Are You Low on Magnesium?

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Magnesium Benefits and Uses
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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. Candace Holmes Avatar
    Candace Holmes

    Thanks for the great post. How do I make my own Magnesium oil. I read the article above and didn’t see instructions. Thanks 🙂

  2. Jackie Avatar

    How much should you take (my blood tests said low but I have been having bad cramps, horrible palpitations and high stess for no reason really) and I want my kids on it. I have the lotion, oil and natural calm. whats best and how much on kids? and where is it best to put the lotion/oil? thanks! Looking forward to seeing some results! Oh! and they said I had low D and B… will that make a difference?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I’m not a doc, but I take about 400-500 mg a day in different forms. For my kids, I rub the oil on their feet before bedtime… helps them sleep.

  3. Rebekah Love Avatar
    Rebekah Love

    Unfortunately, I think my water has fluoride in it. If fluoride in water binds with magnesium, does mixing Natural Calm or magnesium salt with this water negate its effects?

    1. Barbara Powers Avatar
      Barbara Powers

      Good question… I’d buy spring water to mix with it to be sure you’re getting what you want into your body.

  4. Jeannine Ulasich Eubanks Avatar
    Jeannine Ulasich Eubanks

    Oh my, I have 14 of those symptoms! Guess I better get on this!

  5. Kirsten Cleigh Avatar
    Kirsten Cleigh

    Where I live, we do not have fluoridated water. The people here passed a law or whatever to remove it. Our water all comes from an aquifer, and my water personally is very delicious and low in chlorine (city water tastes like a swimming pool, but I live just outside the city limits and have a different water source). Would that make it more likely that my drinking water has more magnesium in it?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      It might, though most sources are still depleted if they are filtered at all..

  6. Reyna Avatar

    Hi, I have been struggling with PCOS and have always worked to keep testosterone levels down. In spite of all the other health benefits which I can definitely help me (insomnia, spasm, pms, sensitive to cold, overweight in the midsection etc.), I have read that magnesium will increase testosterone. Has anyone with PCOS tried taking magnesium? I am wondering if I should take it or stay away from it.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I’ve done both, but making it at home is really easy and a lot cheaper!

      1. Marian Madden Avatar
        Marian Madden

        Is there a recipe on your site? I don’t know if I’m just missing it, but I can’t find it.

  7. Inez Avatar

    Thank you for your web-site. It has informed me so. I also am able to share your site with my patients. I am a massage therapist. Your site has made my preaching easier!

  8. Erika Avatar

    Thank you sooo much for this info! I will definitely be getting some of these magnesium supplements for me, who is hypothyroid, and for my son, who is ADHD, but I also strongly suspect he is low thyroid as well. I just learned this week about the connection that magnesium plays with brain function and ADHD from this site, just in case anyone is further interested. I was shocked to find out that this (and zinc) may be all the help my son needs. I am so thankful for your info. Here’s the site about ADHD and magnesium:

    1. bilja Avatar

      for ADHD you may check out importance of Methylation. It will give you idea why Vitamin B6 is mentioned in that article beside Magnesium.

  9. Kathryn Simmons McDonald Avatar
    Kathryn Simmons McDonald

    You might want to correct your 287 to 28 in the paragraph about molecules of magnesium vs sugar. “According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the body requires at least twenty-eight molecules of magnesium to metabolize a single molecule of glucose.” WAP.

  10. Mary Cronin Avatar
    Mary Cronin

    Hi, I bought Natural Calm today after I read your article, but had forgotten about the loose stools thing. I have crohn’s disease (and while I’m not in any pain right now I do have loose stools already from it at the moment). You also mention the gut/bad bacteria thing. Should I be using this as the spray as my first time use? I guess I probably should, I was just hoping to do this today, but I will do that tomorrow. How would I know when I’m doing “enough” if I already have loose stools? I guess I should just do the spraying on the skin for now? Any thoughts appreciated. Love the site, have learned a lot of insteresting things I hope to put to use in my household soon.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I’d definitely start with the spray if you have digestive issues, as that will make it really tough to absorb through the digestive track anyway. Start with 5-10 sprays a day and eventually work up to 30.

  11. Amy Avatar

    Hi, I am wondering….do you have a source for this: “Unfortunately, blood tests are relatively ineffective in gauging magnesium levels as less than 1% of magnesium is in the blood.”
    I would really like to start supplementing with Magnesium but there’s no way my husband will take it if I don’t have some concrete evidence that he needs it. Is the Magnesium RBC test any more accurate? He has high blood pressure and I’ve been wondering if this is the culprit. His regular Mag level on a standard blood test came back normal. Like I say….I’m going to need something more to get him onboard.

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Here is one article from an AHA Journal: a quote: In their work with patients, doctors find this lack of a test that can measure clinically meaningful magnesium levels frustrating. The article ‘Noninvasive Measurement of Tissue Magnesium and Correlation With Cardiac Levels’ emphasizes this frustration in the statement: “The role of magnesium in the clinical setting, however, is hampered by the lack of an assay of intracellular tissue magnesium levels.” And intracellular levels are being shown to be the only clinically significant measures of magnesium levels. As an answer to this, a ‘Sublingual epithelial cell’ magnesium test was developed and has been shown to be a valuable tool in the hunt for meaningful magnesium measurements. One study that compared the intracellular levels of magnesium from the scrapings of cells directly from the heart wall and from cells under the tongue showed that the two matched up well; more importantly, low magnesium levels from the sublingual epithelial cell scrapings were able to correctly predict the patients that would have abnormal changes in their heart rhythm after major heart surgery, even while the serum levels were within normal range.
      “Since only 1% of total body Mg 2+ is found in the
      intravascular space, serum levels of Mg 2+ give little
      information about a patient’s overall Mg 2+
      status with respect to this essential mineral.”
      Burton B. Silver, PhD

    2. Rachel Ramey Avatar
      Rachel Ramey

      My doc finds the RBC mag test more accurate than a straight blood-levels test. I can’t swear it’s totally accurate, of course, but he says it’s BETTER. (And mine definitely showed low.)

