Category: Nutrition


Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms – What You Need to Know

If you are like most Americans, your dietary consumption of magnesium is suboptimal. Recent statistics reveal that close to 75% of Americans are consuming less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium (see table below). New research is making it clear that this is absolutely cause for concern.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium

1-3 years80 mg80 mg
4-8 years130 mg130 mg
9-13 years240 mg 240 mg
14-18 years410 mg360 mg
19-30 years400 mg310 mg
31-50 years420 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Magnesium’s central role in facilitating the function of over 300 critical enzymes ranks the mineral among the most important trace elements in the human diet. These enzymes play an important role in regulating our day-to-day metabolic functions, which influence everything from how our body manufactures DNA, RNA, and protein, to how our cells derive and generate energy from the food we eat. The mineral is critically important for the structural development and maintenance of healthy bones, and even plays a role in the production of glutathione, a chemical that has been called the body’s master antioxidant. As one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, it’s no wonder that the symptoms of low magnesium levels are correlated with so many health-related issues that impact all the body’s major systems. Just look at this list!

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Anorexia
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat

Magnesium Deficiency Clinical Conditions

While it’s true that modern factory farming techniques are inhibiting our ability to consume the recommended daily amount of magnesium by growing crops in magnesium-depleted soil, the good news is that you can enhance your body’s absorption and utilization of magnesium by reducing your intake of alcohol and junk foods (something you should already be doing anyway). Furthermore, and what may come as a surprise to many, is that many of the most widely used prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications deplete the body of the critical nutrient. Again, look how comprehensive and expansive this list is!

Drugs that Deplete Magnesium

Acid Blocking Drugs:

  • Cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Nizatidine (Axid)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec OTC)
  • Pantoprazole (Protonix)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • Rabeprazole (Aciphex)


  • Aluminum and magnesium hydroxide (Maalox, Mylanta)
  • Aluminum hydroxide (Amphojel, AlternaGEL)
  • Calcium carbonate (Tums, Rolaids)
  • Magnesium hydroxide (Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer)


  • Betamethasone (Diprolene, Valisone, Luxiq)
  • Hydrocortisone (Cortef)
  • Methylprednisolone (Medrol)
  • Prednisolone (Pediapred Liquid)
  • Prednisone (Deltasone)
  • Flunisolide (Nasarel, Nasalide)
  • Futicasone (Flonase)
  • Triamcinolone (Azmacort)


  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil)
  • Azithromycin (Z-Pak)
  • Cefaclor (Ceclor)
  • Cefdinir (Omnicef)
  • Ciprofoxacin (Cipro)
  • Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
  • Doxycycline (Doryx)
  • Erythromycin (E.E.S.)
  • Levofoxacin (Levaquin)
  • Minocycline (Minocin)
  • Sulfamethoxazole / trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra)
  • Tetracycline (Sumycin)

Blood Pressure Drugs:

  • Hydralazine
  • Ethyacynic acid (Edecrin)
  • Enalapril and HCTZ (Vaseretic)
  • Valsartan and HCTZ (Diovan HCT)  
  • Bumetanide (Bumex)
  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Hydrochlorathiazide (HCTZ)
  • Torsemide (Demadex)
  • Candesartan and HCTZ (Atacand HCT)
  • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
  • Chlorthalidone (Hygroton)
  • Methyclothiazide
  • Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)

Heart medications:

  • Digoxin


  • Estradiol (Activella, Climara, Combipatch, Estrace, Estraderm)  
  • Estrogen (Premphase, Prempro, Estratab)
  • Estropipate (Ogen)

Oral Contraceptives:

  • Ethinyl Estradiol and Desogestrel
  • Ethinyl Estradiol and Levonorgestrel
  • Ethinyl Estradiol and Norethindrone
  • Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestimate

ADHD Drugs:

  • Methylphenidate (Metadate, Ritalin, Concerta)

How to Test for Magnesium Deficiency

If you are taking any of the above medications, you are at even higher risk of being magnesium-deficient. It is a good idea to discuss this possibility with your healthcare practitioner. A simple blood test is all that is needed to determine your magnesium level, but you need to make sure it’s the right test.

The blood test commonly done in doctors’ offices measures serum magnesium levels. Unfortunately, this method does not give the best information on intracellular magnesium levels. In other words, the test does not efficiently measure the magnesium level within the cell where 99% of the magnesium in the body is found! The good news is that many labs now offer an “erythrocyte magnesium level” or “red blood cell magnesium level” test. These tests provide far more insight into your magnesium levels and are available from labs across the country.

How to Replenish this Valuable Nutrient

Getting enough magnesium into your body, both by diet and supplementation, provides a wide-range of benefits and is more important than many realize. In addition to helping reduce the symptoms and clinical conditions listed above, this “relaxation mineral” can also improve sleep, relieve stress, increase energy, and improve mood.

