How do you recognize a magnesium deficiency?

What role does magnesium play in my persistent symptoms ?

Why is recognizing magnesium deficiency important?

We cannot stress enough the importance of recognizing a magnesium deficiency in time. Especially since our body is unable to produce the mineral itself, our diet contains less magnesium, and our body’s ability to absorb it decreases with age. Fortunately, our bodies give clear signals when they are deficient in this essential mineral.

How do you recognize magnesium deficiency?

You notice the first signs of deficiency by fatigue and muscle cramping. When these flare up, it is wise to look at your diet in the first place.

If dietary modification alone does not help, it is worth considering supplementing the deficiency with a magnesium supplement. Our BodySwitch doctors and therapists, with their insights and knowledge from orthomolecular medicine*, are experts par excellence in this field.

* Orthomolecular medicine studies nutrition combined with molecular biology and biochemistry.

What is magnesium anyway?

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is important for normal muscle function, transmission of nerve impulses, formation of bones and teeth, and energy production, among other things. Because magnesium is involved in 300 biochemical processes in the body, magnesium deficiency (also known as hypomagnesemia) can bring with it many symptoms.

We get magnesium from our diet. It is found in bread, (whole grain) cereal and dairy products, vegetables, nuts and meat. In a normal, balanced and fresh diet, deficiency is rare. Normal adult reference values are between 0.7 and 1.0 mmol/liter in the blood. If there is not enough magnesium in your diet, if you exercise a lot or are pregnant, the risk of magnesium deficiency increases.

Magnesium supports building muscle mass. The mineral stimulates protein biosynthesis – a process that enables muscle building. British researcher found that volunteers who took magnesium supplements for a year after exercise were able to build more muscle mass. Magnesium also helps lose fat. This is because it stimulates the action of fat-degrading proteins. It is therefore recommended to take magnesium after exercise.

Young Couple Exercising Outdoors, in Park

According to the German Federal Center for Nutrition, one in five people in European countries takes only 30 percent of the recommended daily dose of magnesium. Among adolescents and young adults, the percentage is even higher.

Conservative estimates suggest that 10 to 20 percent of the world’s population is deficient in this essential mineral.

Did you know that our earth’s crust is about 2% magnesium? Seawater also contains very high levels of magnesium. At the beginning of evolution, all life began in the sea – science believes this is the reason that in living organisms, almost all functions depend on magnesium [1].

What effect does magnesium have on the body?

Magnesium is stored in the body primarily in the bones (about 60 percent of the total). Muscles contain 25 to 30 percent.

The mineral’s benefits include our cell and muscle functions, enzyme activity, nervous system and mood regulation.

Because without magnesium, the body cannot produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP acts as (the main) transporter of energy by which all conversion processes (metabolism) take place in the body. With the help of magnesium, muscles can tighten or relax. Magnesium also plays an essential role along with calcium in the formation of bones and teeth. The most important role of magnesium is in the heart: the mineral ensures a regular heartbeat.

Magnesium additionally affects the regulation of our mood through a variety of neurotransmission pathways so a deficiency can contribute to feelings of depression.

Who have a greater need for magnesium?

Athletes, pregnant and lactating women, people with chronic diseases and the elderly have a greater need for magnesium. Excessive consumption of alcohol or nicotine also leads to an increased need for magnesium.

What does a magnesium deficiency do?

Depending on our body weight, we need an average of 350 mg of magnesium in a day. Unfortunately, partly because of depleted soils due to intensive agriculture, it has become more difficult to meet our needs with food alone. A bad development, especially since our bodies are unable to make the mineral themselves and the absorption capacity gradually decreases as the years progress. A magnesium deficiency – especially in the elderly – is therefore easily lurking.

Magnesium deficiency causes

A magnesium deficiency can occur as follows:

  • The diet is insufficiently balanced
  • Insufficient intake due to intestinal disorders
  • Increased demand during pregnancy and lactation, after menopause and by athletes (excessive sweating)
  • Diabetes or chronic diseases of the intestines or kidneys
  • Loss of magnesium through the intestines, e.g. with prolonged diarrhea
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to loss of magnesium along the kidneys
  • Medication use such as antacids, the birth control pill and antibiotics
  • Substantial burns

What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?

If you don’t get enough magnesium, you won’t notice this for the first few weeks. This is because your body has a supply of magnesium, mainly in your bones. If magnesium is lacking in the diet for an extended period of time, all sorts of signs may appear that indicate deficiency.

The first signs of magnesium deficiency

The first signs of deficiency are noticed by fatigue and cramping of muscles (often a twitching eyelid or cramping of the calves are the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency). But if the body is not getting enough magnesium, it can also express it in other ways:

  • Tingling or numb feeling
  • Tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness or cramps
  • Fatigue and/or insomnia
  • Sense of malaise
  • Regular headaches and migraines
  • Increased irritability
  • Restlessness, difficulty concentrating, depressed moods

In the long run, continued deficiency can lead to calcification of veins or kidneys, cardiac arrhythmias and chest pain.

