Top 10 Signs & Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

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Magnesium deficiency is a widespread problem and some estimates suggest that over 90% of us are deficient. I’ve been writing about magnesium for years, but am even more concerned about this problem lately.

Why Is Magnesium Such a Big Deal?

Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and impacts blood pressure, metabolism, immune function, and many other aspects of health.

Some experts claim that magnesium deficiency is the single largest health problem in our world today.

Why Is Magnesium Deficiency So Widespread?

There are many reasons that deficiency is so widespread in modern times (even though it wasn’t in the past).

Depleted soil conditions mean that plants (and meat from animals that feed on these plants) are lower in magnesium. Use of chemicals like fluoride and chlorine in the water supply make magnesium less available in water since these chemicals can bind to magnesium.

Common substances that many of us consume daily, like caffeine and sugar, also deplete the body’s magnesium levels…

So does stress.

In other words, the lucky (but small) percentage of the population that lives near the ocean (a good source of magnesium) and eats foods grown in magnesium-rich soil, drinks magnesium-rich water, and doesn’t suffer from stress or consume sugar or caffeine might be ok… but the rest of us might need some additional magnesium.

You Might Be Magnesium Deficient If…

Risk factors for low magnesium vary, but here are some clues that you might need more magnesium:

  1. You’re a sugar addict. (Quick, read this!…)
  2. You take calcium supplements.
  3. You drink soda and other sugary drinks.
  4. You suspect or have been diagnosed with celiac disease or other digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease.
  5. You consume a lot of processed foods and conventional dairy.
  6. You have a water softener or city water.
  7. You have Type 2 diabetes.
  8. You avoid green vegetables, leafy greens, and other magnesium-containing foods.
  9. You are an older adult, and/or take certain prescription medications.
  10. You eat food grown in depleted soils. (Uh, pretty much everyone!)

If you fall in any of these categories, read on!

Calcium = Fuel on the Fire

From my research, I’m convinced that excess calcium is a large part of this magnesium deficiency epidemic and that it contributes to so many health issues.

Here’s why…

While we don’t get enough magnesium, many of us get too much calcium. Calcium is added to many processed foods, dairy or dairy alternatives, and even orange juice.

When calcium levels in the body become too high, calcification can occur. Common sense, but there’s one big reason why this happens…

  • Each cell in the body has a sodium/potassium pump that regulates the balance of minerals inside and outside the cells.
  • Magnesium deficiency keeps this pump from working correctly. With too much calcium, the ratios are skewed, and the pump allows too much calcium into the cells. When there is too little magnesium, even more calcium is allowed into the cells.

Many nutrients come into play in the calcification equation, like vitamins K and D,  but the biggest factor for over-calcification is lack of magnesium.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Due to the importance of the proper calcium/magnesium ratio in the body and the function of the sodium/potassium pump, magnesium deficiency can lead to:

1. Calcification of the Arteries

Though this is not (hopefully) the first symptom of magnesium deficiency, it can be one of the most dangerous.

Calcification of arteries from low magnesium levels can lead to coronary problems like heart attack, heart failure, and heart disease. Magnesium’s ability to prevent over-calcification is one reason why the Framingham Health Study found that consuming enough magnesium correlated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.

In fact, half of all heart attack patients receive injections of magnesium chloride to help stop the blood clotting and calcification.

2. Muscle Spasms and Cramps

This was my most noticeable symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Just as calcification causes stiffening of the arteries, it can cause stiffening of muscle tissue as well, leading to cramps and spasms.

I had horrible leg cramps during one of my pregnancies. Potassium didn’t help at all, but magnesium fixed the problem almost instantly (which makes sense in light of the sodium/potassium pump).

Interestingly, muscle weakness caused by low potassium levels is linked to low magnesium (as explained in this American Family Physicians report) and adequate levels of one helps the other.

