8 Signs of Magnesium Deficiency + Natural Ways to Boost Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for a healthy body and mind. Signs of magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms, fatigue, low energy, and loss of appetite. This guide covers the signs to watch out for and also how to increase your magnesium levels in order to feel and function at your best.

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Signs of a magnesium deficiency – also known as hypomagnesemia – can go unnoticed for quite some time as they are subtle. Over time, however, it can cause serious disruption to nerve and muscle function as well as metabolism, the immune system, and bone health.

Magnesium deficiency can occur in all ages, but most commonly in those who are older. This is because older people tend to absorb less from their diet and their kidneys can excrete more than normal.

It is also particularly important that pregnant women have sufficient magnesium levels and that a conscience effort is made to increase your magnesium intake if you are pregnant. This is because you are contributing to not just your own magnesium levels, but your baby’s too. Diet, morning sickness and hormones can all cause a magnesium deficiency during pregnancy.

Thankfully, it can be straightforward to increase your magnesium levels to ensure this small but mighty mineral is performing at its best. This guide shares everything you need to know including the signs to look out for, what foods are high in magnesium and the best supplements to take.

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What is magnesium?

Magnesium is both an electrolyte and a mineral that is essential for the body to stay healthy. It is involved in over 300 chemical reactions within your body. Although it is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of adults in the US are deficient in it.

Why do you need magnesium?

The body would be unable to function effectively without the correct levels of magnesium. This is because it is needed to regulate your muscle and nerve function as well making protein, bone, and even DNA. Magnesium also plays an important role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels and supporting the immune system

How much magnesium do I need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium varies depending on your age and gender. As advised by the Office of Dietary Supplements, at the American National Institutes of Health, men need around 400-420 mg per day whereas women need around 310-320 mg daily. This increases during pregnancy to around 350–360 mg per day.

To give you an idea of what that looks like in terms of food, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of almonds contain 279 mg of magnesium, 100 grams of pumpkin seeds contain 550 mg and 100 grams of popcorn contains 144 mg of magnesium.

From these numbers, you may think that obtaining enough magnesium from our diets should be easy. However, when we’re stressed, busy, ill, or tired our diets are usually the first to suffer. We go for foods that are convenient over healthy and this often means skipping those vital nutrients that our bodies need.

almonds spinach walnuts in white dishes

8 signs of magnesium deficiency in adults

While many people don’t meet the recommended daily intake, signs of magnesium deficiency are rare. They are usually subtle unless your levels are severely low. A poor diet is the most common cause but other reasons for magnesium deficiency include excess alcohol, old age, diabetes, or as a side effect of certain medications.

  • Muscle cramps or twitches – Especially leg and foot cramps. This can be magnified during pregnancy, which was the case for me and why I had to take a magnesium supplement.
  • Nausea or vomiting – Magnesium is an electrolyte that interacts with sodium in the body, particularly during digestion. This is why nausea or vomiting can be an early sign of magnesium deficiency.   
  • Fatigue, low energy or feeling weak – As mentioned, magnesium plays an essential role in many of our bodily functions, this includes 80% of the body’s metabolic reactions (turning food into energy.) Low magnesium levels will slow down the production of energy in the body, which results in fatigue or feeling tired.
  • Sleep issues – If you are trying to improve sleep, look into your magnesium levels. In order to fall into a deep sleep the brain and body need to be fully relaxed. Magnesium helps to do this by quieting the nervous system. It also helps to regulate melatonin which is the hormone responsible for your sleep and wake cycles.
  • Loss of appetite – This is usually one of the earliest signs of magnesium deficiency. It will usually come paired with nausea and/or fatigue.
  • Constipation, bloating, gas – Without going into too much detail, magnesium helps to draw water into the intestines. This increase in water encourages bowel movements. Low magnesium prevents this resulting in constipation, bloating and gas.
  • Headaches – According to The Migraine Trust, evidence suggests increasing magnesium is an effective way to prevent migraines. This is because a drop in magnesium levels can make blood vessels in the brain narrow, or constrict which contributes to headaches or migraines.
  • Concentration issues or brain fog – Known scientifically as “cognitive delay” brain fog or difficulty concentrating can be another sign of magnesium deficiency. As magnesium is an essential nutrient for the brain to function, when levels are low the brain cannot perform at its best.
woman in bed with white quilt over eyes

4 signs of magnesium deficiency in kids

As a mom, it is a constant worry whether our kids are getting enough nutrients from their food. It’s vital that children eat enough magnesium-rich food to support their growth and development.

