22 Low Magnesium Symptoms: Do You Suffer from Muscle Spasms, Dizziness, Insomnia…?

Think of magnesium as the great “relaxation” mineral, because it soothes and calms so many body functions.

low magnesium symptoms

Magnesium is necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from helping with muscle relaxation and nerve conduction to steadying your heart rhythm, supporting your immune system, and keeping your bones strong.

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Are you dealing with one or more low magnesium symptoms, headaches, for example, or leg cramps, or insomnia? This key mineral is necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from steadying your heart rhythm to supporting your immune system and keeping your bones strong to helping with nerve conduction and muscle relaxation.

In fact, think of magnesium as “the great relaxation mineral.” The benefits of magnesium includes calming and relaxing so many body functions—not only your heart rhythm and muscles, but your blood vessels, your eye twitch, your restless legs, and more. You also need magnesium for blood sugar management, healthy blood pressure, protein synthesis, and even for normal energy-yielding metabolism. Furthermore, the European Food Safety Authority has issued a statement reporting that magnesium helps reduce tiredness and fatigue.[1]

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Low Magnesium Symptoms

Considering all of these magnesium benefits—and the consequences when you don’t have enough—it pays to determine whether you’re in that 50 percent group with a magnesium deficiency. So, do you have any of the following symptoms of magnesium deficiency?

  1. Fatigue
  2. Decreased tolerance for exercise
  3. Muscle weakness
  4. Muscle tension, pain, cramps, spasms, or twitches
  5. Nighttime leg cramps
  6. Asthma
  7. PMS
  8. Menstrual cramps
  9. Headaches and migraines
  10. Fibromyalgia
  11. Insomnia
  12. Restless legs syndrome
  13. Irritability
  14. Nervousness
  15. Dizziness
  16. Depression
  17. High blood pressure
  18. Chronic bacterial or fungal infections
  19. High C-reactive protein levels (a marker of chronic inflammation)
  20. Osteoporosis
  21. Heart arrhythmias
  22. Chest pain (angina)

Conditions Related to Insufficient Magnesium

Certain specific medical conditions are associated with low magnesium stores in your body. For instance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, colon cancer, congestive heart failure, multiples sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome have all been correlated with low magnesium levels.

What causes magnesium deficiency? A large proportion of the U.S. population is estimated to have “substantial dietary magnesium deficits,” meaning we are not consuming enough magnesium in our diets to meet our body’s needs. In fact, almost half the U.S. population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium from food.[5]

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium in adult males is 420 mg/day; however, the average intake is only 323 mg/day. In adult females, the RDA is 320 mg/day; however, the mean intake is only 228 mg/day. On average, women ingest only 68 percent of the RDA.[2] And many integrative physicians will tell you the RDA is often woefully inadequate for optimal function.

These factors also contribute to magnesium deficiency symptoms:

  • Low intakes of selenium and vitamins B6 and D, which are needed to absorb magnesium.
  • Excess fat in the diet, which hinders magnesium absorption.
  • Excess alcohol, salt, phosphoric acid (sodas), and coffee intake.
  • Aging. Absorption tends to decrease with age and urinary magnesium excretion tends to increase with age.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Intense, prolonged stress.
  • Diuretics and other drugs, especially acid blockers (proton pump inhibitors).

Blood Tests Fail to Detect Symptoms of Low Magnesium

If you think you may be suffering from low magnesium levels and want verification from a lab test, don’t depend on a blood test to give you reliable answers. Only 1 percent of your body’s total body magnesium is in your blood, so the traditional blood test to detect magnesium deficiency—known as the “serum magnesium concentration”—often fails to detect magnesium deficiency.

The fact is that your body will pull magnesium out of your bones and other tissues to maintain narrow blood levels. So even though your serum magnesium concentration may be in the normal range, magnesium experts believe a more subtle, chronic deficiency exists in a large number of people and that deficiency can be contributing to many associated health challenges.[3]

Magnesium Intake: What’s Normal?