3. Anxiety & Depression

There is a lot of research showing that magnesium deficiency can have a tremendous impact on mental health. Psychology Today explains one possible reason:

Magnesium hangs out in the synapse between two neurons along with calcium and glutamate. If you recall, calcium and glutamate are excitatory, and in excess, toxic (link is external). They activate the NMDA receptor. Magnesium can sit on the NMDA receptor without activating it, like a guard at the gate. Therefore, if we are deficient in magnesium, there’s no guard. Calcium and glutamate can activate the receptor like there is no tomorrow. In the long term, this damages the neurons, eventually leading to cell death. In the brain, that is not an easy situation to reverse or remedy.

For me, more magnesium means fewer “mommy is stressed” moments with my kids…

4. High Blood Pressure/Hypertension

This is perhaps one of the most well-studied areas of magnesium deficiency. A Harvard study of over 70,000 people found that those with the highest magnesium intake had the healthiest blood pressure numbers.

A follow-up meta-analysis of available studies showed a dose-dependent reduction of blood pressure with magnesium supplementation.

A University of Minnesota study showed that the risk for hypertension was 70% lower in women with adequate/high magnesium levels.

5. Hormone Problems

I personally saw the effects of low magnesium in my hormone levels. The higher the estrogen or progesterone levels in a woman’s body, the lower the magnesium (pregnancy anyone?)

This is also part of the reason why pregnant women experience more leg cramps and women notice more of these muscular type complaints and PMS in the second half of their cycles when progesterone/estrogen are tanking and magnesium is depleted.

Muscle cramps related to the menstrual cycle can also be related to magnesium levels. Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of the book The Magnesium Miracle, often recommends that women with bad PMS and cramps take magnesium early in their cycles before the symptoms begin.

6. Pregnancy Complaints

Related to the hormone problems above, magnesium levels can drastically affect pregnancy health and mood. I noticed this I had tremendously less morning sickness during pregnancy when I supplemented with transdermal magnesium.

Magnesium is also often used to help with pregnancy-related hypertension and muscle cramps, to help ward off preterm labor and to alleviate headaches.

I personally always stuck to transdermal magnesium during pregnancy since it didn’t cause digestive disturbances, at least until I found the brand of oral supplement I now take (see below for both).

7. Sleep Problems

With all of the above symptoms of deficiency, it makes sense that magnesium would have a drastic impact on sleep, but the impact is often immediately noticeable when a person starts taking magnesium.

Dr. Mark Hyman calls it the ultimate relaxation mineral. Magnesium helps relax the body and the mind, which both contribute to restful sleep.

Additionally, magnesium is needed for proper function of the GABA receptors in the brain, and GABA is the neurotransmitter that allows the brain to transition to a restful state.

8. Low Energy

Magnesium is required in the reactions that create ATP energy in the cells.

Let’s flashback to freshman biology for a minute. ATP or adenosine triphosphate is the main source of energy in the cells and it must bind to a magnesium ion in order to be active.

In other words, without magnesium, you literally won’t have energy on a cellular level. This shows up as fatigue, low energy, lack of drive, and other problems.

9. Bone Health

Calcium is always considered the most important mineral for bone health, but it turns out that magnesium is just as important (or even more so!)

In cases of magnesium deficiency, the bones suffer in multiple ways:

  • Vitamin D Absorption: Magnesium is needed for vitamin D to turn on calcium absorption. This is why it is also important to get enough magnesium when taking vitamin D (or magnesium levels can become even more depleted.)
  • Proper Calcium Use: Magnesium is needed to stimulate the hormone calcitonin which draws calcium out of the muscles and soft tissues and into the bones. This helps explain why magnesium helps lower the risk of heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis, and kidney stones.

10. Other Mineral Deficiencies

Many vitamins and minerals work synergistically and magnesium is a workhorse on this list. It is needed for proper utilization of calcium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin D, and many other nutrients.

By using magnesium externally, or transdermally (meaning “across the skin”) the body can absorb what is needed without absorbing to much. It is similar to soaking in an Epsom salt bath or in the ocean.