  12. Jenn H Avatar

    Quick correction- the link you provided about the number of Mg molecules to metabolize one molecule of glucose was incorrect by a factor of 10 according to the source you provided. The source states 28 molecules Mg, and you state 287.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Yes, just start slow and let your bowels tell you if you are taking too much…

  13. Dawn Avatar

    I have been using the Natural Calm every night before bed. It helps me sleep more soundly and fall asleep faster. It also helps counter the effects of Tramadol which I take for back pain (I’m regular now). I am going to start my daughter on it next. She gets many headaches and is highly stressed at school.

  14. Belesi Avatar

    Is it ok to use the spray on children? I have a 10 yr old girl, 8 yr old boy, and 5 yr old girl.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      It’s fine, but I’d dilute some just so it doesn’t make their skin tingle… my kids hated that.

  15. sheryl Avatar

    Wow!!! Taking magnesium sulfate makes you run in the bathroom. Is it safe to take it everyday? Let me know and ty in advance 🙂

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Especially if you are low, you can have loose bowels at first. Try a lower dose and taper up slowly if you want to avoid the bathroom trips, but it is safe everyday…

      1. sheryl Avatar

        I only took 2tbsp but it’s alright cleans me up. It gives me cramp though when i woke this morning. Ty u so much for all your help. 🙂

    2. Connie Terpack Avatar
      Connie Terpack

      My neurologist explained that if my body had too much magnesium, it would get rid of the extra through the bowels, causing loose stools. I take 250 mg twice a day with occasionally an extra tab. When that happens, I stop it for a day or two then resume; or sometimes I simply take only 1 dose for a day or two then bump back up to 2.
      The mag has helped in so many ways, I hate to be without for too long.

  16. sheryl Avatar

    Is taking magnesium in pills ok together with vit c and vit d3? Ty let me know cause it makes feel weak. Ty

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I wouldn’t take them at the same time, as the magnesium and c together tend to cancel each other our. If you are deficient, the mag can make you tired, especially at first…

      1. sheryl Avatar

        Is the magnesium you get from walmart is ok? ty for taking time writing all good stuff. God bless you.

        1. Wellness Mama Avatar
          Wellness Mama

          It should be ok. Just look for a magnesium with an -ate ending like magnesium citrate.

      2. Yelena Avatar

        I have purchased the Natural Calm for Kids for my 5 year old daughter to help her with ADHD symptoms since I don’t want her put on drugs at any point in time. Yesterday when I took a look at the product again at our local natural store I noticed they had a Calcium Magnesium Natural Calm brand that also contains vit. D and C in it, but you say they cancel each other out. Now that I think of it, I believe the Kids Calm by Natural Calm also contains vit. C and zinc in it. Is this combination making it ineffective? I started to take the Magnesium supplement myself this past week because I developed pain in my heart area that radiates through my entire left side of chest and into my left arm and sometimes into my upper back and my energy level would be extremely low – so low that I would almost not be able to function and must lie down. I began taking the Magnesium supplement by Natural Calm and started to notice a difference. I had to take it twice a day and today for the first time since last Friday I felt no pain until this evening suddenly it started again. I started to do research on the possible causes of magnesium depletion and the only correlation that I can come up with is calcium imbalance because I had started to eat cottage cheese this past week and would eat A LOT of it, and then after a week of eating it, the pain started. While I had the pain I didn’t eat it as we were out of it. I at some last night and this afternoon again and wonder if that is the reason my heart started to hurt again in the evening? I have never had this kind of reaction to cottage cheese in the past when I ate it, but I did notice a decline in my dental health and nervousness in the past few years, and now I realize it must be the Magnesium deficiency. Any thoughts, advice? I don’t really want to go to a cardiologist. Thank you for your article and reply. Blessings.

        1. Heather Avatar

          Not sure if you have had problems, but I have been doing a lot of reading on the gallbladder and that could have been your problem with magnesium helping. I read somewhere in all my research that magnesium helps gb.

      3. Catherine Peters Avatar
        Catherine Peters

        I take Vitamin D – do you mean not at the same moment or at all? I take my Vit. D. in the am. As well – is there a length of time you need to take a break from it or do you just stay on it forever?

  17. Dale Avatar

    Does it have any side effects with prescription meds? My dad has advanced Parkinson’s Disease so is on lot of meds, but I think magnesium might help him out.  Any thoughts?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I’d definitely check with his doctor. I’ve heard of people improving from taking about 1/4 cup of coconut oil per day in food or tea…

      1. Dale Avatar

        Thanks! I’ve wondered about coconut oil for him as well. Will for sure check with the doc first and hopefully he’ll be opened minded enough….

        1. Catherine Peters Avatar
          Catherine Peters

          I’ve taken coconut oil and it is hard to swallow – meaning it gets a bit much after a while – you get sick of it (and I have never taken more than 2 T.) I can’t imagine it in my tea. I was adding it to my porridge but after awhile I just melted it in the microwave and downed it to get over it. I would say that the coconut oil that does not have any smell or taste is a better way to go. It gets nauseating after a while (but perhaps that is just me). I do cook with the unscented kind. Great for frying.

          1. Veronika sklenar Avatar
            Veronika sklenar

            I had the same problem with the coconut oil but putting it in tea like roibos or normal tea is the best way to get it down because it floats on top you practically get it in your first sip and it’s over…

          2. Dawn Avatar

            They do make good quality coconut oil in gel cap form. Much easier to take!!!!

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