Do You Have a Magnesium Deficiency?

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Happy Person in Nature

by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies among otherwise healthy adults. This mineral is critical to the proper function of your nervous system, muscles, heart, and metabolic system.

If you’re suffering from strange symptoms ranging from muscle tics to chronic fatigue, they may be caused by a simple mineral deficiency. Learn the common symptoms of magnesium deficiency and how to treat it effectively.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Without magnesium, your muscles would be in a constant state of contraction and your body could not regulate its cholesterol levels. You’d have virtually no energy because magnesium is also responsible for your body’s generation of ATP, the primary unit of energy within the body’s cells.

Possible Causes of Low Magnesium

Celiac disease or gluten intolerance can be one possible cause of magnesium deficiency. In people with gluten intolerance, the tiny hairs in the lower intestines become flattened due to chronic inflammation. This results in malabsorption of nutrients, including magnesium. This common mineral deficiency can also be caused by:

Excessive Alcohol Use

  • Chronic Use Of Antibiotics
  • NSAID Pain Relievers
  • Antacids
  • Some Antidepressant Medications
  • Stress causes the body to burn through many vitamins and minerals faster, including magnesium
  • Not Consuming Enough Dietary Magnesium
  • Chronic Use Of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Signs and Symptoms of Low Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency can be a tricky issue to pin down because it mimics the symptoms of so many other health problems. Do these symptoms of magnesium deficiency sound familiar to you?

Neurological

Muscular

  • Muscle Tics
  • Muscle Spasms and Cramps
  • Ataxia (Uncoordinated Muscular Movements)
  • Vertigo
  • Involuntary Eye Movements
  • Trouble Swallowing
  • Restless Legs

Cardiovascular

  • Heart Arrhythmia
  • Heart Palpitations

Metabolic

  • Hyperglycemia
  • Calcium Deficiency
  • Potassium Deficiency
  • Increased Intercellular Calcium

Gastrointestinal

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramping
  • Diarrhea

Other

  • Hair Loss
  • Soft, Brittle Nails
  • Cold Hands
  • PMS
  • Hypertension

As you can see, magnesium deficiency can cause many health problems. You may be treating your hypertension with blood pressure medication or your insomnia with over-the-counter sleeping aids. You might think your nausea, diarrhea, and intestinal cramping is a food allergy or irritable bowel syndrome. And if your hair isn’t already falling out due to magnesium deficiency, you may be pulling it out trying to figure out what’s causing your chronic fatigue. That’s why it’s always a good idea to start with the basics and find out if a simple mineral deficiency is the cause of your misery.

Why a Simple Blood Test Won’t Reveal Low Magnesium

With some vitamin and mineral deficiencies, a regular serum blood test is enough to detect low levels. Not so with magnesium deficiency! Your body works very hard at keeping the blood levels normal by taking it from your bone, brain, and muscles. The reason being is that only about one percent of your magnesium is circulating in your blood.

The other 99% is located in your bone, muscles, brain and other tissues. Your body looks at these organs as “savings accounts” and will quickly make a withdrawal from them to keep your blood levels normal. So your blood level can look great while the rest of your body has a depleted balance and suffers the effects!

To truly know if you are deficient in magnesium, there are two methods to use. One is to take the correct form of magnesium in the proper dose, which we will discuss later in this article. If your symptoms resolve, you were low in magnesium! That’s a very simple and inexpensive way to find out. Based on many studies, including what I have seen and treated in my 30 plus years of clinical practice, at least 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium. Most of the remaining 20% are probably taking the correct form and dose of magnesium.

For those who want to check their magnesium levels to know exactly where they are, Spectracell.com offers a blood test based on
white blood cell levels. White blood cells are some of the best markers of nutritional deficiencies, as they reflect actual tissue levels.

You can also ask your doctor to order an RBC Magnesium test. This test measures how much magnesium you have in your red blood cells, rather than your blood serum. This is another good way to evaluate tissue levels of magnesium.

How To Raise Your Magnesium Levels

 Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods

The first step to healing your symptoms and getting more magnesium in your diet is to start eating magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Black Beans
  • Halibut
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Raw and Cooked Green Vegetables
  • Rice Bran
  • Dried Coriander
  • Flax Seed
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Dark Chocolate

Why it’s Difficult to Get Enough Magnesium Through Diet Alone

In an ideal world, you could get all the complete nutrients you need from food alone. Unfortunately, modern soil isn’t as rich in essential vitamins and minerals as it was during your grandparent’s time. This means even if you eat a diet rich in greens, beans, and rice, with a hunk of dark chocolate for dessert, you may still suffer from a vitamin or mineral deficiency. As a result, I recommend magnesium supplementation for the vast majority of my patients….just as I do for my family and myself.

