Paying attention to common magnesium deficiency symptoms can help you avoid chronic health conditions. Magnesium deficiency, otherwise referred to as hypomagnesemia, is an overlooked problem for many Americans. Studies suggest that up to seventy-five percent of Americans aren’t getting the recommended magnesium intake, leading to chronic ailments and a decrease in overall wellness.
Some people don’t recognize the magnesium deficiency side effects until their levels become dangerously low. While the cause of deficiency varies, the signs remain the same. Health problems that may be associated with a lack of magnesium include migraines, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart conditions, according to the NIH. It’s important to understand that, over time, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency can become worse.
While we can help you identify whether you may have a magnesium deficiency, the only reliable way to know for sure is through a blood test. But, for people who experience the symptoms of magnesium deficiency detailed below, adding a magnesium supplement to their daily routine may help.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency causes for healthy individuals include:
- Soft water
- Low-magnesium diets, such as those with sodas and processed foods
- Taking calcium supplements
- Specific prescriptions and some over-the-counter medications
Some conditions lead to increased vulnerability. Susceptible people include:
- Anyone who abuses alcohol or with other substance issues
- The elderly
- Those with chronic illnesses
- Anyone under increased stress
Unfortunately, many Americans eat a poor diet, making magnesium deficiency more prevalent than ever before. Many among us are guilty of eating a diet that contains:
- High-saturated fat, which reduces the absorption of magnesium in the intestines
- High sugar, which increases the amount of magnesium excreted by the kidneys
- Phosphates from dark-colored carbonated beverages that bind magnesium, making it unusable by the body
In addition, many of our foods are grown in soil which is depleted of vital nutrients, including magnesium. Even people that believe they are eating magnesium-rich foods might still suffer from deficiency and associated symptoms.
In 2009, the World Health Organization held a symposium to review the effects of soft water on magnesium. It was clear from their review that reducing the magnesium in the water supply could lead to a decrease in cardiovascular function. Yet, it’s becoming increasingly common for municipal water treatment plants to remove some magnesium to soften the water.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Magnesium is an essential macronutrient and a vital electrolyte for many bodily processes. Magnesium plays a part in energy production, bone structures, muscle functions, DNA replication, nerve function, cardiovascular health and more.
As such, people who don’t get enough magnesium can suffer from a multitude of effects, ranging in severity. What starts out as a mild symptom can quickly progress to a severe ailment. In fact, prolonged magnesium deficiency can cause trouble with long-term health and increase the likelihood of chronic diseases. So, what are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Loss of Appetite
A 2016 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that magnesium helped to stabilize glucose levels, which can suppress the appetite and increase weight loss. However, a lack of magnesium can also cause a loss of appetite, but not for good reasons. If your appetite has changed, it’s wise to consider why.
Everyone experiences bouts of tiredness from time to time, but chronic fatigue might indicate a larger problem. Mental or physical exhaustion is often a sign of magnesium deficiency. However, fatigue is non-specific and normally isn’t enough to indicate a deficiency. Typically, there will be other symptoms experienced, as well.
Studies suggest that muscle weakness, or myasthenia, can be caused by magnesium deficiency. As magnesium levels decrease, there is a loss of potassium in the muscle cells. However, just as the sign of fatigue isn’t enough to indicate a deficiency with, neither is muscle weakness. This symptom should be one of several experienced to determine if more magnesium is required.
Severe Magnesium Deficiency
As the degree of deficiency increases, the symptoms will naturally become more severe, ranging from numbness to muscle cramps. It’s vital to take note of the signs of magnesium deficiency early, before chronic illness sets in. In the worst cases, these symptoms could lead to life-threatening consequences such as irregular heartbeat and seizures.
It’s not difficult to reverse the effects of magnesium deficiency, even at this stage. As you analyze this list, consider what other magnesium deficiency symptoms you experienced prior to these. If you noticed the previous symptoms first, you may need additional magnesium, which can be taken as a supplement.
Numbness or Tingling
Magnesium regulates numerous body systems, including nerve function. If the body is lacking magnesium, it could lead to tingling or numbness in the extremities. Of course, these symptoms are also caused by several other ailments, so it’s important to look at any current ailments as a whole for a complete picture.
Occasional twitching and cramping is normal, but shouldn’t be experienced often. As a greater flow of calcium occurs into the nerve cells, the muscle nerves become hyperstimulated, leading to cramping. Studies have been performed to determine the effect of magnesium on the cramping. Some people have even found magnesium supplements to be helpful with restless leg issues.
Low Calcium or Potassium Levels
Magnesium is responsible for transporting calcium ions into and out of the cells, while also allowing for absorption. If a person has low magnesium levels (hypokalemia), they may also have a calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) and require help correcting both.
The body must have a regulated balance of minerals to maintain mood and optimal brain function. If you suffer from apathy, mental numbness or a lack of emotion, a magnesium deficiency could be the cause. Low magnesium levels may also be associated with a higher chance of depression and anxiety.
One of the more serious symptoms associated with reduced levels of magnesium is a heart arrhythmia. While some patients might experience mild symptoms, others have noticeable heart palpitations. Along with these heart troubles, you may also experience chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and fainting. In severe cases, arrhythmias can lead to heart failure or stroke.
Studies show that magnesium depletion over long periods of time can irritate the nervous system, which could result in epileptic seizures. While this is uncommon, understanding the cause can prove to be life-saving. By recognizing the signs of hypomagnesemia, it’s possible to head off acute intractable seizures in the future.
How to Correct Magnesium Deficiency
The NIH recommends a specific amount of magnesium per day based on your age and gender. For the majority of adults, this recommended dosage falls between 350 and 400 mg, but this number goes up slightly if you are pregnant or nursing.
If you are experiencing magnesium deficiency symptoms, it’s wise to speak to your healthcare provider first and increase your intake through diet or supplements. The sooner you take action, the less likely you are to experience the severe consequences.
You can choose to add magnesium-rich foods to your diet, such as almonds, cashews and peanuts. You could also add legumes, avocados, oatmeal and brown rice. If that doesn’t provide enough supplementation, you may want to consider a high-quality magnesium supplement.
You may also need to treat calcium deficiency alongside depleted magnesium to ensure that all underlying conditions are resolved. For example, if a deficiency is partially caused by alcoholism or diabetes, it helps to get those conditions under control and focus on your overall well-being through lifestyle changes, diet, exercise and supplements.
Side Effects And Risks
Magnesium supplements are safe for most people, but might not be suitable for patients on certain antibiotics, because magnesium can interfere with absorption. People with kidney ailments are the most likely to experience side effects from taking supplements, because damaged kidneys may have trouble clearing high doses of magnesium, especially when given intravenously. Fortunately, most people experience mild symptoms or none at all.
Large doses of magnesium can lead to:
This is especially true when taking magnesium citrate, magnesium carbonate and magnesium oxide. Specially formulated liquid magnesium formulas of magnesium chloride absorb into the cells better and tend to cause fewer laxative issues. In addition, liquid formulas are also easier to adjust dosing.
While rare, there is a chance of magnesium overdose if you take too much – especially when given iv magnesium in the hospital. The Office of Dietary Supplements says that symptoms of an overdose include:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Muscle weakness
- Urine retention
- Low blood pressure/cardiac arrest
- Respiratory distress
If an overdose occurs, doctors must provide intravenous calcium gluconate to reverse the effects of the magnesium. IV furosemide will help excrete the magnesium as long as kidney function remains normal.