Why Magnesium is Important? Deficiency Symptoms and Associated Diseases

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magnesium deficiency symptoms

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that is crucial for many of your body’s vital functions, including protein synthesis, proper muscle function, blood pressure and blood sugar control, energy production, and proper bone development. In fact, magnesium is actually responsible for over 300 of the body’s reactions! It is also essential for many of your body’s enzyme functions. Because of its important role in the body, it’s vital to recognize any magnesium deficiency symptom.

Magnesium is found naturally in many foods that you may eat on a daily basis, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, green leafy vegetables, soy milk, black beans, edamame, and avocados. A good rule of thumb to go by is that if a food is a significant source of dietary fiber, then it likely contains a good amount of magnesium too.

Unfortunately, many people do not get the RDA of magnesium, and are thus at risk of magnesium deficiency symptoms. It’s estimated that about 70% of Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency.

In This Article:

Magnesium Deficiency Early Symptoms – Stage 1

A magnesium deficiency is rare in most healthy people as the kidneys are designed to allow only a small amount of the mineral to escape through the urine.

Low amounts of magnesium are seen with an insufficient dietary intake in the elderly, and in those taking certain medications, suffering from alcoholism, and with existing health conditions. These common conditions include type 2 diabetes and gastrointestinal diseases.

There are various stages of a magnesium deficiency. The early signs, if left untreated, may progress to severe complications, and possibly lead to a serious health condition.

Early detection of the signs and symptoms of a magnesium deficiency will help confirm a diagnosis as there is no conclusive blood test or other single diagnostic test to detect the lack of magnesium.

Mild Conditions Associated with Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Muscle Twitch, Cramps, and Spasms
  • May be caused by an increase in calcium levels in the nerve cells, which may trigger muscles to react
  • Muscle contractions can raise pain levels
  • It should be noted that a few studies have debunked these theories.
Fatigue and Muscle Weakness
  • Distinguished from other causes by accompanying muscle weakness
  • Typically caused by the loss of potassium within the muscle cells
Irregular Heartbeat
  • The most serious symptom, commonly referred to as arrhythmia
  • Lack of magnesium leads the potassium levels inside and surrounding the heart to become unbalanced
  • Shown in studies to be the result of low intakes of magnesium and water, which are both required to help pass waste through the intestines
  • Low magnesium levels force the intestines to contract
Dizziness (Vertigo)
  • Experienced as a result of electrolyte imbalance
  • Occurs with a misinterpretation of brain messages, causing the person to believe that movement is happening when it is not
  • May lead to nausea and loss of balance  
  • Excessive menstrual pain caused by the constriction of uterine muscles and the inability to properly absorb calcium
  • Studies suggest that magnesium reduces abdominal and back pain from dysmenorrhea.
Food Cravings
  • Sign of mineral deficiency
  • Common chocolate cravings signal low magnesium.
  • Studies indicate that the high cacao content in dark chocolate alleviates irritability and anxiety.
  • Irregular nerve function due to low magnesium levels may cause severe headaches or migraines.
Loss of Appetite
  • Occurs with the interruption of nerve signals indicating hunger.
  • Low magnesium levels force contractions of the muscle walls within the abdomen.
  • Increase in adrenaline and cortisol hormones due to anxiety and stress may result in nervousness
Poor Memory/Concentration
  • Inability of brain cell enzymes to function properly
  • Low magnesium levels hinder neurotransmitter release.
Raynaud’s Disease
  • Digital numbness and coldness in response to stress or cold temperatures is seen with blood vessel spasms

Severe Conditions Associated with Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

