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Magnesium Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment


Magnesium deficiency affects at least 68% of us according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Translation? Two out of every three people you meet suffer from magnesium deficiency.

The truly sad thing? Most don’t even know it.

They experience magnesium deficiency symptoms, but blame those symptoms on a myriad of other causes.

Because magnesium deficiency has been tied to innumerable health problems from insomnia to morning sickness to muscle tics, you can’t afford to assume that you belong to the other 32%.

Instead, you should check out these lists of magnesium deficiency symptoms & causes and evaluate just how likely it is that you’re missing out on this essential mineral.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

We’ve documented more than 300 biological functions that require magnesium.


It’s no wonder that magnesium deficiency can affect every system in the body!

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Depression
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety or Poor Reactions to Stressors
  • Muscle Spasms and Cramps
  • Vertigo
  • Trouble Swallowing
  • Heart Arrhythmia
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Arterial Calcification
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramping
  • Morning Sickness
  • Hair Loss
  • Cold Hands & Feet
  • PMS
  • High Blood Pressure

In short, magnesium deficiency is linked to thyroid problems, metabolism problems, heart problems, muscle problems, gastro-intestinal problems, and more!

If you’re magnesium deficient, will you suffer from all these symptoms? No.

But you will suffer from at least one of them.

So consider whether or not you have any of the above symptoms, then consider what causes magnesium deficiency and think on whether or not you’re likely to fit the bill.

Magnesium Deficiency Causes

Depleted soil.

Industrial agriculture depletes soil of nutrients. Rather than fertilizing with rich, vibrant compost, we treat the soil with synthetic fertilizers. In the The Fatal Harvest Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, Jason McKenney writes about the effect synthetic fertilizers have on the soil:

We now know that massive use of synthetic fertilizers to create artificial fertility has had a cascade of adverse effects on natural soil fertility and the entire soil system. Fertilizer application begins the destruction of soil biodiversity by diminishing the role of nitrogen fixing bacteria and amplifying the role of everything that feeds on nitrogen. These feeders then speed up the decomposition of organic matter and humus. As organic matter decreases, the physical structure of soil changes. With less pore space and less of their sponge-like qualities, soils are less efficient at storing water and air. More irrigation is needed. Water leeches through soils, draining away nutrients that no longer have an effective susbstrate on which to cling. With less available oxygen, the growth of soil microbiology slows, and the intricate ecosystem of biological exchanges breaks down.

Magnesium is among the myriad of minerals lost to industrial agriculture practices. If the nutrients aren’t in the soil, they aren’t in our food.

Municipal water supplies.

In 2007, Life Extension Magazine ran a report on magnesium deficiency. In it, they pegged city water supplies as one of the main culprits:

Our human ancestors evolved in a world in which healthy drinking water came directly from streams, rivers, and lakes, rich in mineral content. The human body became reliant on obtaining a considerable proportion of its daily mineral needs from natural water sources.

Fast-forward to the twenty-first century. We obtain drinking water from a spigot or a plastic bottle. Pesticides and other chemicals seeping into the water supply have made everyone suspicious of water quality. As a result, municipal water-purification facilities have intensified their efforts to remove contaminants like lead, pesticide residues, and nitrates from drinking water. Unfortunately, these modern water-treatment methods also deplete drinking water of desirable minerals like calcium and magnesium.


Poor nutrient absorption in the gut.

If you’re gluten-intolerant or know you have other digestive issues like leaky gut, then chances are you’re simply not absorbing enough magnesium from your food and are enduring a magnesium deficiency.

Some common causes of leaky gut include: too many rounds of antibiotics, antacids, antidepressants, too much alcohol consumption, drinking fluoridated water, and even stress.

Too much calcium.

We need calcium to absorb magnesium. Yet’ it’s a delicate balance because the two minerals compete for resources within our body. If you eat too much calcium, you actually hinder your absorption of magnesium.

Studies indicate that taking a calcium supplement without enough magnesium can increase the shortage of both nutrients. Researchers have found that many Americans have five times as much calcium as magnesium in their bodies, although the proper ratio for optimum absorption of both minerals is two to one.


Magnesium Deficiency Treatment

Eat the food!

Prioritize healing your digestion with the same sort of protocol you’d use to restore gut health after a round of antibiotics.

Then make sure you eat magnesium rich foods like:

Apply Magnesium Oil to Your Skin

Magnesium is more easily absorbed transdermally (through your skin) than it is internally. You can buy pre-made magnesium oil online, or you could learn how to make magnesium oil at home. (It’s super easy!)

