Are You Getting Enough Magnesium? 13 Signs You're Deficient (And How To Fix It)

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One of the most overlooked nutrient deficiencies that I see in patients? Magnesium deficiencies.

Your body is alive because of brilliant biochemistry, and magnesium is needed for more than 300 incredibly important biochemical reactions in your body.

It's the fourth most abundant mineral in your entire body. If your magnesium is lacking, so are you. As a functional medicine expert, my job is to get to the underlying core cause of why people are struggling with health problems, and since an estimated 50 to 90 percent of us are deficient in magnesium, it is crucial that we look at this vital piece of our health puzzle.

Why are so many people magnesium deficient?

There are four main reasons why most of us are low in magnesium:

  1. Poor diet and nutrition
  2. Medications (such as antibiotics and diuretics)
  3. Soil depletion
  4. Chronic gut problems (e.g., leaky gut syndrome)
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What are the signs of a magnesium deficiency?

1. Muscle cramps and spasms

Random spasms, cramps, and "charlie horses" in your legs and other places in your body aren't really random. They are happening for a reason! These cramps are one of the most common signs of a magnesium deficiency.

2. Low thyroid

Every cell of your body depends on your thyroid hormones, and magnesium is essential to making thyroid hormones! This is one of the overlooked factors I often find in underlying thyroid problems.

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3. Trouble sleeping

New research found that magnesium supplementation helped with all the major markers of insomnia. GABA is the calming, restful neurotransmitter, and magnesium is needed for GABA receptors in the brain.

4. Anxiety and depression

Magnesium is the OG "chill pill." How? Magnesium calms down the excitatory NMDA receptor. Without healthy magnesium levels, calcium and glutamate activate NMDA, which leads to depression and anxiety.

5. Adrenal fatigue

As someone who has personally struggled with adrenal fatigue in the past, I can attest to magnesium's role in calming my stress levels and rehabbing my hormones.

Magnesium helps to regulate cortisol levels, allowing for balanced hormones throughout the day.

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6. Poor memory

Brain fog and memory problems are so common today that it's considered normal. MIT researchers found that magnesium plays a pivotal role in regulating brain receptors needed for learning and memory function, and helping clear "brain fog."

Magnesium can enhance the brain's ability to change, heal, and grow new neural pathways (neuroplasticity). This is essential to slowing down and even reversing cognitive decline.

7. Migraines and headaches

Half of the United States gets at least one headache every month, and millions debilitated by horrible migraines. An estimated 50 percent of those suffering migraines are magnesium deficient!

Research has found the 60 percent of people with chronic migraines have genetic changes that decreases their body's ability to metabolize magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels in the brain.

Ionized magnesium administered through an IV significantly reduced pain in more than 80 percent of patients in 15 minutes.

8. Heart problems

Sadly, every 43 seconds someone has a heart attack. Magnesium is showing to be a powerful piece to the heart health puzzle.

One American Journal of Cardiology study found that a lower level of magnesium intake increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 to 80 percent.

In a different double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people received either magnesium or a placebo for one year. For one month, the magnesium group received 6,000 milligrams of magnesium orotate, and 3,000 milligrams of magnesium orotate for 11 months. Only 52 percent of the placebo group was still alive at one year, compared with 76 percent of the magnesium group.

9. Inflammation

One commonality between just about every chronic health problem is inflammation. Magnesium has been shown to lower CRP, an inflammatory protein.

10. ADHD

Studies have found that children who took 200 milligrams of magnesium daily over six months had a significant decrease of hyperactivity compared to their symptoms before treatment and to those who didn't take the magnesium.

11. Insulin resistance

A shocking 50 percent of America has some form of insulin resistance, from metabolic syndrome to full-blown type 2 diabetes. This hormonal problem is of epidemic proportions.

Research published in the medical journal Circulation studied nearly 5,000 people for 15 years. The people who took the higher levels of magnesium had a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome! Another similar study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology observed more than 1,000 healthy adults for five years and found that greater magnesium intake improved insulin sensitivity.

Other studies have shown that magnesium improved triglycerides and high blood pressure, two other hallmarks of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

12. Weak bones

Magnesium is a key nutrient for strong, healthy bones. A randomized controlled study found that 300 milligrams of supplemental magnesium increased bone mineral content when taken for a year.

Two American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studies found that the more deficient someone was in magnesium levels, the lower the bone density was, increasing risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

13. Asthma

Research suggests people who don't eat enough magnesium-rich foods have a higher rate of asthma. Because of this fact, magnesium is thought to increase bronchodilation.

Have any of these signs? Consult your doctor and test your nutrient levels

OK, by now you get the point, magnesium is super important, but now what? Here are some action steps you can take to make sure your magnesium levels are in tiptop shape.

First, get your levels tested, especially if you're experiencing any of these signs. Conventional nutrient labs aren't always very accurate. I suggest running advanced nutrient labs that we run in functional medicine to find out your nutrient levels.

Start by adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet:

  • Spinach, 1 cup: 157 mg
  • Swiss chard, 1 cup: 154 mg
  • Dark chocolate, 1 square: 95 mg
  • Pumpkin seeds, 1/8 cup: 92 mg
  • Almonds, 1 ounce: 80 mg
  • Black beans, 1/2 cup: 60 mg
  • Avocado, 1 medium: 58 mg
  • Salmon, 1 fillet: 53 mg
  • Kefir, 1 cup: 50 mg
  • Figs, 1/2 cup: 50 mg
  • Banana, 1 medium: 32 mg

It's difficult to replenish your magnesium entirely through diet, so if you feel like you can't possibly eat more swiss chard, or are still deficient, take it to the next level: magnesium supplements. I suggest getting around 500 milligrams each day, checking your levels every few months.

Supplementing with magnesium is generally safe but can cause diarrhea and GI upset when taking too much for your body.

William Cole, D.C.

Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole, leading functional medicine expert, graduated from Southern California University of Health Sciences as a doctor of chiropractic. His extensive postdoctorate education and training is in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. Dr. Cole consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors and customizing health programs for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders and brain problems. Visit for free e-books, recipes, and webcam evaluation.
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William Cole, D.C.

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