top of page

Signs Of Magnesium Deficiency

What Is Magnesium Deficiency?

Your body is a breathtaking symphony of intricate biochemical pathways working in harmony every second of your life. We often take for granted the many facets which make up our bodies and how these simple elements and chemical reactions compose our very being. One small component of our body’s composition is magnesium. Magnesium, along with calcium, potassium, chloride, and sodium are all electrolytes, needed for our brain, nerves, heart, eyes, immune system, and muscles to function.

We function best when magnesium in our body is at its optimal level. When we are lacking in this mineral, or suffering from a magnesium deficiency, our perfect symphony is out of tune, and this disharmony leads us down a path to health problems.


One of the most overlooked nutrient deficiencies that I find as a functional medicine practitioner is magnesium deficiency.


As the fourth most abundant mineral (1) in your body, magnesium is crucial to accomplishing at least 300 important biochemical reactions. If you are magnesium deficient (like 50 to 90 percent of us are), (2) you are most likely experiencing some symptoms.



Why Would Your Magnesium Be Low?

Why are so many lacking in magnesium? There are four primary reasons:

  • Poor nutrition

  • Medications that deplete magnesium (such as antibiotics and diuretics)

  • Soil depletion

  • Chronic gut problems (e.g., leaky gut syndrome), which can compromise magnesium absorption

The above reasons are common and are major contributors to the population being so deficient as a whole, but they do not always lead to a magnesium deficiency. The following list contains common health issues that are tied to magnesium deficiency


Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

  • ADHD

Studies suggest (3) that kids who took 200 milligrams of magnesium daily over six months saw a significant decrease in hyperactivity symptoms compared to children in the study who did not supplement with magnesium.

  • Adrenal fatigue

I have personally dealt with adrenal fatigue in the past, and I can vouch for magnesium and cortisol’s role in calming stress levels and rehabilitating hormonal systems. Magnesium helps to regulate cortisol levels, allowing for more balanced hormone production which is essential in our fast paced culture.

  • Depression or anxiety

Magnesium works in the brain to calm down the excitatory NMDA receptor. Without it, calcium and glutamate activate NMDA unchecked, which can lead to depression and anxiety. (4)

  • Asthma

Researchers are suggesting that those who do not include enough magnesium-rich foods in their diet have a higher rate of asthma. One reason could be that magnesium may facilitate healthy bronchodilation. (5)

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

In a study published in the prominent medical journal Lancet, (6) researchers found that about fifty percent of the hundreds of participants with chronic fatigue syndrome were dealing with magnesium deficiency. These participants saw an improvement of symptoms when they received injections of a 580 milligram supplement.

  • High blood pressure

Studies also suggest that those using a magnesium supplement lowered their blood pressure levels by up to 12 points. (7)

  • Heart problems

Every 43 seconds someone experiences a heart attack. A study published (8) in the American Journal of Cardiology found that a lower level of magnesium intake increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 to 80 percent. In a separate double-blind, placebo-controlled study, (9) participants received either magnesium or a placebo for a period of one year. Over the course of one month, the magnesium group received 6,000 milligrams of magnesium orotate, and 3,000 milligrams of magnesium orotate for another 11 months after. The survival rate of these high risk patients was 76 percent in the magnesium group compared with 52 percent of the placebo group.

  • Inflammation

Inflammation underlies just about every chronic health condition. Magnesium is indicated in decreased CRP (10) and Nf-kb, (11) two inflammatory blood lab markers.

  • Migraines and other types of headaches

Half of people in the United States report having at least one headache per month. Millions of others are struck with painful migraines. It is estimated that about half of those who suffer from migraines are magnesium deficient. (12) Researchers looked into this, and found that 60 percent of chronic migraines sufferers have genetic changes that decrease their body’s ability to metabolize magnesium. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels in the brain. Ionized magnesium administered through an IV significantly reduced pain within 15 minutes in more than 80 percent of patients.

  • Insulin resistance

A massive health concern for so many, half of the US population has some kind of insulin resistance which runs the gamut from metabolic syndrome to type 2 diabetes. A 15 year research study published in the medical journal Circulation showed (13) that among approximately 5,000 people those who took higher levels of magnesium had a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome. A similar study published (14) in the American Journal of Epidemiology followed more than 1,000 healthy adults for five years. This study suggests that greater magnesium intake improved insulin sensitivity in these individuals. Other studies suggest that magnesium also improves triglycerides, (15) another marker of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Dealing with a magnesium deficiency can prevent any of these benefits.

  • Low thyroid hormone levels

Magnesium deficiency is often an overlooked factor when it comes to those dealing with thyroid problems. Magnesium is an essential component to the production of thyroid hormones. (16)

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

People who have OCD were found in studies to have lower levels of magnesium (17) compared to individuals in control groups.

  • Muscle cramps and spasms

Spontaneous spasms, cramps in your muscles or “charley horses” are not really random —they are the most common sign of magnesium deficiency. (18)