Magnesium Deficiency: The Solution

Though the symptoms seem ominous, magnesium deficiency is actually a relatively simple deficiency for the body to resolve with the right form of magnesium.

Many of the magnesium supplements on the market are pills or solutions taken internally. These can be effective, but can also cause digestive disturbances or stress the kidneys.

Also, experts estimate that magnesium absorption in the digestive system ranges from 20-55%, depending on the source, meaning that half or more of the magnesium leaves the body as waste.

Current research shows that a combination of oral magnesium (if the right form) and topical magnesium is best for boosting low levels.

Oral Magnesium Supplement

This magnesium supplement is one of my favorites and as it is clinically proven to have a high rate of absorption (85%) and a slow-release delivery. It’s formulated to minimize digestive upset and also contains B vitamins.

Dietary Sources of Magnesium

Other real-food dietary sources of magnesium include:

  • dark chocolate (this is one reason we women often crave it)
  • nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds and almonds (soak first if possible)
  • avocados
  • bananas (hmm, I’ll pass)
  • leafy greens such as spinach and chard
  • see below for more ideas!

Topical Magnesium Oil

My other secret weapon is topical magnesium. (I share what it did for me in this podcast episode.)

A solution of magnesium can be sprayed on the skin and the body can absorb what is needed at a much faster rate. The magnesium moves directly into the blood and tissues, replenishing the body’s needed magnesium stores more quickly and bypassing the kidneys.

I’ve shared my recipe for homemade magnesium oil (topical magnesium) and you can also try this Magnesium Lotion.

What I Do

I now use this transdermal magnesium each day and use it on my children. Dr. Mark Hyman of the Cleveland Clinic recommends up to 1,000 mg/day for adults and 4-500 mg/day for kids. We get this amount using the magnesium spray all over our bodies each night before bed.

In addition, I take some type of oral magnesium (Jigsaw Health is also a great option here) and try to consume magnesium-rich foods from organic sources with good soil quality.

For additional information, I shared this short podcast episode on magnesium with additional information.

Do you have any of these signs of low magnesium? Do you think these tips will help?

Top Ten Magnesium Rich Foods

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Terry Wahls, a clinical professor of medicine and clinical research and has published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters, and papers. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Do you ever struggle with any of these symptoms? Ever tried magnesium to help it out?

10 Signs Of Magnesium deficiency
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.


145 responses to “Top 10 Signs & Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency”

  1. Rene Avatar

    I was pregnant with twins back in 2009. I got pregnant naturally at 41 and gave birth at 42. I was considered a high risk pregnancy because of my age, twins and one was breach. The doctors told me to eat 2 tums a day for the calcium. I was then put on bed rest because they were concerned about the development of one of my girls. I then got pre-eclampsia so I was put on high blood pressure meds.. Now almost 10 years later I am learning about magnesium deficiency. After researching I think I have A LOT of the symptoms. They ended up taking my girls by c-section a month early because my blood pressure was so bad even with meds.. Thankfully my girls are healthy today. I think I was deficient then and then taking the tums and being put on blood pressure meds it just made it worse. I am thinking if the doctors had just tested my magnesium back then I might have been able to get my blood pressure in check early without meds and had my girls to term. I wish more doctors were open minded about this. Medication is not the answer to everything.

  2. Michelle Avatar

    Thank you for this article. I was recently diagnosed with pulsatile tinnitus which could be a very serious condition. It usually involves vascular or blood flow problems. I had an MRA done, blood tests, and a hearing test. All came back normal. Everything I have read about PT is to get every test possible done to rule out heart, tumors, or other scary issues. After seeing the Facebook page, I got really deoressed. I didn’t want to spend my life fighting for testing or being told I was crazy. So I had some of the jigsaw magnesium in my cupboard. I had purchased it for some other issue I was having. PT causes thumping in my ear, jaw pain, neck pain, and the feeling of having something in my ear. I took 375 MG of the jigsaw mag and didn’t hear a single thump yesterday! I woke up this morning and no more noise. My ear felt normal! I have tmj problems and even my jaw felt looser (not cured but great improvement!). I’ve also struggled with my knees. When working out, I was not able to run and if I did lunges, I’d hurt for sure. Today my knees haven’t hurt at all. I feel so much better! Wish I wouldve taken it sooner!