Take Epsom Salt Baths

Epsom salts aren’t actually salts at all, but magnesium sulfate. They’re named Epsom because they were originally discovered in Epsom, England.

magnesium-deficiency-symptoms-causes-treatment-bookBy taking a nice, relaxing soak in an Epsom salt bath, you can absorb magnesium through your skin and help reverse your magnesium deficiency.

Click here to learn more about the health benefits of epsom salt baths.

Want to learn more?

If you’re like me and would love reading more in-depth information about the complex way magnesium works within your body, I highly recommend you check out The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean.

I heard Dr. Dean speak two years ago, and I walked away a different person.

This thick paperback is packed full of valuable information that will help you understand the machinations of magnesium within your bodily processes and get to the root of your possible magnesium deficiency.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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28 Responses to Magnesium Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment
  1. Peggy
    December 12, 2013 | 12:02 pm

    My family suffers from a variety of magnesium-deficiency ailments. I’ve been feeding them magnesium-rich foods, and those of us with sturdy enough skin use mag oil and take epsom baths. But three of us have such tender skin that even soaking in an epsom salt bath breaks us out in an itchy rash that persists for days and mag oil applied anywhere on the body causes a raised rash. (I don’t discount the possibility that these individuals are the most in need of the magnesium.)

    I know that magnesium is not well absorbed when taken internally, but if that’s the only method I can use to boost their intake, I want to do it! My skin-sensitive family members right now rotate between taking Mag Citrate and Mag Glycinate. I have heard great things about Magnesium Threonate, but only as far as memory research. I don’t know if that form would tend to increase mag levels throughout the body.

    • T Hudson
      December 13, 2013 | 3:58 pm

      Dear Peggy,

      I also needed to find a better internal magnesium supplement. There is currently only one company that makes an oral magnesium liquid. The product is called ReMag. It causes no laxative effect at all, and is free of any flavors or coloring. It does taste bitter, but if it’s taken in cold water right after brushing, followed with some more cold water, there is no aftertaste whatsoever. I hope this helps!

    • Traci
      December 24, 2013 | 6:31 am

      I have been taking this product: and it has helped me a GREAT DEAL. It is tangy but not bad. I highly recommend it!

    • Wandee
      April 27, 2014 | 6:26 am

      I too have issure with sensitive skin. But you might want to try this. Take 1/2 cup of magnesium chloride flakes and desolve in 3 tablespoons of hot water. Then blend this mixture with organic coconut oil or shea butter. (you might need to use a mixer to whip it up). The resulting cream is easier on the skin.

  2. Julie Drigot
    December 12, 2013 | 1:21 pm

    Thanks for an insightful article. Is iodine kind of mixed in with this whole issue too? The reason I ask is because The Iodine Crisis is a book I discovered from Cheeseslave and I’ve just started reading it. So many of the same symptoms that exist as a result of magnesium deficiency are listed as symptoms of an iodine deficiency. I am currently in year 2 of the GAPS diet and I misunderstood the need for Epsom salt baths. I thought its use was recommended in order to draw out toxins rather than absorb magnesium. So anyway thanks again.

    • Kristen
      December 12, 2013 | 2:15 pm

      All the nutrients in our diet are delicately balanced, so the possible iodine connection doesn’t surprise me at all.

      As for Epsom Salt baths, both are right. Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate. The magnesium is a reasonable source of magnesium, and the sulfate activates the sulfate pathways (which are an essential part of detoxing).

  3. Summer
    December 12, 2013 | 5:12 pm

    In my research on Mag deficiency I’ve also found that it’s a major cause of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)! And when you sweat more, you lose more magnesium, so it’s just a vicious circle to get in to.

    I have fibromyalgia and mag has helped it tremendously. Along with exercise and LOTS of stretching I rarely flare anymore.
    My migraines decrease when I’m taking it as well.

    It’s also helping my daughter with her stomach migraines. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

  4. tristan
    December 12, 2013 | 7:11 pm

    Hi, my question for you is how to get toddlers more magnesium? My son is 4 and has SPD, he eats very few things (but he does eat tons of brown rice!) So I feel he is lacking lots of minerals and vitamins! He. Takes fish oil daily and drinks raw milk. I have yet to find a multivitamin he likes. Can I do an epsom bath with him? And the oil??

    • Kristen
      December 12, 2013 | 10:41 pm

      Yes, you can use Epsom Salt baths on toddlers and use a magnesium oil on them, too. You will know if you are exposing him to to much magnesium by his poop. If it is too loose a stool, you can cut back on the number of Epsom Salt baths you give him.