Top magnesium researchers believe that the “normal” reference ranges for magnesium blood levels are flawed because of the fact that so many people are chronically in a state of subtle low magnesium balance, mainly because of inadequate intake from their diet.[3]

Dr. Ronald Elin, a magnesium researcher from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky who specializes in these chronic, subtle magnesium deficiencies, believes “it is relatively common to have a serum magnesium concentration within the reference interval, but yet a total-body magnesium deficit.”[4]

How to Treat Low Magnesium

Because of the inability of standard blood tests to detect low magnesium levels, and because magnesium supplementation is safe and inexpensive, a therapeutic trial of magnesium supplements for a month or two is entirely reasonable for anyone with suspected magnesium deficiency.

Your first treatment step, however, is to increase your magnesium intake through magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes.

In addition, take in magnesium tablets of at least 400 mg per day in divided doses. Chelates (magnesium bonded together with amino acids) generally allow for greater absorption. These include magnesium citrate, glycinate, malate, and aspartate.

Get started now on enriching your diet with magnesium rich foods and with your therapeutic supplement trial and experience the difference in how you feel with optimal magnesium levels.

[1] EFSA Journal 2010;8(10):1807.
[2] Am Coll Nut. 2009 Apr;28 (2):131-141.
[3] Magnes Res. 2010 Dec;23(4):S194-8.
[4] Magnes Res. 2011 Dec;24(4):225-7.
[5] Nutr Rev. 2012 Mar;70(3):153-64.

Originally published in 2013, this post is regularly updated. 

  • I only have leg and foot cramps at night .If my Magnesium is low wouldn’t that be all the time?

  • Your article was very interesting and informative thank you.

  • Terry R.

    Last year, I came down with Polymyalgia rheumatica. This was a very painful experience – it started in my left shoulder, and I was initially diagnosed with possible Bursitis – they gave me a shot in the shoulder (which seemed to have no effect), and sent me to physical therapy, where they told me I was close to having a “frozen shoulder”. They immediately put me on a therapy course, which did help (it was very difficult at first, but I very religiously stuck to the course, and made progress). After a couple of weeks, the pain also started in my right shoulder, and in the back of my legs. At this point, it was obvious that it couldn’t be Bursitis, and a physician diagnosed it as Polymyalgia, and he prescribed steroids for the pain. After reading and hearing about the side effects of steroids, I decided to rely strictly on Ibuprofen and physical therapy. After a few weeks, things were improving somewhat and the pain was tolerable. Then, a friend of mine whose son is a physician’s assistant, suggested a magnesium supplement. I started taking a magnesium/calcium/zinc supplement, and within a few days saw a huge improvement. I am now completely back to normal and can use my shoulders just as before. I am a huge believer now. I recalled that just before my initial experience, I had been out mountain biking and had been sweating profusely (I sweat a lot anyway). I now think that I depleted my minerals to a “tipping point” that caused the problem. I now take care to drink plenty of water with electrolytes in it. Thanks for the very informative article!

  • Cathrine R.

    I have a lot of symptoms of magnesium deficiency however when I changed my calcium supplement to one that included magnesium, I got diarrhea more often than usual. Is this normal? I’ve suffered from ibs for years and in the past 3 months have had acute diverticulitis 3 times and have been scheduled for surgery of my sigmoid colon next month. I’ve also suffered from anorexia and bulimia for 35 years on and off. Since I have to be careful at least right now about maintaining a low fiber diet (with very few vegetables) and have been advised to drink 3 high protein Ensure/Boost drinks to build muscle weight, to handle the surgery, what do you recommend for post op surgery diet to improve my nutrition and stabilize my ibs? I am under several doctors and a dietician’s cate but am curious about additional information. I’m 51, 5’2” & up to 105 lbs now. I was 115 lbs in August and had dropped to 100 lbs by the end of September due to abdominal pain.

  • can supplement with dr teals Epsom salts and oils. 3 , 20 min. soaks a week and oil daily. body absorbs what it needs. I also take 1/8 building up to 1/4teaspoon Natures calm daily. a powdered mag supplement

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