HomeHealthDiet and NutritionTelltale signs you may have a magnesium deficiency

Telltale signs you may have a magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is one of those supplements that seems to be everywhere at the moment, and yet too few actually know what it does.

If your knowledge on the subject is scratchy, it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and involved in more than 300 metabolic processes.

From keeping teeth and bones strong, to balancing hormones and supporting a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, think of magnesium – whether consumed via supplements or eating a diet rich in dark, leafy veg such as spinach, wholewheat, nuts and beans – as the blanket mineral that keeps your entire body ticking over daily.

The average healthy adult requires around 270–400mg of magnesium per day. But, in addition to reduced consumption of magnesium-rich foods, Australian soils typically have low magnesium levels. That means food grown in Australia typically has a low magnesium concentration and a deficiency is not unusual in the general population.

In fact, magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in adults today, and and increases the risk of such conditions as diabetes, poor absorption, chronic diarrhoea, coeliac disease and ‘hungry bone syndrome’.

Experts have even dubbed it the ‘invisible deficiency’, because it’s so often overlooked, but there are plenty of telltale signs that you could be severely lacking in magnesium.

Here are six of the most common warning signs to look out for:

1. Muscle cramps
Ever lie in bed at night and get painful cramps in your feet or legs? Remember, cramps are very common, especially if you’re cold, but they can also be due to a lack of magnesium.

Magnesium is an important tool for muscle relaxation, so when your body is depleted, your muscles can involuntarily contract. Twitches, tremors and cramps are all signs that you’re not getting enough and, in some severe cases, deficiency may even cause seizures or convulsions. If you’re experiencing muscle contractions more often than usual, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor to see whether you might need to have your magnesium levels tested.

2. Chocolate cravings
If you’re constantly hankering for a chocolate fix, it might not just be due to a sweet tooth. When our bodies crave foods, it’s often because they’re telling us we’re lacking in a certain nutrient, and dark chocolate just so happens to be a brilliant source of magnesium. Just one square contains about 24 per cent of your daily requirement. To reap the benefits, however, skip the sugar-laden milk chocolate and opt for a bar that contains at least 65 per cent cocoa. The darker the chocolate, the better the magnesium benefits.

3. Headaches
About 20 per cent of the population will suffer from migraine at some stage in their lives. Migraine often first appears in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, but affects the greatest number of people between 35 and 45 years of age. Studies have shown that low brain magnesium levels could be related to migraine attacks, as magnesium is needed for proper nerve function. If you regularly suffer from migraine-like headaches, it could be a good idea to invest in a daily magnesium supplement – but speak to your doctor first.

4. Sleep problems
Even a small lack of magnesium can prevent you from nodding off at night, because it plays an important role in your central nervous system. Magnesium can help to relax your muscles, while also stimulating a neurotransmitter in the bodies called GABA, which has a naturally calming effect on the brain. Next time you feel a bout of insomnia coming on, try soaking in a magnesium-rich bath of Epsom salts to reap the full relaxation benefits.

5. Anxiety
Mental health issues affect one in five, so it’s difficult to tell whether your anxiety is linked to a lack of magnesium. However, getting more in your diet could help ease the symptoms. A study in France of 264 patients with generalised anxiety disorder found that a statistically significant number of men and women reported improvements in their symptoms when on a magnesium regimen. While magnesium won’t cure your anxiety overnight, making sure you get enough in your diet will help ensure that the 300 processes it affects are running correctly – which is sure to help you feel more relaxed in the long run.

6. Fatigue or muscle weakness
Fatigue, a condition characterised by physical or mental exhaustion or weakness, is another symptom of magnesium deficiency. Since fatigue is a non-specific symptom, it’s hard to identify the exact cause unless it is accompanied by other symptoms. Keep in mind, almost everyone will experience fatigue at some point; it typically means you have overdone it and need to rest. However, persistent fatigue may be a sign of a health problem, especially if it is paired with muscles weakness, or myasthenia.

How do you ensure you are getting enough magnesium? Do you take a supplement? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Also read: Health tests are booming online but can you trust them?

– With PA

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writershttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.


  1. I have always been suspicious of those magnesium tablets which are made from fillers, binders and crushed rocks. Not even plants grow well with simple chemicals such as mgnesium citrate, magnesium oxide and the other compounds in so-called supplements.

    In fact, Mg-citrate is given to patients about to undergo an endoscope examination as it is highly laxative and cleans out the gut so that the camera can get a ‘clean view’.

    We evolved eating whole foods and those from plants have minerals that are activated by soil micro-organisms so when we digest organic plant foods, the magnesium comes in a form for maximum use and uptake for us (bioavailability). The Mg in tablet supplements is less than 20% absorbed and the very high calcium consumption in modern diets (we over-dose on calcium) increases the excretion and reduces the absorption of magnesium.

    Another clue of Mg deficiency, particularly in post-menopausal women, is osteopenia or loss of bone density. Without Mg, calcium cannot get into bones nor can it be assimilated into the bone protein (collagen) matrix for strength. Mg-activates vitamin D which brings calcium into the bones and teeth but little else. It then needs more Mg to act as a co-factor to vitamin K2 and provide ATP (our energy currency) to fuel the biochemical reactions that lace calcium magnesium phosphate into the collagen matrix.

    Incidentally, few nutritionists or doctors seem to appreciate the role Mg plays in the transport of ATP from where it is made in our cells’ mitochondria, out into the cell fluid (the cytoplasm), through this cellular soup and across the cell wall before being transported through the tissues or in the blood to wherever energy from ATP is needed.

    Whole, organically-grown food sources of magnesium are a good idea and if a supplement is needed, choose a whole food preparation such as Karuah Active Magnesium. This seems to be the only whole food magnesium preparation available. It even includes freeze-dried mushrooms which have been exposed to the appropriate wavelength of light to enrich the mushroom with vitamin D2 – that’s natural D, not the chemical D3 supplements from Big Pharma.

    It gets rave reviews from me and many others who rely on it to ‘feed’ the 800 biochemical reactions which rely on active magnesium.

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