#027 Do You Have These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

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Do you have these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

Chances are that you suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.  Indeed, up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.

Most people have no idea they are missing this critical micronutrient.  Read on to find out if you may be suffering from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Early in my career as a cardiologist, I worked with a 48 year old nurse from Wyoming who suffered from palpitations, anxiety, and weight gain.  She was tired during the day and couldn’t sleep at night.  She had seen many doctors and nothing seemed to help.

As part of her work up for palpitations, I put her on a 24-hour heart monitor (Holter monitor).  The heart monitor showed frequent premature ventricular contractions (PVCs).

I also checked her lab work.  Everything was normal, including her serum magnesium level.  Fortunately, her stress echocardiogram was also normal so we didn’t have to worry about any other heart issues.

To help with her palpitations, I prescribed a beta-blocker medication.  Unfortunately, beta-blockers only caused more fatigue and only marginally decreased her palpitations.  What followed were a series of different medications, all with intolerable side effects.

Finally, I encouraged her to eat a high magnesium diet.  I also prescribed magnesium supplements.  Even though her serum magnesium level was “normal”, I was running out of options.

Miraculously, all of her symptoms went away.  Not only were her palpitations gone, but her anxiety resolved, she had more energy and she was now sleeping at night.  She even lost 10 pounds in the process.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

Unfortunately, there is no good test for magnesium deficiency.  This is why it is so important to recognize the magnesium deficiency symptoms.

While it is easy to test for magnesium in your blood (serum magnesium levels), less than 1% of the magnesium in your body can be found in your blood.  Thus, serum magnesium levels are a poor indicator of magnesium deficiency.  Most of your magnesium is stored in your bones or your cells.

Who is at highest risk for magnesium deficiency?

If you are under a lot of stress you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  If you drink filtered or bottled water, you are getting minimal magnesium in your water.  If spinach and other green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are not on your plate every day, you probably suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

If you are overweight, diabetic, or over age 60, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if you take diuretics, calcium supplements, or stomach acid blocking medications you are also probably deficient in magnesium.

Do you have these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

Below are 12 of the most common magnesium deficiency symptoms.  Chances are that you probably suffer from one of these 12 conditions.

1. Weight Gain or Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract.  To make matters worse, magnesium deficiency is an important cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

For over 100 years now, magnesium deficiency has been associated with depression.  It is also well known, that people with depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

If you’ve had a lot of cavities, or been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you probably have magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium deficiency has long been associated with dental cavities.  Magnesium deficiency may also affect vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a key role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium has long been used as a laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease have been linked with magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are very common in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues can be traced back to a magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

An often overlooked cause of cancer is magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.

To make matters worse, the foods most often eaten in the U.S, namely wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, and other processed foods, do not contain much magnesium.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very difficult to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

In general, adults need about 400 mg of magnesium each day.  Rather than trying to calculate the magnesium content of your food, just eat a heaping green salad each day.  If your heaping salad includes plenty of spinach, seeds, nuts, or beans you are there.  A heaping salad with the right toppings will get you 100% of the magnesium you need for the day.  This is especially true if the seeds on top are pumpkin seeds.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be an important reason why heart disease is very uncommon and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Reduce Stress.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Final Thoughts

Up to 89% of Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency.  Chances are that you may already be suffering from one of magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.  Talk with your doctor if you suspect that you have any of the above magnesium deficiency symptoms.

If you have any thoughts or experiences with magnesium deficiency, please leave your comments below.  Also, if you have any questions about what you have just read, leave your questions in the comments section below.  I will do my best to answer every question.

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Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Hi. My water is very hard, but I’ve also heard that it is full of unhealthy chemicals. What should I do? Thank you! I thoroughly enjoy each article. They are filled with up-to-the-minute information and is relevant. Thank you again!

    • Hi Jeri,

      Thanks for reading! Sounds like it is time to test your water. There are a number of do it yourself testing kits online or you could bring in a profession. Hopefully, you have high quality water in your home!


    • Hi PJ,

      For those who may not be aware, HTMA stands for Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. This test looks at the minerals from a small sample of your hair. Not only can this assess for magnesium deficiency but it can also look at other mineral deficiencies or possibly heavy metal toxicity as well. Some feel this is a more accurate test than the Red Blood Cell magnesium test and definitely more accurate than the serum magnesium good level.

      Hope this helps!


  2. Dear Dr. Jay, Thanks for your informative articles.
    Since Magnesium deficiency is so high, and is a potential problem in one’s health, why aren’t physicians checking or warning patients about it. Should I be taking magnesium since I have the symptoms listed in this article?

    Thanks, Glen

    • Hi Glen,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Great questions.

      The problem is that there is no good readily available test for magnesium. While it is easy to measure magnesium levels from a blood test, this test only checks for the magnesium in your blood. At most, 1% of your magnesium is in the blood. To really test for magnesium requires expensive tests that can only be done in a research setting.