The presence of the following health conditions may indicate that your low serum magnesium levels have gone untreated for too long.  The deficiency can have far-reaching effects on your nervous, musculoskeletal, and digestive systems.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Neurological symptom caused by electrolyte imbalance and improper nerve transmission.
  • Painful joints due to inflammation and tightening of the attached muscles
  • Lack of magnesium allows calcium deposits to form
Attention-Deficit Disorder
  • Interruption of central nervous system transmissions and brain energy
  • Lack of magnesium leads to reduced cognitive abilities
  • Pain in lower and upper back due to involuntary muscle spasms
  • Bladder inflammation triggered by increase in intensity and frequency of muscle spasms within the bladder
Ear Infections
  • Pain and inflammation occur when nerves are unprotected due to improper enzyme function
Gluten Sensitivity
  • Occurs with improper nutrient absorption as digestive enzyme production is reduced with low magnesium intake
  • Rat studies show that unusually high levels of lipids in blood, or high cholesterol, may appear with low magnesium levels.
  • High blood pressure can be brought on by blood vessel constriction due to low potassium and magnesium levels.
  • Sleeplessness can be triggered by overstimulation of the central nervous system; this enhances brain activity even at night.
  • Sensitivity to insulin is reduced and resistance is seen in nondiabetic patients with low magnesium
  • No studies reported effects for diagnosed insulin-resistant patients.
  • Triggered by blood vessels in the brain constricting following a build-up of calcium deposits.
Multiple Pregnancies
  • Increased risk of uterus muscles contracting prematurely
  • Magnesium also helps develop the central nervous system of the fetus.
Nerve Problems
  • Pro-inflammatory protein production increase results in nerve pain.
  • Most cases caused by improper absorption of nutrients, including improper breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
  • Weakening of the bone during the pre-osteoporosis stage occurs with calcium depletion due to low magnesium content.
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
  • In addition to causing muscle spasms and cramps, increased intensity of symptoms such as bloating, headaches, and breast tenderness may result.
Poor Concentration
  • Seen with reduction in number of cellular mitochondria, which provide energy for the body, including brain power
  • Inflammation of sinus cavities, inability to fight infections, and impaired ability to repair damaged sinuses may result
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction pain on either side of the jaw
  • Results from improper mineral absorption or poor diet
Weight Gain
  • Increased risk of water retention and bloating, and fluctuating blood sugar levels

More Severe Conditions Associated with Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Magnesium is essential to every organ in your body, but it is most important for the proper function of your muscles, heart, and kidneys. This is likely why the below conditions related to these organs can be traced to insufficient intake.

On the other hand, some of these more severe conditions can throw off your body’s natural magnesium balance.

  • Blood vessels become thick and tighten without proper amounts of magnesium to relax the vessels.
Blood Clot
  • Result of insufficient magnesium levels to properly control blood clot formation
  • Certain levels are required to maintain circulation by regulating calcium absorption.
Bowel Disease
  • Occurs with toxic levels of waste, colitis, or nutrient malabsorption
Calcified Mitral Valve
  • Calcification of the mitral valve of the heart due to improper mineral intake
  • Causes blood circulation issues and leads to heart disease
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
  • In addition to exhaustion, other symptoms include fever, chills, muscle weakness and pain, and numbness.
  • Leads to decreased production of cell energy source, adenosine triphosphate synthesis
Celiac Disease
  • Inability to absorb sufficient amounts of the mineral  due to intestinal cell damage
  • Gluten-free diets may not provide optimal amounts of magnesium.
Cerebral Palsy
  • Studies suggest that a mineral deficiency leads to this damaging brain disorder.
Kidney Disease
  • Vascular calcification can occur as calcium build-up within the blood vessels develops.
  • Head injury lowers mineral levels, leading to improper nerve function and inability to manipulate essential proteins
  • Triggered by brain receptor NMDA reaction to the presence of excess calcium, allowing for irritability and depression to develop
  • Sees magnesium excreted in urine, along with excess blood sugar
  • Seizures seen with low magnesium levels as the mineral allows proper communication between nerve cells; calcium channels are not blocked.
Endothelial dysfunction
  • Inner lining of blood vessels may see decrease in endothelial cells needed for growth
  • Stimulates inflammation
Heart Arrhythmias
  • Occurs with heart muscle constrictions as calcification of arteries develop
Hormonal Imbalance
  • Affects natural hormone production and function of thyroid hormones, estrogen, adrenalin, cortisol, serotonin, insulin, steroidal sex hormones, and human growth hormones
  • Reduces production of parathyroid hormone, which protects bone by regulating calcium deposits
  • Dysfunction of magnesium breakdown as mineral is excessively secreted in urine
  • Low amounts seen on intercellular level
Liver Disease
  • Common with liver transplant; triggers inflammation and oxidative stress.
Metabolic Syndrome
  • Cluster of conditions may develop without presence of magnesium to prevent pain, inflammation, regulate blood sugars, and control cholesterol levels
  • Triggered by involuntary early muscle constriction
  • May cause vaginal bleeding
Multiple Sclerosis
  • May enhance muscle cramps and anxiety, as well as a reduction in energy and protein production
  • Promotes bone loss, leading to insufficient calcium absorption

