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10 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms & Signs to Not Overlook

Fatigue is just one of the many signs of magnesium deficiency—here’s what to know!


Magnesium is a magnificent mineral, crucial to keeping many life-sustaining body processes working correctly.

It works at the cellular level to facilitate health and, unsurprisingly, a deficiency can cause serious problems. Fortunately, understanding the signs of magnesium deficiency can help you detect symptoms as early as possible and make the necessary changes to treat it.

Read on for magnesium deficiency symptoms to be aware of, followed by helpful tips for correcting a magnesium deficiency. 

What Does Magnesium Do?

Magnesium plays many roles in good health, helping out at the cellular level to ensure energy production proceeds properly. It’s an electrolyte, a mineral that helps the body regulate chemical reactions and fluid balance, along with sodium, calcium, and potassium. 

As opposed to trace minerals, which are needed in very small amounts in the body, magnesium is one of the minerals the body needs in relatively higher amounts—just make sure you stay below the Tolerable Upper Intake Level. Moreover, the amount of magnesium you need generally depends on your age and gender.

How to Get Enough Magnesium In Your Diet

If you’re eating a balanced diet, getting all the magnesium you need is relatively easy. However, if you feel as though you lack in this vital mineral or heading towards (or are diagnosed with) a deficiency, you can increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as: 

• Beans
• Dairy (such as milk and yogurt) 
• Leafy green vegetables 
• Nuts
• Whole grains 

As a bonus, foods high in magnesium tend to be high in other nutrients, too! They also tend to be higher in protein, which can help you correct a magnesium deficiency by strengthening muscles and stabilizing appetite—a win-win!

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Symptoms are rare until magnesium levels are really low, so spotting the symptoms when they start is key to early detection. It can help you get help as soon as possible since you’ve likely been deficient for a long time by the time symptoms become evident. 

Let’s look at some of the most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Muscle Cramps

Magnesium is a big player in muscle contractions. Muscle problems, such as muscle cramps or weakness, may appear when a deficiency is extreme. This isn’t just an issue for athletes— limitations to muscle movement can make everyday actions unexpectedly difficult. 

Fatigue and Weakness

Along with muscle weakness, other body parts may feel weak, too. Or, you may feel a sense of generalized weakness—not the kind you can pinpoint to one area of the body.

Since magnesium helps keep your metabolism churning and working correctly, one of the more obvious signs of deficiency is a feeling of fatigue.

Numbness and Tingling 

In the case of extreme deficiency, you may feel a loss of sensation or control in the body. Numbness and tingling are common in this state, although twitching and seizures are also possible. 

Irregular Heartbeat

The heart, arguably the body’s most important muscle and one of its most essential organs, is another area that suffers when the body’s magnesium needs aren’t being met. When extreme deficiency strikes, it’s common to see an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias). 

On the other hand, research suggests that people who have magnesium in their diets tend to have healthier hearts and a lower risk for heart disease. 

High Blood Pressure 

Having adequate magnesium levels may help to decrease blood pressure slightly, so observing high blood pressure may be a sign of the opposite problem: too little magnesium.

Although researchers are still looking into how magnesium supplements can help, it's worth noting if you see high blood pressure in combination with these other symptoms.

Bad Bone Health 

Magnesium helps to create optimal bone health, so having a lower bone mineral density may be a sign you’re not getting enough magnesium. Keep in mind, however, that healthy bones also rely on other nutrients. 

Although it's not a singular symptom, meaning it’s not enough to diagnose deficiency on its own, it may be one signal that your body is not getting enough magnesium. 

Loss of Appetite 

Somewhat surprisingly, loss of appetite can be one of the first signs of magnesium deficiency. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but the most promising theories say that since magnesium plays a role in suppressing hunger, a deficiency may cause appetite deregulation in a way that’s not entirely understood. 

Unfortunately, losing appetite can make it challenging to eat enough food, which can be a problem when you’re trying to consume magnesium-rich foods. 

Nausea or Vomiting 

Another early sign of magnesium deficiency is nausea and vomiting. Although these symptoms can be attributed to magnesium deficiency, they are often seen with a general electrolyte imbalance.