      Whether or not you should take magnesium supplements is a discussion you need to have with your healthcare provider. There are risks and benefits to everything you take into your body. Fortunately, for most people, the risks of magnesium supplements are very low.

      Certainly, a diet high in greens, nuts, and seeds is a healthy diet. Greens, nuts, and seeds are all very high in magnesium.

      Hope this helps!


  3. Dear John
    I take 200mg of magnesium Malate for AFib nice to hear from you as allways. Hope you and your wife and family are keeping well and good health I have 100 cousins in Salt Lake City Utah. Some are Doctors next time i contact them i will tell them about you and your wife. They might know you and your wife and family I hear it is a very nice City. They all get together in one home for thanksgiving day it is nice to see they are keeping the old tradition alive. Maybe one day i will visit them. I have good news i have just lost 5KG Hope this will help my heart improve now i am at my correct weight and feel i have my old self back Apart from AFib i feel better after losing the weight. God bless you and your
    family. Keep up the good work.
    Kind Regards

    • Thanks for reading and congratulations on getting your Afib under control with a 5 kg weight loss! This is an amazing accomplishment!


  4. Thanks for your newsletters! I always enjoy reading them. You may have addressed this question sometime in the past but I’m curious if you think getting a heap of greens by way of a green smoothie would be an adequate way to get magnesium as well or if blending the greens would affect how nutrients/minerals are absorbed. I try to eat salads when I can but find I am much more able to be consistent about getting in a smoothie (a blender filled with mostly spinach or other frozen greens, a few berries or other fruit, some combination of nuts/seeds, and water/ice). I’d love to know if you think that’s an okay option or if I should really push harder to eat those salads. Thanks again!

    • Hi Lisa,

      Your smoothies sound very healthy. While smoothies are a great way to get greens, often time there are not that many greens. If a daily salad is something that is challenging for you, look for other ways to greens, in addition to your smoothie.

      Thanks for reading and hope this helps!


  5. Dear Dr. Day,

    Thank you so much for an excellent article on Magnesium. I have been taking it as a supplement (1) 500mg tablet for years now as I had terrible cramps at night and this was to recommended to me by my endocrinologist. I have had a a rough time medically speaking for the last 2 years working in Nigeria and have just recently returned to Australia to live. There seems to be a problem with the amount of medication I have prescribed in Nigeria for an under active thyroid prolem. I have always taken 100ug but after a blood test my Endocrinologist increased it to 125ug. On arrival home in Australia my test showed it was 28 and immediately my GP explained I would have to take less but over time. I had the results of my latest blood test yesterday and although my T3 &T4 are good my TSH was 0.03? My doctor has stated it should not be this low but she gave me no explanation as to why it is so low. Previously to this around 6 weeks previously it was 0.09. I have no other medical conditions and I am eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables since returning home. I am looking for work in my small home town but in the meantime I have volunteered for 3 local organisations to use my work abilities. I do not get out much except for these 3 times a week but I feel well but am interested in finding out why my TSH is so low? I will try your wife’s recipe this week and give you some feedback. Take care Catherine

  6. Dear Dr. Day,

    Ken & I were out walking in the sunshine with our dog when your newsletter came in on his new phone. We both smiled to know that your communication had arrived.

    The article about the town in PA (my home state) was interesting because earlier today I was thinking about the presence of family and good health. My earlier reflection was a resolve to get out there and join more groups for fun, learning, and fellowship. Your article was right on target for me as is the case so many times and I thank you.

    The Curry Lentil soup looks wonderful too! I will be making it sometime soon you can be sure! It is always nice to try new ideas in cooking the evening meal since we enjoy the Mediterranean & Asian type cuisines so very much. Thank you Jane.

    Have a wonderful day.

    Deby & Ken

    • Hi Deby and Ken,

      Thank you so much for reading the newsletter! I am so happy to hear that the suggestions had a positive impact. Yes, strong social ties are an often overlooked element of health.

      All the best,


  7. Thank you for providing this information. I had a few losses recently both loved people and pets. The past few weeks been using low dose of lexapro and xanax. Will make sure magnesium is added to my other heart supplements.

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for reading! So sorry to hear about the losses. Make sure your physician is aware of everything you are taking through this grieving process.

      Wishing you the best,


  8. Excellent Information!! Thank you! However, now I’m confused by reading about other supplement recommendations. Some say to obtain magnesium through transdermal delivery. Additionally, there are multiple different types of magnesium supplements oxide, sulfate, chloride formulations. Which is best? Which is absorbed better? Could you just take a teaspoon of epsom salts a day as the bag says there are 475 mg. in a teaspoon and be done with it?
    I’m falling into several categories of the symptoms, attributed it to perimenopause. I’ve ordered Twinlab TriBoron Plus to help supplement. I’d read/heard Boron assist in hormone regulation. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.