The shift towards the modern Western diet has caused an increase in cases of magnesium deficiency. Most people only meet about 50% of the US Recommended Dietary Allowance of magnesium (410-420 mg/day for men and 310-320 mg/day for women). This can lead to a variety of magnesium deficiency symptoms and, in severe cases, contribute to chronic disease.
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What causes magnesium deficiency?
Aside from low intake of magnesium, there are other factors that can contribute to magnesium deficiency by affecting excretion and absorption of this mineral, such as the following:
- Excessive consumption of coffee, fats, and alcohol
- Rapid or prolonged periods of weight loss
- Too much calcium, either through diet or through excessive supplementation 
- Medications, such as diuretics and laxatives 
Magnesium deficiency symptoms
Magnesium is necessary for many cellular processes, and it is especially important in organs that require a lot of energy, like the brain, heart, and muscle. Deficiency can cause symptoms such as:
- Impaired concentration and attention
- Muscle cramps
- Trembling and tingling in the hands
- Mental and physical hyperactivity
- Irregular heartbeat
- Headaches 
Role of magnesium depletion in disease
Magnesium deficiency can also play a role in chronic disease. Deficiency can cause inflammation, which can contribute to many health conditions. Magnesium deficiency is associated with diabetes, thyroid and parathyroid diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, ADHD, and cardiovascular problems (such as hypertension, myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, angina, and abnormal lipid levels).[1,2,3]
Magnesium may even play a role in cancer. Low magnesium has inflammatory effects, and magnesium has protective role in DNA synthesis and repair. This combination makes magnesium deficiency a possibly carcinogenic condition.
Increasing your magnesium intake
There are many foods that are naturally rich in magnesium, and eating more of these foods can help to increase your consumption of this vital nutrient. In fact, magnesium is generally better absorbed as a component in food than as an oral supplement. Cocoa, nuts, whole seeds, legumes, and some grains are good sources of magnesium. Green, leafy vegetables are the best option, as the green parts of plants are particularly rich in magnesium. However, you don’t absorb all the magnesium you ingest, so it can be difficult to eat enough to reach the recommended daily allowance.
For most people, supplementation with about 300 mg of magnesium daily can help. Diarrhea and loose stools can be a problem for some with supplementation. If this occurs, lower the dose and increase it slowly.
The calcium-magnesium connection
Keep in mind that magnesium metabolism is related to calcium intake. If you are deficient in calcium and wish to take a calcium supplement, it should be taken with magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can interfere with the body’s ability to use and store calcium. However it is also important to not take too much calcium; magnesium is not absorbed well if there is too much calcium. A good rule of thumb is ingesting twice as much calcium as magnesium.
Share your experience
Do you have any magnesium deficiency symptoms? Do you take a magnesium supplement, or do you eat magnesium-rich foods to increase your levels? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.