  3. Farah Avatar

    I was expecting that you will be using Dr. Carolyn Dean’s pico ionic Magnesium, Remag as her book The Magnesium Miracle was mentioned.
    I’m happy that you shared another site that I can go to to purchase a good quality absorbable magnesium.
    May I know why you chose Mag SRT instead of ReMag please?
    Thank you.

  4. Amber Avatar

    How come you don’t use or recommend Dr. Dean’s magnesium supplement, ReMag?

  5. Christine Avatar

    In the past I’ve tried CALM to help with sleep and the result was almost diarrhea, so I stopped using it. I have tried the topical spray and don’t like the way it feels on my skin, so I stopped using it. So my question is: does the oral supplement cause any intestinal loosening?

  6. Michael Avatar

    I spray Magnesium on my feet and stomach. Our skin is transdermal and absorbs it.
    It helps relax me before sleep.

  7. Katrina Avatar

    I’ve tried topical spray (both bought and made myself) but the nozzle always gets clogged. How do you overcome that?

  8. Tammy Avatar

    My goodness, I just got your email and all of these replies already, you must stay busy 24/7! I had a problem keeping my potassium up after being diagnosed with Hashimotos so I started taking magnesium with the potassium prescription strength and sure enough my levels have gotten back to normal as long as I stay on them both. I also have chronically low vitamin D I was put on 12 weeks of 50,000 U 1 week for 12 weeks but they could not figure out why until till this past week. Last month I had blood clots in my lungs that came from my legs from a trip from Florida to California to visit my daughter and family, The CT scan showed a small mass in my rht upper lobe (cancer). Last week after a PET scan they found I had bone cancer hence the constant low vitamin D. Now I am taking vitamin D, E,C, Magnesium, and Calcium to strengthen my bones. You said you had Magnesium that didn’t cause stomach upset, I take it diarreah after a couple of days I have to take a day off because of the gas and the other(if your constipated magnesium is the cure!!). Thanks for the update on magnesuim!

  9. Valerie Avatar

    I would highly recommend everyone looking into the Magnesium Advocacy Group on Facebook. It is run by Morley Robbins who is an expert on magnesium and has come up with the Root Cause Protocol for health issues. It is a very active and knowledgeable group. For magnesium to be most effective it has to be taken in conjunction with specific co-factors in addition to what was mentioned in this article . There are many different types of magnesium but not all are recommended for optimal health.

  10. Danielle McQuiston Avatar
    Danielle McQuiston

    I have been diagnosed with Coronary Artery Spasm after repeating episodes of chest pain without any blockage or clear markers of heart disease. I am on calcium channel blockers to stop them, which seems to be working, but I know magnesium deficiency can cause these as well. I just started incorporating magnesium supplements into my routine, hoping to help. It’s a very scary situation. Maybe I will try the brand you recommend. Thanks for the article!

  11. Britt Avatar

    Omg Magnesium!!! I had the biggest turn around during my pregnancy with my son once I started taking magnesium. For weeks I had been waking up in the middle of the night with the worst headaches I have ever experienced. They were as if someone was stabbing me in the left side of my head. I kept thinking it was muscular because I would feel the need to rub my neck constantly. I had nerve pain under my left eye, eyebrow, and temple. They made me sick to my stomach throwing up and unable to open my eyes or function at all. I saw a chiropractor, and masseuse before going in for my regular doctor appointment which is when the nurse practitioner recommended magnesium. Boy was that a game changer. The headaches stopped immediately after 4 weeks of waking up every night with them! I was so thankful for that recommendation and will never downplay the importance of micronutrients again. Wellness Mama , you do such amazing work spreading messages like this one. I appreciate all that you do!! Keep up the good work ?

