Magnesium deficiency: 11 common signs and symptoms

Magnesium deficiency: 11 common signs and symptoms

What is magnesium?

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a very important mineral which plays a direct role in over 600 enzyme reactions in our body. These reactions help our muscles and nervous system to function. It can equally help regulate our blood pressure and can support our immune system. 

This mineral also contributes to the structural development of bone and is needed for the synthesis of DNA, RNA and the glutathione antioxidant. 

Moreover, it helps with the transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes. This is an important process which also allows normal heart rhythm, muscle contraction and nerve impulse conduction.  

Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the human body. In adults, there is usually around 25 grams of magnesium, with 50 to 60 per cent present in the bones and most of the rest in the soft tissues. 

The NHS recommends that women should consume a daily dose of 270mg of magnesium (between the ages of 19 and 64) and this should be 300mg for men (of the same age group). 

The benefits of taking magnesium

As seen previously, this mineral is an essential ion for the body and plays an instrumental role in supporting health and life.

Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of preeclampsia, migraines, anxiety, depression, coronary artery disease, premenstrual syndrome and asthma. 

Furthermore, this mineral may also be able to boost exercise performance. Studies have shown that magnesium supplements may help improve this for elderly people but also for those who are magnesium deficient. 

Other studies have shown that magnesium could also support better the quality and duration of sleep. Supplements of the mineral are often used as a natural remedy for insomnia. 

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency (also known as hypomagnesemia) is a condition in which the amount of magnesium in the blood is lower than normal. When the level of magnesium in the blood drops below the norm then some symptoms start to develop. 


11 common signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency

Hypomagnesemia (magnesium deficiency) can cause:

  1. Loss of appetite

A very poor diet (one that doesn’t contain spinach, nuts, legumes, whole grains or fortified breakfast cereals) can cause this deficiency.

  1. Abnormal heart rhythms

Magnesium is an electrolyte which plays an essential role in regulating the electrical signals within the body and this helps the heart function properly. When magnesium is deficient, these electrolytes become imbalanced: this can result in a rapid or irregular heartbeat. 

  1. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. This health condition can also be a sign of magnesium deficiency. The mineral acts directly in maintaining healthy bones, as it increases bone density and prevents the onset of osteoporosis. 

  1. Muscle spasms and cramps

Cramping, weakness or tremors may also be linked to a lack of magnesium. This is because the mineral is extremely important to muscle function. However, muscle spasms and cramps are often linked to a more advanced level of magnesium deficiency. 

  1. Asthma

People with severe asthma are sometimes seen to be deficient in magnesium. 

Researchers think that the lack of the mineral can create a build-up of calcium in the muscles that line the airways to the lungs. This would make it more difficult for them to breathe as the airways would constrict. 


  1. Pins and needles

You may notice a tingling sensation in the extremities of your fingers, toes and face. This is because magnesium has an important role in nerve functioning.

  1. Diabetes

Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar so low levels of magnesium are often seen in people with diabetes

Taking a magnesium supplement can therefore increase your magnesium level and improve diabetes control. For people who are pre-diabetic, taking supplements could improve blood sugar and may possibly prevent diabetes. 

  1. Nausea and vomiting

This is one of the early symptoms but it may not be present in everyone that has a magnesium deficiency.


  1. Fatigue, weakness and trouble with sleeping

This is another of the early signs of hypomagnesemia. However, this feeling of sleepiness and sluggishness can also be a result of numerous other factors (such as poor diet or sleep). Sleeplessness may also be accompanied by issues such as depression, agitation and anxiety.


Fatigue, weakness and trouble with sleeping


  1. Mental health conditions

When there is a lack of magnesium in the body, this may cause nerve dysfunction and provoke mental health conditions in some people.  

Some studies have linked low magnesium levels with an increase in depression. Direct evidence is still lacking, but some scientists think that hypomagnesemia might also promote anxiety

  1. High blood pressure

Magnesium deficiency may raise your blood pressure. 

Sufficient evidence is still lacking, however, multiple reviews have shown that magnesium supplements may lower blood pressure (especially in adults with high blood pressure). 

Causes of low magnesium

This deficiency in healthy adults is rare but can be caused by a few issues. Some of these common causes of having lower levels of magnesium include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Burns (that cover a large area of the body)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Malnutrition 
  • Kidney tubule disorders 
  • Acute or chronic diarrhoea or long-term vomiting
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • Medicines such as: amphotericin, antibodies targeting the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor, cisplatin, cyclosporine, diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, tacrolimus and aminoglycoside antibiotics
  • Digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease
  • Gastric Bypass surgery
  • A poor diet (mostly in those who don’t eat enough or in elderly people)

What to do?

If a person does not get enough magnesium through their diet, then they should consider consuming magnesium-rich foods, such as:

  • Spinach, boiled
  • Nuts: almonds (279 mg), cashews (82 mg for 28 g)
  • Wholemeal bread 
  • Seeds such as pumpkin and chia seeds
  • Black beans
  • Edamame
  • Brown rice
  • Salmon
  • Avocado (58 mg)
  • Halibut
  • Peanuts (176 mg)
  • Popcorn (144 mg)
  • Dark chocolate (64 mg in a 28 g serving)


What to do?

For people that have a medical condition, you should check with a medical professional before taking any magnesium supplements. These can sometimes be unsafe for people who regularly take antibiotics, heart medications and diuretics. 

However, try not to take high doses of more than 400mg of magnesium for a short time, as this can cause diarrhoea

Bottom line

Magnesium is an essential mineral for maintaining your health: it plays a major role in your body (from exercise and sleep to heart and brain function). 

There are many signs and symptoms that can indicate that you may have hypomagnesemia, yet you should always consult a health professional to get a full diagnosis. 

Learn more about nutrition and find our testing kits to help you determine if you have adequate levels of vitamins and minerals. Visit our Vitamins and Supplement page here

At Welzo, we offer many kinds of tests and lots of information regarding general health. For more information, visit us here.

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