This is because an electrolyte deficiency, including a lack of magnesium, can make it difficult for your body to move fluid to the proper compartments. 


Headaches are another sign of electrolyte issues, and since magnesium helps support nerve and brain function, migraine headaches may be a sign that the body isn’t getting this mineral in the proper amounts. 

Studies suggest that people who experience migraines may have lower than optimal magnesium levels in their blood and body tissues. 

Worsening Mental Health 

Recent research has shown that there may be a connection between low magnesium and mental health. Interestingly, magnesium deficiency in the brain may reduce serotonin levels. 

Serotonin is one of the body’s chemical messengers responsible for mood and is commonly called one of the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitters. Some of its lesser-known involvements include vomiting and vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), another reason magnesium deficiency may be implicated in symptoms like vomiting or high blood pressure. 

More generally, and in cases of extreme deficiency, personality changes are possible. 

What Causes Low Magnesium?

The typical Western diet may not provide the recommended amount of magnesium, putting many people at risk. Individuals with these risk factors may be at even higher risk than the average American: 

• Alcoholism (long-term)
• Gastrointestinal health conditions such as celiac disease
• Type 2 diabetes 
• Older adults 

According to the National Institutes of Health, older men, teenage girls, and boys are most likely to be deficient in magnesium. 

Correcting Low Magnesium

If, despite your best efforts, your magnesium levels are still low, it may be time to talk with your doctor or dietitian about starting a supplement. It’s usually recommended to try eating foods rich in magnesium first, then follow up with supplementation as needed.

Usually, with a combination of diet and supplementation, you’ll get above the recommended amount of magnesium. Magnesium supplements are available as part of a multivitamin supplement or as an individual mineral supplement. Magnesium citrate is considered one of the more widely available and bioavailable (easily absorbed) forms. 

Since magnesium supplements can interact with some medications, it’s essential to involve your doctor in your decision to supplement. It’s also important to keep tabs on how much magnesium you eat and consume from supplements. 

As mentioned, between all sources, you’ll want to keep magnesium intake below the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for your age and gender. Getting too much magnesium means you may be risking symptoms ranging from digestive upset to cardiac arrest. In other words, it’s vital to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium, but not too much, when trying to correct a deficiency.

As with any other health problem, correcting a magnesium deficiency involves the participation of many healthcare team members. For example, your doctor may diagnose you, your dietitian may be able to recommend the best supplement for your unique needs, and a therapist may help you work through mental health-related symptoms. 

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms: Final Takeaways

Although the first deficiency symptoms can be subtle, catching a lack of magnesium early on can help you get the needed treatment. More obvious signs tend to exhibit at once the deficit has become extreme, meaning more intense treatments may be needed to correct it. 

The good news is that a magnesium deficiency can generally be avoided by eating foods rich in magnesium and taking a bioavailable supplement (like magnesium citrate) as needed. 

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms: FAQs

What are the 10 signs of low magnesium?

Ten signs of magnesium deficiency include: 

1. Muscle cramps
2. Fatigue and weakness
3. Numbness and tingling 
4. Irregular heartbeat
5. High blood pressure
6. Bad bone health
7. Migraines
8. Loss of appetite 
9. Nausea or vomiting 
10. Worsening mental health

What causes a person's magnesium to be low?

Being at a certain age or stage of life, such as older adulthood, may increase your magnesium deficiency risk. A health condition affecting how your body digests or absorbs nutrients, such as type 2 diabetes or celiac disease, may also put you at higher risk for low magnesium. 

Eating a typical Western or American diet also makes getting all the magnesium you need from food alone challenging. 

What organs does low magnesium affect?

Since magnesium works at the cellular level to help keep the body balanced, a lack of magnesium can affect nearly any organ. However, since magnesium is heavily involved in brain, muscle, and heart function, those organs may feel more significant effects. 

Does low magnesium cause leg cramps?

Magnesium is a key part of proper muscle contraction and function, so low magnesium is capable of causing leg cramps. It typically shows up as a symptom when magnesium deficiency becomes extreme, although it’s a sign to look out for in the early stages. 

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