Magnesium in the body works in tandem with other vitamins and minerals, so a healthy diet is key to boosting magnesium levels. Dark, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds are all great sources of magnesium that are easily absorbed by our body. Here’s a list of some of my favorite magnesium-rich foods that are easy to incorporate into your shopping list:

  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Cashews
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Avocados
  • Cultured yogurt
  • Salmon

How to Choose a Magnesium Supplement

But again, keep in mind that because so much of our food is grown in magnesium depleted soil, they may not be as magnesium-rich as advertised! That said, you can almost always reestablish a healthy magnesium level by taking a magnesium supplement. I would recommend supplementation if you are not getting enough magnesium from natural sources through your diet or are at an increased risk because of any of the drugs listed above. When choosing a magnesium supplement, keep in mind that magnesium salts, such as magnesium sulfate, magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, and magnesium citrate, often have undesired gastrointestinal side effects. Chelated magnesium, which is magnesium that is bound to an amino acid, is less likely to cause nausea, bloating, or diarrhea. Chelated magnesium supplements include magnesium aspartate, magnesium arginate, and magnesium lactate. Magnesium supplements are even available now in a form that’s chelated to whole food (pea protein).

Learn more about magnesium by visiting our new magnesium focus page.

  • Emaho

    Thanks for the post. I knew magnesium was important, but I’m taking magnesium citrate. Now I’ll switch to a chelated one.

    But……no, no, no…… on the idea that our soils are magnesium depleted. You need to google Elaine Ingham and/or watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMvpop6BdBA (As a side effect to watching this video, you’ll get the chuckles.)

    In a nutshell, all of our rocks, sand and dirt have plenty of magnesium. The problem is that you cannot grow anything in dead dirt. You need make it come alive – turn it into soil. The more alive the soil is; the more nutrients the soil food web can feed your plants for their cakes and cookies. It is the ultimate mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.

    • JohnInTheOC

      Amazing-I was just checking my worm farm and discovered the compaction of soil causing a dye off…love the science here especially facts like genetically speaking we believe there is 75,000 soil bacteria but have only maps 5000″ long way to go! Thanks for sharing..

    • JohnInTheOC

      Amazing video for gardeners that connect that to health-I was just checking my worm farm and discovered the compaction of soil causing a dye off…love the science here especially facts like genetically speaking we believe there is 75,000 soil bacteria but have only maps 5000″-we have a long way to go!

      Thanks for sharing..

  • Thank you Dr. Perlmutter for getting the word out on how important magnesium is. Here is a little more information. You can never have enough when it comes to something that saves lives and improves health. 5 Little-Known Facts About Magnesium – http://www.advancedhealing.com/magnesium-miracle-mineral-5-little-known-facts/

  • Rochelle

    Thank you for making the ‘magnesium focus page’, it’s helpful.

    • David Perlmutter

      Glad to know it’s a helpful tool!

  • Kelly LeSage RD

    Can you tell me the source for the “75% of Americans consuming less than the RDA”? I’d love to quote that, but I need a source. Thanks!!

  • maria

    Dr. Perlmutter, what do you think of magnesium l-threonate? It is a form of magnesium you haven’t mentioned.

  • JohnInTheOC

    Be careful do not https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9d0bb020fa1dee73acaec51980aa43bd793de2bf505aae81439e68d5484d799f.gif over do supplements with magnesium-that may cause a deficiency in the principal antioxidant in the mitochondria.
    Also deficiency of ‘manganese’ causes skeletal deformation and inhibits the production of collagen in wound healing.

    • JohnInTheOC, can you share from where you are coming up with that Mg/Mn fact. I’ve never heard that before.

      • JohnInTheOC

        Sure,RE:”can you share from where you are coming up with that Mg/Mn …”

        http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/manganese &

        Kies C. Bioavailability of manganese. In: Klimis-Tavantzis DL, ed. Manganese in health and disease. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Inc; 1994:39-58 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ed05c2d6498ddc1c977d6cb7d8302cb81668a2a2983fa0bf3f9e4e54c9f36c26.gif

        • I did a reference search and that is an unreferenced blip in a book publish by CRC press in 1994. There is no reference I could find showing magnesium reducing or interfering with manganese absorption. It’s important when stating something as fact, especially to a thread where most people reading it are not researchers and will take what they see, sometimes, as fact. If you can find a reference backing your statement please post it. This is another example of a reused references (in websites and books) where the original data or journal article is a ghost.

          • JohnInTheOC

            Very good points! I do respect the Linus Pauling Institute (which I quoted from) also I am getting a bit wary of over marketing of supplements in place of nutrition by profiteers.

            I only mentioned this(mega magnesium vs. depletion of manganese) because there does seem evident and I personally have been tracking my labs and what I supplement with and notice that effect.

            History has repeatedly shown mistakes when it came to what was marketed as safe especially with the water soluables. Example B6 and abuse causing neuropathy..
            RE:(J Appl Toxicol. 2004 Nov-Dec;24(6):497-500.

            Pyridoxine (vitamin 86) neurotoxicity: enhancement by protein-deficient


            Levine S, Saltzman A.)

