March 03, 2021

10 Signs you’re low on magnesium–and what to do about it

Jan 19, 2021 |

Magnesium is an essential mineral that keeps our bodies up and running. This humble mineral is mostly found in our bones, but it is also present in muscles and soft tissues. Magnesium is involved in many important processes inside our bodies, such as muscle contraction, energy production and blood circulation.

The catch is, you’re likely not getting enough magnesium yourself. Roughly half of the U.S. population gets less than the minimum required intake of this mineral. Sadly, being deficient or even simply having lower-than-optimal levels of magnesium can have far-reaching consequences for your overall health and well-being.

Signs you lack magnesium

People can end up with low levels of magnesium for a host of reasons, including alcoholism and conditions like diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

Experts recommend getting 320–420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium from foods daily. You’re likely not hitting the minimum requirement if you experience one or more of the following:

1. Your heart is beating too fast

Your body requires magnesium to maintain the electrical impulses of your heart. If your heart is beating a little faster or slower than usual, then you might be deficient in magnesium.

Unfortunately, this might also mean that you have calcified arteries or arteries that have hardened because of a buildup of calcium. Magnesium removes calcium from the blood and puts it back into the bones. Without magnesium, calcium can build up freely inside your arteries and cause problems for your heart.

2. You have high blood pressure

Magnesium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure levels. So if you lack magnesium, you’re likely to develop high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

3. Your mental health is suffering

Magnesium regulates the molecules that send messages to your brain. Studies suggest this might be the reason why magnesium, or the lack of it, can have such a huge impact on your mood and mental health.

In fact, a 2017 study found that people who took magnesium supplements for only two weeks reported positive results with regards to their depression symptoms. Meanwhile, some animal studies have also found that magnesium appears to help protect the brain from anxiety and mood disorders like depression.

4. You experience morning sickness

There is anecdotal evidence that a lack of magnesium among pregnant women can lead to health problems like morning sickness, high blood pressure and muscle cramps. Health experts advise pregnant women to eat more magnesium-rich foods to avoid these issues and to support the growth of their babies as well.

5. You’re eating a lot of processed foods

If your diet consists primarily of processed foods, chances are you’re not getting enough magnesium. Typically, processed foods provide little or no nutritional value. It’s best to avoid them completely.

6. You get frequent muscle cramps

Magnesium does a lot of work for our muscles, helping them relax and contract. So if you have low magnesium levels, your muscles are more likely to cramp or twitch. Your legs and arms may also feel difficult to move.

7. Your hormones are all over the place

Women who experience muscle cramps or intense mood swings before or after their periods might be deficient in magnesium. Menstrual cramps are linked to high levels of estrogen, one of two main sex hormones in women. Research shows that the higher one’s estrogen levels are, the lower the magnesium levels.

8. You feel tired all the time

You might be chronically tired for many reasons–a stressful job, financial problems, difficult relationships–but your magnesium stores have a major impact on your energy levels, too.

Magnesium has a hand in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. This process occurs in the mitochondria, or the energy factory of the cells. Put simply, if your body lacks magnesium, then energy production suffers.

9. You have trouble sleeping

While having too little magnesium can leave you feeling fatigued, that doesn’t mean you’ll get shut-eye quickly. Research has shown that magnesium can impact sleep for the better because of its effects on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid that works as a chemical messenger in your brain.

GABA slows down your brain activity to ease you into sleep mode. Too little magnesium can negatively impact this process, leaving you with racing thoughts well into the night.

10. You’re often constipated

Frequently feeling constipated may be an indication that you need to increase your magnesium intake. Most of the foods rich in magnesium are also rich in fiber, which is vital for digestion and good gut health. So if you aren’t getting enough magnesium, you likely aren’t getting enough fiber, hence your wonky stomach.

How to raise your magnesium levels with food

Magnesium can be found in many nutritionally dense animal and plant-based foods. As long as you eat more of those foods, you should have no problem maintaining a healthy level of magnesium.

Listed below are foods rich in magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds – 156 milligrams (mg) per one-ounce serving
  • Chia seeds – 111 mg per one-ounce serving
  • Almonds – 80 mg per one-ounce serving
  • Spinach – 78 mg per half-cup serving
  • Cashews – 74 mg per one-ounce serving
  • Black beans – 60 mg per half-cup serving
  • Potatoes – 43 mg per 3.5-ounce serving
  • Yogurt – 42 mg per eight-ounce serving
  • Banana – 32 mg per medium-sized piece
  • Broccoli – 12 mg per half-cup serving

Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in many processes inside our bodies. To avoid the consequences of having low magnesium levels, eat more foods rich in magnesium as part of a balanced diet.


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