levels: Bonus Benefit!

In fact, I was suffering from low vitamin D for years despite spending regular time in the sun and taking supplemental D3 at the suggestion of my doctor. Magnesium is needed for proper vitamin D absorption and it wasn’t until I increased my use of magnesium on my skin that my vitamin D levels finally went up.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of magnesium and its various actions in the body, I’d suggest the book The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean as well as listen to my short podcast episode on magnesium.

Do you take magnesium? Have you noticed any benefit? Share below!

Magnesium deficiency can lead to health problems. Find out the best source of magnesium and how to optimize your magnesium levels.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


435 responses to “Are You Low on Magnesium?”

  1. Kirsten Pankratz Avatar
    Kirsten Pankratz

    Hey, I have been reading through your magnesium info. I have a question for you. I have taken cal/mag during my last 4 pregnancies and it helps A Lot with sleeping well, leg cramps, and labor/after pain. I love that stuff!! But, I still get a ton of horrible migraines all pregnancy long. I mean they are bad and last for days! I have always taken cal/mag not just mag and I feel a bit nervous to stop with the cal and just take the mag……but someone just told me that it’s the mag glycinate that helps with migraines and what I have been taking is the cal/mag citrate. Do you know if changing to mag glycinate will still help my pregnancy and labor? I really need the labor/after pain help as I do natural homebirthing. What about giving up the cal part? Maybe I should take both supplements? Thanks for any insight you have into this.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Great question. I experimented with this a lot and by my last pregnancy, this is what worked best for me: I took the slow release mag glycinate and worked up slowly on dose, and consumed a lot of canned sardines for the calcium, omega-3s and protein. I know they aren’t often a favorite food but I taught myself to love them during pregnancy because they are so beneficial (and inexpensive).

  2. Rebecca Avatar

    My frequent urination is gone, restless leg.. I wake up in the same position i fell asleep in.. my sciatica is less..

  3. Janie Avatar

    Hi, is the MagMRT oral supplement safe during pregnancy? I already have 600mg of folate in my prenatal is adding 200 additional mgs too much? I’m taking an oral now and it’s wrecking havoc on my stomach!

  4. Gail Regula Avatar
    Gail Regula

    I use topical magnesium. If I stop, I get sore legs. Right now, I’m slowly getting rid if a sore upper back from not using magnesium.

  5. sue Avatar

    The correct term is “digestive tract” — not “track.” Hope that helps.

  6. Aurela Avatar

    Hello Wellness Mama,

    Thank you for sharing your precious wisdom with us.

    Following your advice – I bought Natural Vitality Natural Calm. I take half a tea spoon a night.
    It has made me extremely tired. I feel dizzy and want to sleep all day. I like the fact that I am more relaxed and dont get stressed easily however i cant function properly. Please help 🙂

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      That is definitely not the intended reaction. I’d definitely back down some and see if that helps and consult a doc if you have any special concerns.

  7. Melissa Wilder Avatar
    Melissa Wilder

    I would like to use topical magnesium as suggested, but I am worried about the side effects I have read researching, particularity “loose stools”. After 35 some years of having IBS symptoms, the past year and half I finally can go out and not worry about “things” happening due to taking a probiotic. I do not want to go back to that life from using magnesium. I was thinking about getting a sample bottle and using one or two sprays a day to see what happens but I am even leary about that. I react to supplements sometimes so I am very cautious in what I take. What are your thoughts?

  8. Kirsten Avatar

    I have diabetes 2, PCOS, Metabolic syndrome, and High blood pressure as well as symptoms of leaky Gut. I’ve tried Magnesium in many forms. Even epsom salt baths (at recommended dosage of 2 cups in a bath, cause the same ” digestive Symptoms”. LOL I can tolerate a handful in the bath, or two in the bottom of a shower tub with the plug in. I’ve read all the articles on our need for it, but I can’t seem to tolerate it. do you think I don’t need it?

    I’m on a low carb diet for the blood sugar, if that helps. Thanks, Kitty

  9. Abigail Avatar

    Hello! I have started taking Ancient Minerals magnesium spray to hopefully help prevent morning sickness and have a couple questions. How much should I take per day? (I have been doing about 300mg daily). Also, how long does it take for the tingling to go away? I have been using it for about a month, yet still tingle so I think I am still deficient. Should I up my daily dosage?

  10. Angela miller Avatar
    Angela miller

    Hey Wellness Momma! I NEED YOUR HELP, PLEASE!! I had thyroid cancer back in September and had had my entire thyroid removed on September 1st, 2015. The cancer adhered to my trachea and my vocal chord so I had to follow up with radiation. Since my surgery, my parathyroids never woke up so I currently take 4500 mg of calcium daily and 800 mg of magnesium daily as well. Plus calcitrol 2 times a day as well. Lately I have been getting horrible headaches and an inability to concentrate. I’ve had horrible anxiety issues since my surgery and often have chest pain. I normally take 1500mg of calcium with 400mg of twice a day.. Once at 12p and again at 6pm, then just 1500mg of calcium by itself around 10pm. Is there any suggestions that u have on the timeframe I take my meds and what kind of topical magnesium do u think is best, how do I use it, and where can I buy it? Please, I need your help! I’m struggling medically! Thank you!!! 🙂

  11. Michelle Avatar

    Just read this article and it’s so me. I have most of the mentioned symptoms. I have been using Epsom salts for baths several times a week and also drinking Calm most nights. I recently had a hair analysis done and it seem my calcium numbers were really high and my homeopath says this may be why I’m not utilizing the magnesium. I am now avoiding all dairy and trying to get things straightened out. She recommended not taking Vitamin D for now. Just wondering your opinions or advice on this? Thanks so much.