    • Phoenix
      September 12, 2014 | 5:37 pm

      Tristan, a good way to get cooked spinach in a child’s diet, is to make spinach pancakes. Lots of recipies online and you can replace wheat flour with rice flour. Spinach pancakes are well yummy!

      Another good thing is pumpkin seeds. You can dry roast them to make them extra yummy, or you can add them to homemade whole oat crunchies. Honey roasted cashews are yummy too and easy to do yourself. Meridian do some amazing organic nut-butters in Almond, cashew nut and pumpkin seed which is really tasty on toast. All these foods are high in magnesium. :)

  5. Sue Sayers
    December 12, 2013 | 7:46 pm

    Can magnesium deficiencies be linked to hand tremors? My left hand shakes, but seems to stop when I take my calcium/ magnesium supplement.

    • Kristen
      December 12, 2013 | 10:42 pm

      Yes, tics, spasms, tremors, and cramps are all caused by magnesium deficiencies.

    • Mary LaCaze
      January 23, 2014 | 11:22 am

      Mine has stopped after using magnesium oil. I was taking it for something else and didn’t relate it for awhile. You sometimes just don’t notice what ISN’T happening, lol…

  6. Bluesky
    January 20, 2014 | 1:29 pm

    You say that deficiency can cause thyroid problems,does it cause under activity or over activity?

  7. Mary LaCaze
    January 23, 2014 | 11:20 am

    After having calf and foot cramps nightly, I read that magnesium oil can help so started applying it to the bottoms of my feel and all over the calves before bed, even spraying diluted (50%)magnesium oil on after showers. Haven’t had a single leg cramp since, and am happy to note that a pesky hand tremor stopped as well. Wish I’d listened to people suggesting magnesium oil sooner, it’s a cheap fix, and for me, no side effects.

  8. Nathalie
    March 7, 2014 | 12:45 pm

    Hi Kristen. Great info about magnesium deficiency. I should probably read Dr. Dean’s book, and I’m commenting rather late to this conversation, but I was wondering: is there any kind of test to ask a medical doctor to find out just what minerals we’re deficient in and by how much? Because the symptoms for deficiency are a good indication, certainly, but not conclusive if you have one that could be caused by something else. Also, the degree of deficiency would indicate the level of supplementation needed, don’t you think? Like I say, I should just read Dr. Dean’s book. But I was wondering if you had any insight on these things.

  9. Erika Davis via Facebook
    April 25, 2014 | 7:04 pm

    Sylvester Davis

  10. Rachel Mitchell via Facebook
    April 25, 2014 | 8:30 pm

    Patricia Jung, maybe pass this on to Eileen?

  11. Lynette
    September 9, 2014 | 2:02 pm

    Based on your article and other places Ive heard about magnesium deficiency I bought the Ancient minerals spray online. It just arrived and the bottle says to wipe or rinse it off 20 minutes after application. I know I will never find the time to fit that piece into my regimen. It will be hard enough to remember to put it on. Have you had to take it off after putting it on? can it cause problems if you dont? Please advise.

  12. Peggy Webb via Facebook
    September 16, 2014 | 10:04 am

    Between the six members of our family still living at home, we could have compiled this list, so yes, I did suspect Magnesium deficiency! We have been supplementing magnesium both orally and topically for several months and many symptoms have improved. It seems each of us requires a different type of magnesium for optimal effect, though!

  13. Debra Salazar Herbst via Facebook
    October 6, 2014 | 7:02 pm

    Teresa Hesse

  14. Beth Matthews Shout via Facebook
    October 6, 2014 | 7:22 pm

    Ginger Burks

  15. Heather Gilbert via Facebook
    October 6, 2014 | 7:27 pm

    Patrick Hoeflinger

  16. I heard liquid chrorophyll is excellent for replenishing the need for magnesium.

  17. Jillyn Allred via Facebook
    October 7, 2014 | 12:23 am

    So just curious. 4 days postpartum my preeclampsia returned. I was given magnesium as one of my treatments. Would that boost my levels up to a good level to where I don’t have to supplement as much?

  18. Jackie Kieser via Facebook
    October 7, 2014 | 12:46 pm

    Scott, your doctor must have just read this book. Thank him, it saves me from having to.

  19. Luanne Lucas Cohen via Facebook
    October 7, 2014 | 2:17 pm

    Taylor. Check this out

  20. Erin Lea via Facebook
    October 7, 2014 | 2:57 pm

    Epsom baths are pretty effective and very relaxing

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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