3-in-1 Chelated Magnesium—-Why It’s Superior To Other Forms Of Magnesium

When it comes to supplements, good quality is everything. Resist the temptation to grab conventional multivitamins and minerals from your grocery store shelf to get the magnesium your body craves. There are several forms of magnesium supplements, and most are not well absorbed.

In my opinion, to quickly address a magnesium deficiency, chelated magnesium is the best form due to its superior absorption. Chelated means that the magnesium is bound to an amino acid for better absorption. This is what the human body naturally prefers.

Within the family of chelated magnesium products, there are several forms. I have found the one that gives superior tissue and cellular levels contains a balanced mixture of: 1.) Di-Magnesium Malate, 2.) Magnesium Citrate, and 3.) Magnesium Glycinate. Single magnesium products allow for only one pathway of absorption, rather than three. This product also enables higher tissue levels in less time. For most of my adult patients, I recommend 400-600 MG. daily of Diamond Nutritionals’ Chelated Magnesium. Two twice a day contains 470 MG.

Magnesium deficiency can cause a lot of troubling symptoms. If you’ve been visiting the doctor time and time again and the results are inconclusive and frustrating, try looking at it from another angle. Once you’ve addressed a magnesium mineral deficiency, you should find you sleep better, have more energy, and your mystery symptoms may even begin to disappear.

If you’re suffering, don’t give up! Always understand that getting to the root of the problem, instead of masking it with ineffective medications and treatments, is your best and most empowering way to feel better again.

Have you had an experience with low magnesium that has been corrected? Please feel free to share your experience with our readers in the comment section below so that others may be helped and encouraged! 

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. love your articles and information. last two years have nausea no doctor can explain. all tests have been done(endescopy,ct, altrasound ect) going to naturalpath now , no luck. could you shed some info or ideas to help please.

    • Hello Mrs. Rispoli,

      Thank you for contacting me. Your kind words are appreciated.

      I am sorry to hear about your nausea.
      Have you been tested for H. Pylori and systemic yeast (candida)?

      Warmest Regards,

      Dr. Maxwell

  2. I am having having severe hair fall.all tests are normal-iron ,ferritin,thyroid,horomones,vit D and vit B12.could it because of magnesium defiency

  3. Thank you for your article.

    How long does it take to see positive results from taking magnesium if magnesium deficiency is the problem? Does hair ever recover if a person has gone through several years of magnesium deficiency?

    I have struggled with hair loss ever since having kids. I have had iron infusions, been on a compounded T3 med for my thyroid and have been zinc deficient. I have worked hard to correct my problems and am able to maintain my free T3 levels without medication now. I’m starting to feel great and my nails are growing like crazy. My hair is the only thing not improving.

  4. You do not mention any possible side effects or signs of over-supplementation, can you address that please? I do take supplements, but I also know that too much of a good thing can happen as well.

    • Hello T,
      Thank you for contacting me. You raise a very good question.
      In my practice, over-supplementation has never been a problem. That’s probably
      because we have custom-targeted guidelines.
      But in cases where folks may not have enough knowledge of what they are
      taking and self-treating, it could be a problem.
      In regards to magnesium, I recommend a daily range of 500-1,000 MG daily for
      most of my patients.

      The level of supplements in the body can be checked at the cellular level.
      For this, I generally recommend Spectracell.
      Of course, it is always important to let your doctor know what supplements you are taking,
      and how much.
      All My Best,
      Dr. Maxwell

  5. I have multiple sclerosis (diagnosed 13 months ago with active spinal cord lesions and evidence of old white matter brain lesions), sleep apnea, IBS, RLS, arthritis, tonsil stones, chronic headaches, anxiety and a miriad of other undiagnosed symptoms including chest pain and tightness, shortness of breath and on and on. My fibrinogen is high, but my bloodwork otherwise looks good, as well as PFT (spirometry only) and D-dimer to rule out PE. I’m only 34 years old. I finally broke over and started medications for symptomatic relief as well as a disease modifying drug, Tecfidera, to *hopefully* slow the progression of the MS. I’m obviously very concerned about taking an immunosuppressant medication thT is know for causing a low white blood cell (lymphocyte) count and in now associated with an increased risk of PML. In your opinion, could a magnesium deficiency be a factor in my state of poor health? Is magnesium orate a better option for me than chelated magnesium? Any insight you may offer is much appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Jen

    • Hello Jen,
      Thank you for contacting me. I am sorry to hear about your symptoms.
      I understand how frustrating it can be.

