How to recognize the symptoms of magnesium deficiency and effectively treat it
- The major signs and symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include weakness, nausea, and fatigue.
- About 48% of Americans don't get enough magnesium in their daily diet, putting many of us at risk for deficiency.
- To treat magnesium deficiency, you should increase the amount of magnesium-rich foods you eat — like spinach, nuts, and tofu — or take a supplement.
- This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
Every organ in the body requires magnesium, making it a critical mineral. But if you don't consume enough, you may develop a magnesium deficiency, which can cause minor symptoms like weakness and fatigue, as well as dangerous ones like seizures and muscle spasms.
Here's what you need to know about the signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and how to get more in your diet.
What does magnesium do?Magnesium is required for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. According to Nicole DeMasi, MS, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian with her own virtual private practice, it's essential for maintaining:
- Energy production
- Muscle and nerve function
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar levels
- Hormone regulation
- Protein, bone, and DNA production
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency vary based on how deficient you are. According to Bansari Acharya, RDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in Detroit, the initial symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include:
- Change in personality
- Tingling sensations
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Muscle spasms
- Hypokalemia, which is low levels of potassium in the blood
- Hypocalcemia, which is low levels of calcium in the blood
Causes of magnesium deficiency
A magnesium deficiency occurs when the amount of magnesium in the blood drops below the average range of 1.7 to 2.2 mg/dL. This can happen if you consume less than your recommended dietary allowance of magnesium:
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg||30 mg||--||--|
|7–12 months||75 mg||75 mg||--||--|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg||--||--|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg||--||--|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg||--||--|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg||--||--|
Jones says this is most likely to occur if you have:
As soon as you notice initial symptoms such as fatigue or gastrointestinal discomfort, it is recommended you visit a doctor immediately.Once at the doctor's office, they can perform a blood test to determine if you are experiencing a magnesium deficiency, another nutrient deficiency, or if something else is to blame. Your doctor will then determine the best treatment option for you.
Depending on what other medical conditions you have and the severity of the deficiency, your doctor may recommend a supplement, along with dietary changes, says Acharya. The highest tolerable amount of a magnesium supplement is 350mg per day for adults.
The most common supplemental forms of magnesium, such as magnesium citrate and oxide, may cause cramping and diarrhea. If you decide to take a supplement, opt for magnesium glycinate as it is less likely to cause gastrointestinal issues.Increasing your daily intake of magnesium-rich foods is another great way to get your levels back on track. DeMasi says foods high in magnesium include:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
A magnesium deficiency occurs when a person does not consume enough magnesium in their diet or has a disease that limits their ability to absorb it. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include weakness, nausea, and even seizures. Through changes in diet and supplements, magnesium levels can normalize.
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