  12. Han-Lin Avatar

    I’ve tried magnesium too. I take good forms such as bisglycinate and malate. I haven’t used topical magnesium because it’s too sticky. My understanding is that we should take it with meals because insulin helps magnesium enter cells. I store magnesium supplements in my backpack, pannier, work locker, and cabinet at home so that I could take it with my meals.

  13. Stacy Avatar

    I have most if not all of these symptoms, and have just been tested for about 20 different things by an internist. I am low in D only, not magnesium.
    Would anyone know if there’s a reason I could be low, but doesn’t show up on traditional blood tests?

  14. Carey Avatar

    Can you use Milk of magnesia as a deoderent for the same health benefits? or does it have to be magnesium chloride? Thanks!!

  15. Lauren Avatar

    Hi katie I have been having heart palpitations day and night for amost two months. I had an EKG and I’m getting repeated PACs. I started taking calm and noticed they decreased but I still got them. I went to the healthfood store yesterday and applied magnesium oil topically and for the first night in over a month I have not one palpitation. I usually get them every few seconds when lying down. It’s now the morning after and I haven’t had one. I can’t believe it. I’m thinking magnesium deficiency was a factor. I’ve been nursing for 16 months and under a lot of stress. Have you heard of heart palpitations being a symptom of magnesium deficiency?

  16. david mumby Avatar
    david mumby

    hi my name is david, ive been suffering with the aches and pains in my shoulders and neck, muscle twitches , especially round my eyelids , but almost evrywhere, legs, arms back, really without even working them hard to make them spasm or twitch! had alot of heartburn, acid reflux, feeling tired , can nod off, just standing some days! anxious, depressive, i found all these came on suddenly a few years ago when i moved house. i just thought id burnt myself out with doing to much! i felt dizzy , lightheaded! just basically unwell!! went to see my doctor who did some blood tests and found out i was vitamin D difficient!! which he gave me suppliments and now they have returned to normal, i felt abit better, but was still getting the twitches and tingling in my feet which was not as bad as it was last year but when i rea about this magnesium deficiency i then read what they can do to your bodies cells i was gobsmacked that nearly everything ive been suffering with pointed to the magnesium deficency. i must emphasise that ive been taking beta blockers for hypertension for about 7 years so im just wondering ifthat could of contributed to all this calamity with my body!! im 50 years old and i dont smoke or drink, im a good weight and try to live a healthy kifestyle!! so anyway to cut a long story short im going to try some suppliments to see if i improve but . hey this could be a good solution! could you tell me if im wrong in anyway!! many thanks , dave

  17. Rykki Avatar

    One thing that was left off the list was migraines. I deal with chronic migraines and use magnesium supplements to help it.

  18. Melissa Avatar

    I have rheumatoid arthritis & severe TMJ. I have been following a strict AIP diet for 3 months & I am still waiting to feel better. I keep hearing how magnesium can help with TMJ & sleep tremendously. If I do the spray do I still need to ingest a mag supplement too? Or is the spray enough?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I use magnesium topically and internally. Check with your doctor, but it may be worth a try. I would just pay extra attention to how it made me feel.

  19. Dagny Zoega Avatar
    Dagny Zoega

    During my menopause I got severe heart palpitations. They stopped after I started taking Magnesium supplements and 1000 IE of vitamin D daily.

  20. Annete Avatar

    I have never received bad advice or a recommendation that I was grateful for from WellnessMama. Thank you! I love how you take the guess work out, saves me time, energy and money.

    So frustrated as I just want to buy some Magnesium Oil and I read that you use Natural Calm and then in other places Ancient Minerals … and the links keep taking me to some guy talking and I think the brand is Ease … ????

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