      Most folks are deficient in Magnesium. Serum blood tests will usually come back normal,
      as most of the magnesium is in RBCs, and not in the serum. This can be measured, if needed.
      I am partial to chelated magnesium, as it has worked so well for my patients over the
      years.

      If you wish, I would be glad to speak with you. Please feel free to email me
      at DrCraigMaxwell@roadrunner.com for more information.
      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

  6. I just finished nursing school in Dec and soon after started suffering from Nausea, vertigo, extreme fatigue and weakness, anxiety, as well as heart palpitations and abdominal pain. It got so bad that I could not drive without feeling really motion sick. I went to the Doctor a number of times and received normal results. I started taking magnesium in the beginning of March after reading about deficiency. I started feeling a lot better and can drive again. However, I still deal with random vertigo. heart palpitations and occasional light headiness. How long does it normally take to get back to normal? I have to take my Nclex exam next week and hope to feel better. Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Beth,
      Congratulations on your graduation from nursing school!
      I will be glad to assist you. Kindly email me through http://www.AskDrMaxwell.com
      as I have several questions to ask you about your lab results and what testing you have had.
      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

  7. Started with swallowing issues, was put on Omeprazole and a couple months later was trying to wean off omeprazole and eating low carb doing great no swallow issues when WHAM! I had stomach cramps bad and got a vasovagal reaction, went to ER. They shot me up with Bentyl and 2 IV bags. Great for 2-3 days then developed bad inner trembles. GP said to go back to Omep could be backlash. I am weaning again slower. I have to take generic bentyl everynight with ambien to sleep due to inner trembles. Have had every blood test under the sun. Don’t think I’ve had (mg) Magnesium test though. Have fatigue, occasional tic in neck, chills (goosebumps feeling) and slight amount of other symptoms but my biggest concern is the inner trembling.

    • Hello JB,

      Thank you for contacting me. I am sorry to hear about all you have been through.
      Almost everyone is low on magnesium. Regular blood tests usually read as normal, as only 1% of our
      magnesium is in blood serum. The other 99% is at work in body organs and cells, so the only way to accurately measure it is through
      special testing of white blood cells (WBCs).

      As most of us are low anyway, what I do is start my patients on Diamond Nutritionals’ Chelated Magnesium, two once a day. Two twice a day
      is a good target dose, as the supplemental goal is 400-500 mg daily. The form of magnesium is very important, as most are only 10-20% absorbed.
      Chelated Magnesium is 100% absorbed. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 body chemistry functions.

      PPIs also lower magnesium by making absorption very difficult, so they often add to the problem.

      I hope you find this information helpful.

      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. M

  8. I was diagnosed in March with having lower than normal magnesium after having a serum test (after having a 30 day monitor that showed irregular heart beats), I don’t remember what the level was, but I was instructed to take 800 ml of magnesium oxide every day. I’ve tried contacting the heart specialist with regards to questions about how to deal the pain from the palpitations, but nobody will return my calls. I’m considering getting a second opinion because the pain is getting almost as bad as it was in the beginning… it was four months of fearing that I was constantly having a heart attack before any of the tests/monitors pointed to anything. I can tell, by the pain, if it is the top or the bottom of my heart that has beat off pace… right now, the pain is in the sterno-clavicular (yes, I Googled it) area of my left collar bone… earlier tonight, it was in my left arm pit. I guess what I’m getting at with my long post is what else could be going on? My echo cardiogram, all of the EKGs, scan, stress test, and I may be forgetting what else was done, all came back fine until.

    • Hello Betsy,
      Thank you for contacting me. I am sorry to hear about your symptoms. Low magnesium is a big cause of palpitations, especially knowing that your cardiac tests showed no underlying disease.
      Please contact me through the http://www.AskDrMaxwell.com question and answer page. I will be glad to schedule a telemedicine consultation with you.
      Dr. Maxwell

  9. Is it possible for overuse of an asthma inhaler to lead to a sudden magnesium deficiency. A few months ago I was having very bad asthma and I was using my rescue inhaler too much. Then I started on an inhaled steroid, but was suddenly having symptoms like headache, nausea, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, and a strange warm sensation like flushing in my leg and foot. At first I thought perimenopause and had all sorts of tests done, but everything normal so far. I feel horrible and haven’t gotten any answers. Could it be as simple as magnesium?

