What Does Magnesium Deficiency Look Like?

Can you name any of the more than 400 metabolic processes that depend on magnesium?

Considering that more than half of the U.S. population isn’t getting enough magnesium through their diets, we can infer that people simply don’t know how important it is…

Which means they can’t possibly know how many functions hinge on it, and what they are.

If its 400+ uses seem confusing, wait until you find out it comes in seven different forms. 

Let’s get clear on some critical points. Magnesium bio:

  • It’s a mineral
  • It’s found in the wild
  • It’s also a chemical element
  • It’s also an electrolyte
  • Critical magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesia) is rare, but getting less magnesium than you need is incredibly common.

heartbeat steady, regulating our blood pressure, and building and maintaining strong bones. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to pay more attention to this tiny-but-mighty mineral, magnesium is also required for proper muscle and nerve function, energy production, DNA replication, and RNA synthesis.

And some of its many, many functions include:

  • Keeping potassium and calcium levels stable
  • Maintaining a steady heartbeat
  • Regulating blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Building strong bones
  • Sustaining muscle and nerve function
  • Producing energy
  • Replicating DNA
  • Synthesizing RNA and proteins
  • And much more. 

We’re meant to be ingesting between 300 and 400 mg of magnesium every day. 

How confident are you that you’re meeting that metric?

Just like with exhaustion and adrenal fatigue, it’s tough to diagnose low magnesium unless you’re looking for it specifically. 

Its symptoms are insidious and varied – the kind you’d only recognize if they came in pairs. And to help sharpen your detective work, there are a few underlying conditions that increase your predilection for not getting enough magnesium.

Let’s take a look at some…

Setting the Stage for Low Magnesium

When we think about immunity, we think about creating conditions in our bodies that prepare us to fight disease.

We want to be firing on all cylinders – enough hormetic stress in our routines to give our bodies elasticity and range of motion and enough nutrients from whole foods to keep our cells healthy, our junctions tight, and our intra-organ communication going without a hitch…

The same is true for magnesium – if we haven’t developed and maintained favorable conditions inside our bodies, we leave ourselves wide open. 

For example, digestive disorders can leave you more vulnerable to impaired absorption in the GI tract as well as an inability to keep magnesium within its borders. 

Type 2 diabetes, genetic kidney dysfunction, hungry bone syndrome, refeeding syndrome, and alcoholism also lower the threshold for living low on magnesium.

If you have any of those conditions, pay close attention to your daily experience and see if you notice these symptoms.


This is the craftiest symptom, because it could be related to so many other things.

Since magnesium is required for energy production, its absence may induce a persistent fatigue that rest and a diet of whole foods doesn’t fix. 

Muscle Cramping/Spasming

Ever take an Epsom salt bath after a tough workout? That’s because Epsom salts are full of magnesium sulfate. 

Once you reintroduce magnesium to your system, it begins to help your muscles relax and regulate contractions so that they don’t spasm. (Low calcium, a side effect of low magnesium, also causes spasming.)

Muscle Weakness

Myasthenia, or muscle weakness, is a frequent sign of low magnesium levels. Low magnesium often causes low potassium, which drains power from the muscles and leaves them feeling heavy and weak. 

Loss of Appetite

Although this can also be associated with myriad diagnoses, it’s often one of the warning signs of low magnesium. Nausea and vomiting can even occur at this stage. 


Because of the fatigue and weakness, apathy can be seen to accompany symptoms of low magnesium.

Uncharacteristic depression is a conjunctive warning sign of low magnesium. 

Irregular Heartbeat

Heart arrhythmia is a very common result of low magnesium, and when left to its own devices, can lead to heart palpitations as well – pauses between heartbeats.

Shortness of breath and lightheadedness often follow. 

So how do we test for low magnesium?

Testing the blood doesn’t tell you everything – magnesium is stored in the bones and soft tissues as well – but if you run a full panel, and find that your magnesium as well as your potassium or calcium. 

And if you’d rather begin with repairing your dietary intake, rather than taking a supplement, focus on leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, and dark chocolate!

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.