Life-Threatening Conditions Associated with Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Finally, it’s important to take note of those medical conditions linked to persistently low levels of the mineral which can result in death.

Alcoholism Alcohol causes large amounts of water, magnesium, and other nutrients to be excreted by the kidneys.
ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease ALS interferes with the nerve cells’ ability to transmit messages, and triggers spasms, muscle pain, insomnia, anxiety, weakened bones, and heart issues.
Alzheimer’s Disease Low magnesium levels are common among patients with the neurodegenerative disease.
Cancer Radiation treatment may reduce magnesium levels with side effects of vomiting and diarrhea; cancer medications can also lower levels.
Congestive Heart Failure Having too much calcium in the heart muscle causes excessive contractions, which can lead to a heart attack.
Eclampsia The official cause is unknown, but the condition has been linked to malfunction of the blood vessels connecting the placenta; seizures and pre-mature birth may occur.
Emphysema (COPD) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients generally have low levels of magnesium, which is required for proper lung function.
Myocardial Infarction Also known as a heart attack; magnesium deficiency can cause damage to the heart muscle as well as death.
Parkinson’s Disease Muscular problems are enhanced in patients lacking magnesium.
Renal Failure Kidneys depend on balanced magnesium levels for normal function, including secretion.
Stroke The potentially fatal condition occurs with an interruption of blood flow due to vascular interference and reduced cardiac output.
Sudden Cardiac Death Some research links low serum magnesium to the sudden loss of heart function, which often occurs when no pre-existing heart disease, or damage, is noted.

Factors Affecting Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

There are a variety of factors that affect magnesium deficiency and magnesium deficiency symptoms. For example, diabetics and people with insulin resistance are more likely to have magnesium deficiency.

For sufferers of multiple sclerosis, magnesium deficiency symptoms make them more likely to suffer from twitching, muscle aches, and epilepsy.

People who have low levels of potassium, called hypokalemia, are also more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency. Finally, magnesium deficiency can also be the cause of many cardiovascular problems.

Magnesium Serum Test: Finding Your Magnesium Levels

Determining a magnesium deficiency in the body can be complicated, which may explain why many cases are misdiagnosed.

A total serum magnesium test is simply a blood test that detects the level of magnesium present. This form of testing may not always be accurate as only one percent of total magnesium can be found in the blood. Most magnesium is found in the bones, as well as other locations in the body.

Other diagnostic tests for magnesium levels include a urine test to measure the amounts excreted. An EXA Test, similar to a cheek swab, may be ordered to note the magnesium levels in the cells.

Magnesium may also be purposely transmitted into the bloodstream to determine the amount that is secreted.

How to Improve Magnesium Deficiency Levels

One of the worst magnesium deficiency symptoms is exhaustion, with people reporting feeling fatigued, irritable, and lethargic. To combat these symptoms, ensure that you are getting enough magnesium in your diet; this will help you feel stronger and more energized than ever before.

In order to reduce your magnesium deficiency symptoms, many people consider taking a supplement of about 100 mg of magnesium a day. However, you can also try to get magnesium from your diet alone. Here are a few magnesium-rich foods:

  • Spinach
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Lentils
  • Bananas

Natural remedies to try to build up magnesium levels include using Epsom salts in a bath and applying magnesium oil directly onto the skin. Reducing stress, refraining from excessive alcohol use, and drinking filtered water may also boost your magnesium levels naturally.

Also Read:

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