8 Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

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5 September 2023

8 Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is an important electrolyte that is involved in a huge range of essential functions within the human body. It plays crucial roles in muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, bone development, the regulation of blood glucose, and the control of blood pressure, to name a few.

From excessive sweating to high stress levels to interaction with certain drugs, several factors can affect magnesium absorption and elimination. Excess coffee, alcohol, soda, or salt consumption can also harm magnesium levels in the body. The multifaceted pathology of magnesium deficiency means that it can present many different signs and symptoms.

Magnesium deficiency is often overlooked or under diagnosed as a result of the common testing method used. A standard serum blood test for magnesium may indicate that your magnesium levels are in the normal range. However, this does not necessarily mean your overall magnesium levels are at an optimal level for health and wellbeing. As a result, you could be feeling far from "normal."

A deficiency of magnesium in your blood won't show up until your levels are really low. Also known as hypomagnesemia, low levels of serum magnesium are not necessarily an accurate reflection of magnesium stores in the body. The following signs and symptoms can offer additional indications of magnesium deficiency.

1. Fatigue

One of the common, early signs of magnesium deficiency is fatigue or sleepiness. However, it is important to recognize that fatigue is a very general symptom, that could be indicative of almost any health concern.

First take a look at some of the foundational pillars of wellness including quality sleep, rest and rejuvenation, stress levels, hydration, physical activity levels, and quality nutrition. If you are taking care in each area yet you're experiencing persistent fatigue, consider exploring more specific causes, such as magnesium deficiency.

[Find out more about important foundations for wellness in articles such as "6 Common Sleep Myths That You Should Stop Believing" and "Understanding The Impact of Chronic Workplace Stress"].

2. Muscle weakness

Fatigue and muscle weakness often go hand-in-hand. Since magnesium plays an essential role in muscle function, sub-optimal levels are likely to cause muscles to feel weak. Muscle weakness that is is caused by a magnesium deficiency could be a result of potassium loss in the muscle cells.

3. Nausea, loss of appetite, or vomiting

In the early stages of magnesium deficiency, loss of appetite and nausea are also common symptoms. Vomiting could also occur. Again, these are general potential signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Acute cases of nausea or vomiting could simply mean you have eaten something that your body didn't agree with. However, when signs and symptoms like these occur on more of a long-term basis and present alongside other signs and symptoms it can start to form a picture of what the underlying problem could be.

4. Muscle cramps and twitches

Adequate magnesium levels are essential for optimal muscle function, especially muscle contraction and relaxation. Muscle twitches, cramps, stiffness, and tremors are all signs of possible magnesium deficiency. At the severe end of the spectrum, a magnesium deficiency could cause a seizure or convulsion.

Since regular, strenuous exercise can pose an increased risk for magnesium deficiency, there has been a heightened awareness and interest in magnesium supplementation in the fitness community over recent years. Muscle performance has been positively associated with serum magnesium levels in athletes and the elderly population. Studies have also shown that magnesium deficiency can negatively impact neuromuscular function, thereby highlighting the possible association between magnesium and muscle cramps.

5. Frequent headaches or migraines

Although there could be several causes of frequently occurring headaches or migraines, a magnesium deficiency is one potential underlying reason. Magnesium deficiency may increase susceptibility to headaches and migraines as a result of several factors, including the alteration of neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction.

6. High blood pressure

High blood pressure could be an indication of a magnesium deficiency. Nutritional magnesium has been shown to have both direct and indirect impacts on blood pressure regulation and therefore the incidence of hypertension.

High blood pressure occurs as a result of an imbalance between sodium and potassium levels in the body. A magnesium deficiency can produce a pseudo-potassium deficit, which can indirectly increase blood pressure. A magnesium deficiency will also impair the function of calcium, and the subsequent vasoconstrictive effects can lead to high blood pressure. The maintenance of healthy blood pressure levels requires an adequate intake of nutritional magnesium on a long-term basis.

7. Osteoporosis

You probably already know that some vitamins (for example, vitamin D) are crucial for optimal bone health. Magnesium is also vitally important. Low levels of magnesium can cause your bones to weaken over time.

Magnesium deficiency can be a contributing factor in osteoporosis, both directly and indirectly. Studies have shown magnesium deficiency to be present in 84% of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. [Note that an excess of magnesium in the body can also be detrimental to bone health].

8. Heart arrhythmia and other cardiovascular problems

One of the most serious potential symptoms of magnesium deficiency is heart arrhythmia. This is also known as an irregular heartbeat. Several other cardiovascular manifestations are related to magnesium deficiencies. These include electrocardiogram changes, atrial fibrillation, and cardiac ischemia. Low serum magnesium levels have been found in patients with ventricular arrhythmias, with magnesium supplementation being a viable treatment option.

Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency: In conclusion

It's important to recognize that the signs and symptoms listed above could be an indication of a number of potential deficiencies or health concerns. For example, fatigue can be linked to numerous health conditions including burnout. Tiredness and weakness have also been linked to vitamin B12 deficiency. Iron deficiency also commonly presents with symptoms of fatigue and weakness, as well as headaches. Similarly, symptoms of fatigue, muscle weakness, pain, and cramps can be indicative of a vitamin D deficiency.

A standard blood test for magnesium deficiency will detect extremely low levels of magnesium in the body. It is also worth discussing alternative testing methods with your doctor or health practitioner if you suspect low levels of magnesium that are not being identified in a blood test.