  12. Wendy Avatar

    Hi.. I have a question
    I have been reading many books and articles on Magnesium Deficiency, The latest book I read was ‘The Magnesium Miracle” And I’m convinced that I have probably had a lifelong Magnesium deficiency for several reasons.. my diet lacks sufficient Magnesium, a steroid medication I take depletes Magnesium and I have many of the symptoms of deficiency. I have been using a good quality Magnesium supplement for about a week now, I started off slow and low like I do with everything, and have worked up to about 200 MG a day split into two doses. My question is this: can taking Magnesium even if you have a deficiency cause you to have MORE magnesium deficiency symptoms? For instance, about an hour after I took my morning dose yesterday i started getting the eye twitches and a few muscle spasms ( that lasted about 15 minutes) And can taking Magnesium if your deficient cause you to have some ‘detox’ symptoms? I have felt a little nauseous here and there, and tired since starting it . However I have felt some improvement in some of my initial deficiency symptoms. And if this is so, how long does it take for the detox symptoms or the magnification of initial deficiency symptoms to subside?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’ve read that some people can experience that for several weeks or months during the switch. I’d definitely check with a doctor if you have any serious symptoms, and maybe work up more slowly or try a topical magnesium?

      1. Wendy Avatar

        Thanks! I’ve noticed it subsiding a bit, and I’ve also tried a topical today for my first time so I plan to do both, oral and topical, and just work my way up slowly. Glad to know that it wasn’t just me and that you’ve heard of it happening before!

  13. Christa Jacobsen Avatar
    Christa Jacobsen

    Hi Wellness Mama

    I love your blog, there is tonnes of info here!

    I am uding home made deodorant with coconut oil and baking soda. But I would really like to try what happens if I substitute bakimg soda for manesium.
    Searching the internet I figured out that you can buy magnesiumchloride very cheap because it is used for deicing roads etc.

    My question is: is this safe to use in a deodorant or what should I be aware of? I have read that magnesiumchloride is used for medicinsl purposes so it should do the trick. Also I think it is even more prone to react with water that epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)


    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’ve used magnesium spray as a deodorant before so you should be able to do this without a problem. Just make sure to use a high-quality magnesium with no added ingredients and please let me know how it works!

  14. Beth Avatar

    Hi! Im in the 12th week of my second pregnancy and have been notified that my VitD is low. Regardless of supplementing. It was low my first pregnany too. I bought the Ease to help with that and because I was feeling morning sickness. It is directed to spray so much on abdomin and other parts of the body. My question is, is it safe to use as directed while pregnant? Did you use any less or avoid certain areas? I’m also still nursing my 22 month old. Thank you so much! I love your post and learn so much great information from you!

    1. Lindsey Avatar

      I’ve used magnesium ehile pregnant, it can actually help with cramping, it helped me also with raising my vit D level. I’ve used internally as well as topically I find topically to work better, have not any bad side affects while using magnesium but did have great results.
      Stay strong, pregnant and nursing doesnt always work for everyone (I’ve done it 3x and have been ridiculed for it, by the second time around i totally disregarded those who dissagreed with my mothering) build your Vit D, your immune system needs to be strong so you can handle it all.
      Good luck.

  15. Heather Avatar

    Have you ever heard of Magnesium causing odd skin rashes? Currently taking Jarrow Magnesium Optimizer (with Mag Malate) and have noticed circular rashes appearing on my extremities. Wondering if anyone else has experienced this and what may be causing it.
    Thanks so much! Your website is a wonderful resource – my go-to for everything!

  16. Christy Avatar

    This is really one amazing article! I started taking Magnesium Citrate and started seeing results after just two weeks! This supplement has really helped me with lots of different issues you mentioned over here. I feel like a new person since I started taking it!
    Thanks so much! Here’s the one I’m taking:

  17. Kelly Avatar


    Have you ever tried the Omica Organics brand offered through Thrive? Thanks!

      1. Kelly Fox Avatar
        Kelly Fox

        It’s a magnesium oil spray. The ingredients listed are “Concentrated Liquid Magnesium Chloride and other naturally-occurring trace minerals, Water, and Organic/Biodynamically-grown Lavender Hydrosol (Floral Water).”

  18. Gina Avatar

    What about using epson salts in your bath. Does that work to increase magnesium?

    1. Lindsey Avatar

      Epsom salt has magnesium however using magnesium flakes will probably get you better results.

  19. Steph Avatar

    Do you use the Ease or Ancient Minerals brand? You’ve linked to both, and the AM is cheaper, so I’m just curious if you found Ease to be better for some reason. Thanks!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’ve used both… the Ease doesn’t tingle or dry out my skin. Both seemed effective ways to get magnesium levels to me, but the Ease was just more comfortable…

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