Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms What You Can Do

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Magnesium deficiency is a genuine problem in our country, with some estimates indicating it affects 50 to 70% of Americans. This essential trace element is responsible for over 300 enzymatic processes in the human body, specifically contributing to muscle movement, blood pressure regulation, bone health, energy transport during the metabolic process and glucose metabolism.  In this post we will review magnesium deficiency symptoms, the role magnesium plays in thyroid health, autoimmunity and what you can do to optimize magnesium levels as well as who must avoid magnesium.

Individuals who have suboptimal or even deficient magnesium levels and who regularly consume a diet high in refined sugar or processed foods tend to have problems with glucose metabolism. To metabolize even just one (1) molecule of sugar requires 56 molecules of magnesium. Multiple studies have shown that patients with Type 2 Diabetes have less than optimal serum magnesium levels. These individuals have greater requirements for magnesium due to a higher excretion of magnesium through urine and a reduced sensitivity to insulin.

Suboptimal magnesium levels affect the ability of the pancreas to secrete enough insulin; or, the insulin that is released by the pancreas won’t be sufficient to control blood sugar. This reduced production leads to what is known as insulin resistance.

Functional and integrative practitioners have reported (anecdotally) promising results for the improvement of insulin secretion by prescribing magnesium salts to their patients who were magnesium-deficient. Although, many others whose lab markers indicated low magnesium and were not diabetic struggled with metabolic syndrome making it a challenge to regulate blood sugar levels.

Another important role of magnesium is to help maintain calcium levels. Without adequate magnesium in the blood, calcium levels rise. This elevation in calcium may contribute to a T3 and T4 and calcitonin response to attempt to reduce calcium in the bloodstream. Elevated calcium levels may indicate possible parathyroid disease which must be ruled out or confirmed by an endocrinologist. I recommend the Norman Parathyroid Center for anyone experiencing parathyroid disease as it is a serious condition.

A combination of high calcium and low magnesium may lead to issues with cell membrane integrity. Simply put, cell walls can become either too rigid for T4 bound with calcium to cross the membrane barrier or too weak to hold the calcium within it. If T4 bound calcium does manage to stay inside the cells for reabsorption, magnesium and selenium are required to help convert it to T3. Low magnesium makes this conversion much less likely.

Additional complications of less than optimal levels or even frank magnesium deficiency arise when considering the effects hypoadrenia (commonly referred to as adrenal fatigue) which is a common condition for many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or any chronic, long-term autoimmune disease.

The adrenal glands are a part of the endocrine system and sit on top of each kidney. They are responsible for life-sustaining functions such as the release of adrenaline, cortisol, aldosterone and more. As a result of physiological stress related to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, the adrenal glands respond by releasing cortisol. Over time, they can become depleted and unable to meet the body’s constant demands for cortisol. Also, the utilization of magnesium by the adrenal glands peaks during periods of stress which further compounds the likelihood of magnesium depletion.

As it relates to cortisol, magnesium plays a role in reducing cortisol levels in the blood and helps calm the body at the cellular level. Without optimal magnesium levels, cortisol flows through the bloodstream unchecked. This situation presents a concern for people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism since elevated cortisol levels may lead to low thyroid hormone, limit the conversion of T4 to T3, and cause damage to the mucosal lining of the GI tract adding insult to injury with increased chronic and damaging inflammation.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin resistance
  • Elevated glucose
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to sleep
  • Constipation
  • Sluggishness
  • Weight gain / Weight loss resistance
  • PCOS & Hormone Imbalance
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Migraine headache
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Chocolate cravings
  • Nausea
  • Brain fog or memory lapse
  • Leg cramps

How to Correctly Test Magnesium

One of the best ways to diagnose magnesium deficiency is an inexpensive blood test. But not with your typical “magnesium” test that only measures how much magnesium is in the bloodstream, but one that measures how much magnesium is inside the cells.

I recommend the red blood cell (RBC) magnesium blood test to know if magnesium levels are optimal, borderline, or deficient. Remember, the typical old-fashioned way of testing magnesium is to assess how much is circulating in the bloodstream. Testing this as the only marker for magnesium can result in falsely high or low positive/negative lab values.

If for any reason your doctor doesn’t want to order the RBC magnesium blood test, or it is not covered by your insurance and cost prohibitive, you may opt to self-order your test HERE. It’s low-cost, convenient and you will receive the test results privately in your inbox. As always, I encourage you to share the results with your healthcare provider and keep a copy for your records.


Tips to Reverse Low Magnesium

If you receive results indicating a magnesium deficiency, there are a few interventions that may be right for you. The least invasive way would be to increase your intake of magnesium- rich foods, as long as you don’t have sensitivities to them or have been advised by your practitioner to restrict foods rich in magnesium.   As a nurse-nutritionist, I always recommend addressing diet and optimizing nutrition to correct nutrient deficiencies and improve overall health.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Chard
  • Summer squash
  • Cacao and dark chocolate
  • Leafy greens
  • Bone broth
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Black beans
  • Almonds
  • Figs
  • Bananas
  • Salmon
  • Artichokes
  • Cashews
  • Coriander
  • Goat cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

Another way to increase magnesium levels is to supplement with a high-quality magnesium nutraceutical. I recommend magnesium citrate if constipation or sluggishness is an issue or magnesium glycinate if these are not.

Dosage recommendations for magnesium can vary depending on your unique situation, but typically the range is anywhere from 400-800 mg per day. I like to divide the dose between mid-morning and bedtime. Another recommendation is to take magnesium to “bowel tolerance.” In other words, the dose that does not cause diarrhea or loose stool.

I have found that using a combination of oral magnesium and topical magnesium oil useful for maintaining RBC magnesium levels in the optimal range and reversing magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Daily Epsom salt or magnesium-flake baths can do wonders for maintaining optimal magnesium levels and also help with overall relaxation.  If you don’t have time for a long bath, try a foot soak instead for 15 minutes and follow up with magnesium oil applied to the soles of your feet.

Finally, it is important to seek advice from your trusted functional and integrative wellness team to help you discern what the best dose would be for you. Please do not supplement with magnesium in any form, if you have kidney disease, myasthenia gravis, heart block or a bowel obstruction without first consulting with your physician.


Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms-Magnesium Citrate


Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms Magnesium Glycinate




Thank you for reading – I hope you find this information helpful.

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  3. Barbagallo, M., & Dominguez, L. J. (2015, August 25). Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from
  4. Your Thyroid Magnesium. (2015, October 06). Retrieved August 21, 2017, from