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. Samuela Ashley Raasch Avatar
    Samuela Ashley Raasch

    I just discovered your website at midnight last night. I couldn’t stop looking through and reading all of your posts. I tried your coffee this morning, too! Thank you! Quick question: Can you spray the liquid form on your body?

    1. Samuela Ashley Raasch Avatar
      Samuela Ashley Raasch

      Thanks! I later read somewhere that the liquid is the “oil” because its not actually an oil. My boyfriend has always had IBS and other gastro problems. We both have been using it (it’s only been two days) and today he texted: ” I don’t know if it’s the butter coffee or the magnesium spray but my stomach is so much better!!” We have been to so many doctors. I hope this part of the solution. Thank you so much for all of your helpful information!

  2. Ado Avatar

    Anytime I have tried to take a mag. supplement, or liquid it gives me a headache, and if I take it a night (to help w/ sleep) I wake up stuffed up and with a horrendous headache. Does this sound like an allergy?

    Love to hear if anyone else has this problem…

    1. Rosalyn Byrd-Palacios Avatar
      Rosalyn Byrd-Palacios

      Hi adoption revolution…after taking my mag. supplement last night i got a headache! I rarely get headaches, so i got to wondering if it was the supplement that caused it. However, i am also on the brink of getting a cold so……

      1. Ado Avatar

        Yeah…I can’t explain it but I’ve tried so many types. I think I might have an allergy to it…as I wake up stuffed up.

  3. Cecilia Krueger Avatar
    Cecilia Krueger

    I bought the skin oil, but it is so sticky on my skin. What does anyone do about that?

  4. Anne Tracy Avatar
    Anne Tracy

    Hi – I’ve tried magnesium oil on my skin a few times, but it’s just too harsh and gives me a rash. Any suggestions?

  5. Sarah Waters Avatar
    Sarah Waters

    My husband has been looking for chewable magnesium…with no luck. I’ll have to share this page with him.

  6. joy Avatar

    Hi, Katie. I have some ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops in my cabinet for making toothpaste. Do you know if these are okay to use until I can get the others ordered. There is Chloride and Potassium in there as well. Just want to make sure those are safe for baby, too:) Thanks!

  7. Sarah Lashley Avatar
    Sarah Lashley

    Help me understand. How are 80% of tested adults low in magnesium, if magnesium is difficult to test? I don’t doubt your blog post. I just am very interested in how one can get tested so one knows their deficiency.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      There are other tests (biopsy type) that are more accurate than blood tests ( the statistic I was referring to) but the most effective test is to try via symptoms…

  8. Rian Avatar

    Thank you for all the information. As a child I was on antibiotics a lot for mainly ear infections. As a result, I was constipated a lot of the time. This continued into my adult years. I have recently started supplementing with vitamin D and magnesium. I started out taking 500 mg of magnesium and that helped with the constipation for a few days; then the constipation returned. I then upped the dose to 750 mg of magnesium. That worked for awhile, but again the constipation returned. Finally, I upped the dose to 1000 mg of magnesium, this has worked and the constipation has not returned. My question is, I am now pregnant; will 1000 mg of magnesium be safe for the unborn child? Many thanks again.

  9. Dena Avatar

    For this body butter recipe, what form of magnesium are the flakes in? Magnesium sulfate? Looking forward to trying this recipe!

  10. Diane Page Avatar
    Diane Page

    I just read your article on Magnesium and found it very interesting. I have many of the symptoms listed. I do take a magnesium gel cap supplement but I have also purchased the Natural Calm and the Trace Minterals Ionic magnesium. Since I have been taking the gel cap for a while how should I implement the rest. Is there a certain mg a day to work up too and can you take too much magnesium.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      From what I’ve read it is 500-1000 mg for adults, but let your body tell you how much…

  11. Nancy Ellis Avatar
    Nancy Ellis

    I didn’t find the directions on how to make the magnesium oil or any of the others

  12. Rachel Bartkiewicz Avatar
    Rachel Bartkiewicz

    I have 21 of the above symptoms. I’ve been taking Mg citrate for the past 2-3 weeks and the only symptom that has improved is my sleep, but I’m not sure if that’s due to the earplugs or the Mg.

    My worst symptom is my gut irritability / food sensitivities. I knew that damaged guts have problems absorbing nutrients but I didn’t think of that until reading your article. Hopefully supplementing in the future with the skin oil and bathing Mg bathing salts will help heal my gut, skin, and other symptoms.


      1. Rachel Bartkiewicz Avatar
        Rachel Bartkiewicz

        Yes, and the SCD. I’ve done the GAPS diet for a while, but I became severely depressed. I was suggested to try doing a carb refeed and the effects were immediate – I felt mostly back to my normal-mooded self. I never did the GAPS intro diet both because of my bone broth always made me gag bc it tasted so terrible (I think due to the lack of garlic or onion as those make me feel immediately very ill) and bc of the no-carbohydrate leading to suicidal thoughts and nearly actions some days.

        I actually just found your parasite blog post upon Googling parasites yesterday and will be starting to implement your tips and tips from other sites and I’m making a(nother sigh..) doctor’s appointment to get tested for them. I have scarring I just noticed two nights ago on my abdominal skin that looks like Google images for ring worms :(.

  13. Victoria Trahan Avatar
    Victoria Trahan

    How long/often do you need to be at the beach to reap benefits?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Every few days, but if I had the chance, I’d be there everyday 🙂

  14. Terrie Gaught Avatar
    Terrie Gaught

    Hi will mega magnesium help me with my fibromyalgia as i have had it for some mths now , just started 2 days ago a friend said it mite help me with the pain is this true as i need to find somthing besides the tablets the doctor has given me as these help me with my sleep and my stress but not helping with the pain , i would like to try and be normal again as day by day dities are getting hard for me to do and i would like to go back to work as i have been off work due to the pain thats in my body ,can this help me as i am taking 1 a day or should i take 2 a day . PLEASE HELP .

  15. Brenda Cruz Avatar
    Brenda Cruz

    I had gastric bypass over 10 years ago and about 4 years after surgery I had a panic attach and now I suffer from Anxiety etc. I am wondering if the surgery made the absorbsion of Magnesion even harder and now I am really deficient. Have you heard of such problems with those surgeries.

  16. Denielle Avatar

    Have you ever used Prill Beads (magnesium oxide). Helps alkalize water

  17. Carmen Avatar

    Hi Katie, I was wondering why in my bottle of magnesium oil says to wipe or wash after 20 min? Do you know if is ok to leave it on? Bought the one you use.
    Thanks for your response,

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      IT can dry skin if left on, but I just moisturize over it to prevent that…

  18. Megan Hutchison Avatar
    Megan Hutchison

    Has anyone tried rubbing/applying the ionic magnesium to their skin for transdermal dosing? I would like to buy/make magnesium oil, but in the mean time… thanks!

  19. Shelly Barrett Avatar
    Shelly Barrett

    I’ve been taking NaturalCalm for the last few days and am super-nauseated this morning. I’ve read all the comments and no one seems to have experienced this. Can you tell me if this could be a normal reaction…so I don’t have to take a pregnancy test?! Haha

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      It can be a normal reaction… are you taking it in the morning?

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