    • Hi Deb,
      It certainly can be. For my patients, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Chelated Magnesium for optimal absorption, two twice a day. The form and dose of magnesium are very important.
      This often helps relax the airways as well.
      Dr. Maxwell

  10. Hi,
    From time to time over the two last years I have had nausea lasting for two to four weeks. I sometimes also have muscle cramps and spasms and very cold hands. At the moment I had nausea on and off every day for two weeks. I have had a blood check showing no magnesium deficiency. I have bought the chelated magnesium pills. Reading about the possible side effects of magnesium supplements nausea being one of them I am afraid I will be even more bothered with this nausea if I take magnesium. That it will increase and not help at all. What do you think about this? Do you think magnesium is something I should try? If so how much a day?

    • Hello Ella,

      A serum blood test for magnesium will show as normal in almost all patients. This is due to the fact that 99% of our magnesium is in other body tissues.
      The human body will make every effort to keep blood levels normal, even if it is low in other areas of the body. At any given time, about 1% of our magnesium is circulating in the blood.
      The only way to tell if magnesium is low is to check it at the cellular level through specialized testing, as mentioned in the article.

      As about 90% of folks are deficient in magnesium at the cellular level, I recommend that my patients take 500-700 mg of chelated magnesium daily. The form of magnesium is very important. Many are not well absorbed.

      As with any supplement, individual needs vary so you will want to check with your doctor.

      Dr. M

  11. Hi Dr Maxwell, This morning I took a heaping teaspoon of natural calm magnesium in a glass of water on an empty stomach–I drank this with a large to go mug of coffee and several other vitamin supplements including liquid vitamin d, kelp and chorydallis (for pain, it has tumeric also). I became very dizzy and faint, as well as nauseated and felt in a fog. I also felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen. This happened at school, where I work, so the nurse took vitals and a blood sugar test, all normal. This was the first day taking the supplements, I’m still not feeling well. She thought it could it be from the magnesium.
    I’m sure I’m deficient as the article above fit me to a “t”–every single symptom! When I was pregnant over 22 yrs ago I had trouble with nausea from pre-natal vitamins and had to stop them and I’m normally sensitive to medications. I have Lyme disease ” in remission” since ’04 supposedly, it was deemed chronic at one time so I had been on a heparin lock with high doses of antibiotics. I have bowel issues now, so I’m guessing it destroyed good flora bacteria in gi tract and I might have Candida also. Ive been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and had cervical spinal fusion surgery last yr for a spinal cord injury, stenosis. How can I restore my health– I recently visited a health food store and was recommended those supplements. Other than the health issues above I’m an active 48 yr old woman in decent shape in perimenopause–I eat healthy, weigh 150, 5’8.

  12. Hello Ms. Briley,
    Thank you for contacting me. For my patients, I recommend a highly absorbable oral form of magnesium.
    Topical forms can be helpful, but it can be difficult to determine how much one is actually absorbing.
    Warmest regards,
    Dr. Maxwell

  13. Hi Dr. Maxwell,
    I suffered terribly with light headedness, extreme anxiety, vertigo and BP 145/95, no appetite. Went to my Dr several times for answers. Had blood work done and it was stellar. My Dr told me to chill out and sent me on my way. And that if I came in one more time with my BP that high he was going to put me on meds. Thinking perimenopause was starting to creep in and cause some of these problems, but thyroid checked out. Researched and started taking 400MG of Chelated MAG. Couple of months later started checking my BP and it was a steady 115/70. My so called Holistic Dr seemed really pissed off that I was feeling so great. MAG was indeed my cure all for every symptom I’ve ever had…including some I’ve had since childhood. I’d like to know your opinion as a medical professional WHY do most Dr.’s ignore MAG and it’s importance? I”ve had friends with the same issues with their Dr.s. They started MAG and they all think I’m some sort of genius…..One of my friends DR absolutely refused to do a RBC MAG test for her. Told her it was absolute waste of time.

    • Hello Steph,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad to hear you are doing so much better!

      It’s amazing what Diamond Nutritionals’ 3-in-1 Chelated Magnesium can do!

      Generally speaking, I believe most physicians would benefit from more training in preventive medicine/integrative medicine/functional medicine.

      I wish you the best of health!

      Dr. Maxwell

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