8 magnesium deficiency symptoms (and 9 high magnesium foods)

A person pouring almonds into their hand

Magnesium is being touted as a miracle supplement.

If you do a quick search online, you will see it has been said to lower stress, help with sleep, lose weight, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, treat depression and anxiety, strengthen bones and increase testosterone levels.

So does it deserve all of this attention? And should you be taking a magnesium supplement?

Role of magnesium in your body

Magnesium is an essential mineral in our diet. It is found in every cell in your body. It plays a critical role in hundreds of biochemical reactions that support many body functions, like protein creation, muscle and nerve function, converting food into energy and metabolism.

Magnesium helps your body in many ways, including:

  • Working with calcium to strengthen your bones
  • Playing a role in brain function, which regulates mood and depression
  • Decreasing the incidence of migraines
  • Increasing your body’s efficiency in breaking down sugars, resulting in better weight management
  • Balancing hormones that regulate circadian rhythm and the ability to sleep better
  • Improving digestion
  • Increasing skin hydration and improving the appearance of your skin and more
How to get enough magnesium in your diet

Healthy individuals should be able to get enough magnesium from their diet and shouldn’t require a magnesium supplement. 

Eating the following foods will likely provide you with the recommended daily allowance of magnesium:

  1. Nuts
  2. Seeds
  3. Whole grains
  4. Green leafy vegetables
  5. Avocados
  6. Milk
  7. Yogurt
  8. Beans
  9. Lentils

For example, just one ounce of almonds or cashews will give you 20% of the recommended daily allowance. Taking a multivitamin will provide you with about 120 mg of magnesium, which can help make up for any deficiency. 

Schedule a nutrition counseling appointment with the University Health Center registered dietitian for tips on boosting your magnesium or other vitamin levels through food. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment. Student fees cover the first nutrition counseling visit, and return visits can be billed to private insurance.

Signs of low magnesium

Low magnesium usually does not cause symptoms until your levels drop dramatically. Chronically low levels can increase your risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Very low magnesium levels may cause: 

  1. Nausea
  2. Constipation
  3. Headaches
  4. Nighttime leg cramps
  5. Numbness or tingling in the legs or hands
  6. General body weakness
  7. Tremors
  8. Heart palpitations

If you are concerned that your magnesium levels may be low, it is important to talk to your doctor. 

Should I take a magnesium supplement?

While low-dose supplements will probably not hurt you, getting too much magnesium from supplements can lead to toxicity. Excessive supplemental magnesium can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, flushing of the face and lethargy. Magnesium supplements can also interact negatively with some antibiotics and medications like diuretics and heart medications.

Your magnesium level is not typically included in a standard blood draw. If you want your magnesium level checked, your doctor will need to request an additional test to check your levels.

Who needs to take a magnesium supplement?

Individuals who may need a supplement include those with:

  • Documented magnesium deficiency
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Having had bariatric surgery
  • Taking acid-reducing medications such as proton-pump inhibitors

If you focus on eating a well-balanced diet, you should get the magnesium your body needs. Remember, if you decide to take a magnesium supplement, this will not guarantee any of the health benefits listed above.

If you would like to talk to a doctor about your magnesium levels or other vitamin deficiencies, call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment at the University Health Center.