This is due to magnesium’s influence on energy-producing metabolism (metabolism) and the so-called electrolyte balance. This balance ensures proper action of minerals (electrolytes) on body functions such as heart, muscles and blood.

In addition, stress plays a (double) role in inadequate magnesium levels. Thus, deficiency increases feelings of stress and stress, in turn, increases the need for the mineral.

We explain the most common symptoms:

Fatigue and magnesium deficiency

As described earlier, magnesium is involved in processes related to energy metabolism. This is also why fatigue is one of the first signs of deficiency.

Stress intensifies magnesium deficiency

Along with fatigue, stress is a sign of inadequate magnesium levels. Researchers have also described the relationship between magnesium and stress as a vicious cycle. In fact, your magnesium needs increase when you experience feelings of stress, while a magnesium deficiency also makes you more susceptible to stress.

Muscle cramp caused by magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency causes electrolyte imbalance (due to interaction with other electrolytes). This causes potassium levels to drop, while sodium and calcium levels rise.

As we read above, this balance is important because electrolytes help muscles transmit nerve signals. The signals cause the muscles to contract (resulting in the painful cramp).

Depressed feelings and magnesium deficiency

Magnesium affects several neurotransmission pathways associated with depression.

Headaches and migraines due to magnesium deficiency

Magnesium contributes to brain metabolism. Research has shown that adequate levels of magnesium significantly reduce the risk of headaches.

Difficulty concentrating

Magnesium is known as an anti-stress mineral. Your body consumes a lot of magnesium in times of stress, so a deficiency occurs quickly. This can increase the release of adrenaline which can affect thinking and concentration.


Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep and restorative sleep. In fact, the mineral ensures healthy GABA levels, the neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Research has also shown that magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality, especially in people who sleep poorly. In addition, the mineral can help with insomnia(insomnia) associated with restless legs.

Sleeping better through healthy eating

Vitamin D and magnesium deficiency

Did you know this? Vitamin D and magnesium deficiency are the most common nutritional deficiencies in developed countries, and they also affect each other. Vitamin D deficiency interferes with magnesium absorption, and magnesium deficiency can in turn result in vitamin D deficiency.

Magnesium and potassium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency often goes hand in hand with a deficiency of another mineral: potassium. Like magnesium, potassium is important for our bodies. Among other things, potassium is important for blood pressure and the transmission of nerve impulses.

Magnesium and calcium deficiency

Calcium is important for our organ systems and bones, where most of the mineral is stored. Prolonged and insufficient calcium intake can lead to weak bones and increased risk of bone fractures. In this respect, calcium and magnesium are closely related. For example, calcium, along with over half of the magnesium supply, is found in our bones. Magnesium and calcium deficiency can manifest itself in various symptoms such as muscle cramping, brittle nails and hair, irregular heartbeat and bone injuries.

How can you supplement a magnesium deficiency?

With increased requirements, it is important to initially take a critical look at your diet. For example, are you eating enough leafy vegetables? Spinach and kale, for example, in addition to magnesium, also contain the essential nutrients iron, manganese, vitamins A, C and K.

Dark chocolate is also a magnesium bomb. Thus, a 28-gram serving contains as much as 64 mg of the mineral. In addition, cocoa is packed with prebiotic fiber. Would you prefer something healthier? Avocados contain an average of 58 mg of magnesium in addition to potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K.

In addition to these leafy vegetables and delicacies, a diet generous in nuts, seeds and kernels, legumes, bananas and oily fish will also go a long way toward serving your magnesium cravings.

The deficiency can also be made up through a magnesium supplement. Nowadays, there is a wide range when it comes to magnesium supplementation. If you are looking to add to your diet, it is wise to choose an organically bound form. This is because this form is easily absorbed by our bodies.

What form of magnesium supplementation?

We distinguish magnesium in the organic and inorganic forms. Inorganic magnesium is less well absorbed by the body, such as magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride. In contrast, organic forms such as magnesium citrate, magnesium taurate and magnesium bisglycinate have high bioavailability. Even within these organic variants, we still make distinctions. Thus, the last two in the list of organic forms are so-called magnesium chelates. This means they are bound to amino acids, which makes this even more useful to the body. Also, this binding reduces gastrointestinal discomfort.

Magnesium deficiency can lead to a variety of symptoms. It is important to choose the most appropriate form of magnesium for each situation. Generally speaking, a cheaper magnesium against cramp, for example, is much less effective because it is inorganic magnesium. Thus, a private label is subordinate in this to an orthomolecular nutritional supplement brand, for example.

Want to know which magnesium form is best for your persistent symptoms? Or do you have questions about nutrition or proper supplementation?

Our BodySwitch doctors and therapists, with their insights and knowledge of orthomolecular medicine*, are experts par excellence in this field and can provide independent, expert advice on nutrition, supplements and lifestyle.

* Orthomolecular medicine studies nutrition combined with molecular biology and biochemistry.


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