Magnesium Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
5 Minute Read

Magnesium Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

HealthyStripe's Editorial Team
1 October 2022

Magnesium is the fourth most important nutrient that plays a significant role in maintaining normal body function at cellular and organ levels. Nowadays, everyone is experiencing a deficiency of selected nutrients, and magnesium is one of them.

Your enzyme factory can not work properly when you are magnesium deficient. Hypomagnesemia, or a low magnesium level in the blood, has become a common clinical problem in healthcare settings. 

According to a study, it is estimated that magnesium deficiency is prevalent in about 15-20% of the population in developed countries. It occurs in 84% of women after menopause. The normal level of magnesium in your body is 0.85-1.10 mmol/L. Low magnesium level occurs when the magnesium level in your body falls below 0.80 mmol/L.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency:

Magnesium deficiency is linked with numerous causes like too little intake, problems in the gastrointestinal tract, and kidney problems. Sometimes, taking medication for other illnesses can cause magnesium deficiency. Normal physiological mechanisms like pregnancy, breastfeeding, and aging can also lead to magnesium deficiency. 

Too little intake:

Too little magnesium intake can be due to starvation, poverty, critical illnesses, and processed foods that contain less magnesium.

Gastrointestinal Causes:

The malabsorption syndrome (a syndrome in which the small intestine can not absorb nutrients effectively) leads to poor magnesium absorption from the gut. 

Other problems like stomach surgery, inflammatory diseases of the small intestine, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), acute and chronic diarrhea, and small intestine bypass surgery can also cause magnesium deficiency. 

Renal causes:

Increased renal loss due to the following diseases can cause low magnesium levels in the body: 

  • Diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar levels)
  • Alcohol intake 
  • Kidney problems 

Medicine-induced hypomagnesemia :

Some medicines cause magnesium deficiency in your body. These medicines include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Antacids 
  • Diuretics (thiazide, furosemide, bumetanide)
  •  Antibiotics (amoxicillin)
  • Antihistamines
  • Antiepileptics drugs
  • Digoxin
  • Laxatives 
  • Chemotherapeutic drugs(Cisplatin)

Other possible causes:

  • Aging 
  • Gender 
  • Excessive Sweating 
  • Pregnancy (due to an increased requirement of nutrients)
  • Breastfeeding

Read Also: Magnesium For Leg Cramps: What You Can Eat n Drink 

Warning Signs of Magnesium Deficiency:

Clinical signs of magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) are manifested in different forms. Magnesium is necessary for the maintenance of neuromuscular functions, and it regulates heart rhythm. Moreover, bone health depends on levels of magnesium and calcium in the body. Following problems can occur when you have low magnesium levels in your body: 

Neuromuscular problems:

  • Tremors (shaking movement in any part of the body, especially hands)
  • Weakness 
  • Fasciculations 
  • Difficulty in swallowing

Your doctor checks two main signs while assessing for magnesium deficiency.

  • Passive chvostekʼs sign (facial twitching when the facial nerve is tapped)
  • Trousseau’s sign (spasm of hand and forearm by applying pressure over brachial artery)

Cardiac and chest  problems:

  • Heart problems and ECG abnormality
  • Stroke
  • Vascular  heart disease (due to chronic depletion of magnesium) 
  • Heart failures
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Asthma

Bones problems:

  • Osteoporosis (A disease in which bones become weak and break very easily)

Mental problems:

  • Mental health issues 
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Problems with vision
  • Fits 
  • Irritability
  • Coma (in case of serve deficient) 

Biochemical problems:

Other problems:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
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When to see a doctor? 

Immediately book your appointment with your doctor when you have symptoms like fits, abnormal heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

If you have a chronic disease or have a problem with the absorption of food, regular follow-up is required to ensure proper evaluation and treatment.

Also Check: Does Magnesium Makes You Sleepy?

How Is Magnesium Deficiency Diagnosed?

Your doctor diagnoses magnesium deficiency. If you feel the above-mentioned symptoms of magnesium deficiency, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will ask you for the lab tests, which are:

  • Calcium blood test 
  • Metabolic profile 
  • Urine magnesium test
  • ECG in case of heart diseases

How to treat magnesium deficiency?

Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency are reversible when replaced with magnesium.

Treatment strategies depend on the severity and cause. 

If magnesium deficiency is severe, it is corrected by medical treatment. In case of mild deficiency, dietary modifications are required

Medical treatment:

In the case of acute manifestation 24-48 mEq, magnesium per day is required for 3-5 days. But in the case of chronic deficiency, long-term magnesium administration is required for about 300-600 mg of magnesium per day (orally).

In case of severe magnesium deficiency, intravenous magnesium is administered to overcome the problems.

Dietary modification:

A healthy diet with a healthy magnesium level can overcome the depletion of magnesium levels in your body. There are some animal and plant-based foods that are rich in magnesium. Good sources of magnesium include:

  • Almonds ( 279 mg)
  • Popcorn ( 144 mg)
  • Peanuts ( 176 mg) 
  • Dark chocolates ( 228 mg) 
  • Pumpkin seeds ( 550 mg )

Other sources of magnesium are:

  • Coffee
  • Oats 
  • Cocoa
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Green vegetables
  • Hazelnuts 
  • Whole grains
  • Soy milk
  • Potato 
  • Avocado 
  • Yogurt
  • Spinach 
  • Peanut butter 
  • Rice

Animal-based food :

  • Chicken breast
  • Fishes 
  • Beef 

Tips to avoid hypomagnesemia:

  • Reduce intake of calcium 2 hours before or after eating magnesium-rich food.
  • Avoid zinc supplements
  • Quit smoking 
  • Stop alcohol intake 
  • Eat raw vegetables instead of cooked and processed foods.

Normal dietary magnesium requirement (RDA) or recommended dietary allowance:

RDA of magnesium for adults 19-50 years and onwards is about 400-420 mg/ day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women. During pregnancy, the RDA level is 350-360 mg/day.


Hypomagnesemia is the fourth most abundant cation in our body that regulates intracellular enzymatic activity in our body. The deficiency of magnesium is the most common problem worldwide. It needs to be diagnosed and treated efficiently to avoid serious outcomes. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the disease.

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