Signs of a magnesium deficiency in kids are similar to those mentioned above for adults but in addition, you can look out for the following:

  • Growing pains or leg cramps – Growing pains are common in teens and young children but low magnesium can make symptoms more severe. As a natural muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory, magnesium can help to soothe the aches and pains of growing bones and muscles.
  • Hyperactivity, restlessness or fidgeting – As mentioned, Magnesium helps the body to relax as it encourages the production of melatonin. It also helps to produce serotonin which is responsible for regulating attention and behavior. Low magnesium levels will have the opposite effect resulting in restlessness, hyperactivity and fidgeting.
  • Irritability – Magnesium is known as a natural mood stabilizer. This means when levels are low irritability and mood swings are common.
  • Eye twitching – A variety of vitamins and minerals are obtained from our diets to ensure proper muscle function. This includes magnesium. An imbalance of these nutrients can cause eye twitching.
child rubbing eyes with book shelves in background

How to test for magnesium deficiency

At home testing

If you are experiencing one or more signs of magnesium deficiency, it may be worth testing your magnesium levels. You will then have confirmation whether your levels are too low, known as hypomagnesemia or if they are too high, which is called hypermagnesemia.

Simple: You can actually test your magnesium levels at home via a simple finger prick test. The kit is then sent off to an accredited lab for analysis to determine the magnesium levels in your body. Learn more about a simple at-home Magnesium Test here.

Health Panel: Alternatively, you can also use a Health Panel Test. Alongside magnesium it can test for other important markers including calcium, iron, vitamin D and potassium. Learn more about the Health Panel Test here.

Doctor Test

If preferred, you can ask your doctor to check your magnesium levels. This will usually be done via a “total serum magnesium test” which is just like any other blood test where a sample will determine if your levels are low, adequate or high.

doctor with clipboard and pen

How to increase magnesium levels

Food sources

A varied, nutritious diet is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to increase magnesium levels. You are also unlikely to overdose through dietary sources as the body can eliminate excess magnesium from food through urine.

Some of the best foods to increase magnesium levels include:

  • Legumes –  Such as black beans and kidney beans. Try my Three-Bean Chili.
  • Leafy greens – For example one cup of cooked spinach (around 180g) provides an impressive 37% of the daily recommendation.
  • Dark Chocolate – A 1oz (28g) serving of dark chocolate provides 15% of the daily magnesium recommendation.
  • Nuts – including almonds, peanuts, walnuts and cashews. Nut butters are equally great, such as almond butter or try my Peanut Butter Protein Bites.
  • Whole grains – such as brown rice and oats
  • Potatoes – In particular, the potato skin for example, baked potatoes.
  • Avocados – One medium avocado provides around 58 mg of magnesium. This is 14% of the daily recommendation.

    If you’re struggling with getting kids to obtain magnesium from their diet why not try adding magnesium to a smoothie or make my delicious Chocolate Avocado Pudding.


According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, most people in the United States do not get enough magnesium from their diets alone. This means supplements are necessary. However, to avoid an overdose, do not take more than the RDA.

These are my family’s favorite magnesium supplements. I use the Kidscents Unwind supplements as these are specially formulated for little ones. They can be used for children over age 4 to promote calm and reduce restlessness. I also find that alongside essential oils for kids, these can help to improve focus.

I prefer trace minerals can be added to water for easy and quick absorption. In particular, I like Mineral Essence but find it has a bit of a salty flavor (which is normal with trace minerals.) To help mask the salty flavor, I add these Vitality Drops to the water. You could also add honey or liquid Stevia to balance the saltiness.

dark chocolate avocado and almonds on counter top

Epsom salt baths

Who can resist a relaxing bubble bath? Thanks to Epsom salts, you can absorb additional magnesium while you soak in the tub. This is because Epsom salts are made from magnesium sulfate so instead of absorbing magnesium from your food, a detox bath allows it to be absorbed via the skin.

Absorbing magnesium in this way still promotes the same benefits such as reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure and better sleep.

Topical magnesium

Another way to increase magnesium levels is to apply it topically. Both oral and topical magnesium both offer great benefits and there is no hard evidence to promote one over the other, it really comes down to your own personal preference.

As well as the benefits mentioned above, an added benefit of magnesium lotion is that it helps to soften and hydrate the skin.

woman in white bath robe applying lotion to legs

As with any medical concern, it is always recommended to consult your doctor before trying new supplements. Even if you are experiencing a few symptoms of a magnesium deficiency it is always best to ask a medical professional in case of any underlying issues.

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