          • Chrystal clear

            You are right, I was seeing a gradual manganese depletion after daily dose of 500mg Epsom salts. Frankly, I think a bath once a week is enough. A dose of 1-2 cups of Epsom Salt + 1 cup of bicarb soda and immerse yourself in this rejuvenating liquid for 30-40 min. Or do a magnesium chloride foot bath. If you can’t do it daily, at least 3X a week to replenish extreme magnesium deficiency rapidly.

  • Mary Krix

    Can you tell me what you think about magnesium oil? I use Amazing Oils, topical magnesium chloride.

    • Would like to know this as well.

    • Magnesium oil is great but is limited by the actual amount of magnesium that is applied via the oil. As an example: if you follow this link for magnesium bath, 2 cups of magnesium chloride bath flakes will be used for each bath. Yes, it’s diluted but still more than if you rubbed the oil on your body. That would be equivalent to pouring a 64oz bottle of magnesium oil in each bath. The cost of the bath flakes is pennies compared to about $50 for a 64 oz bottle of magnesium oil. You can make your own oil if you like. Use 2 parts water to 1 part magnesium chloride. Dissolve in warm water, run it through an organic coffee filter and place in a spray bottle. http://www.advancedhealing.com/magnesium-bath-pain-skin-cancer-autoimmune/

    • Hope

      I was able to raise my Mag RBC level considerably doing Magnesium chloride (flakes) foot soaks when taking good quality Magnesium supplements only increased it slightly. I was originally poisoned by Cipro and Levaquin and stripped Mag stores from my body and not advised by any of the prescribing MD’s to supplement with Magnesium to offset the effects of these FQ antibiotics. Became severely deficient and this brought on many other health issues and the Mag deficiency then tanked my Vit D levels. Vit D deficiency is really a masked Magnesium deficiency in many people I would later learn. So with much diligent study, commitment to the daily soaks, somewhere in the 3-4 month range was able to increase Mag RBC level that was severely low. My Mag RBC before looked like more of a serum Mag normal value. I doubled it to almost 6.0 on the Mag RBC test. It took adding boron and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), too, as both help get Magnesium into the cells and keep it there. They along with Vit B6 are co-factors of Magnesium and greatly improve absorption. And ironically, my Vit D3 level (active form and storage form) increased naturally by normal sun exposure and taking cod liver oil daily which has the Vit A (retinol) to balance properly the Vit D in our food. Before the high D3 gels also recommended by the same MD’s made me very painful and built up way too much calcium in the body everywhere even taking Vit K2.

  • Mike Keyes

    The oil is far better taken up by the body Iv found . It must be zechstine sea

  • deidre

    Dr. P,
    What do you think of magnesium glycerinate? This is the form I recommend as of now. Thanks, Deidre McGannon RD

    • David Perlmutter

      Magnesium glycinate works well and seems to be fairly well-tolerated.

      • Rich Anderson

        What is your opinion of Magnesium Orotate?

  • Lori

    Is magnesium taurate an effective form to take for palpitations ?

  • Shaaryn Griffiths

    Dr Perlmutter, I have been told by my dr (functional/intergrative practitioner as well as a family gp) that he thinks I may be salycilate sensitive, and many of the things that give us magnesium also have high levels of salycilates – any advice for me as I do suffer from magnesium depletion.

  • Lawrence

    Could you publish similar article on calcium

  • carol

    Is magnesium deficiency a likely cause of constipation in children?

  • karen

    How much magnesium should you take daily if you are 57 years old?

  • Susie Ziegler

    I take Natural Vitality Natural Calm which contains 320 mg elemental from magnesium citrate. You don’t mention this as a recommendation. Is this form ok?

  • propsguy

    when i am having an asthma attack, i inject magnesium chloride into my butt and my lungs open and relax within minutes. for maintenance- i give myself a shot at least once a month in addition to taking oral magnesium and using magnesium oil spray on my skin

  • fancyschmancy58

    After reading all of this I am totally confused. I was confused when I came here but more now.. Anyways. I have taken stomach meds of all sorts for years. Spastic colon, IBS, Indigestion, hiatel hernia etc. At one point I started getting palpitations and after a year or so of testing a heart Dr. stated it was most likely a magnesium deficiency. All the symptoms led to that. I started taking Natures Best Magnesium 250 mg. The palps stopped. I will admit I have not been taking them every day. Now I am on two types of stomach meds. I take Fluconazole 100mg and another one called Pan something for a intestinal infection diagnosed from colonoscopy 2 weeks ago. . I don’t have a bottle handy. And yes I haven’t taken the mags every day like I should. Yesterday I took my meds before I ate as prescribed and wham. Nausea, diarrhea and weak. I also have weird hand tremors now ( I can’t operate the mouse on my computer half the time) Felt confusion and just heavy right between my eyes. I get a ton of sleep and I drink Propel and some water. Today before concluding after elimination I realized it’s probably the magnesium again. I took one about 2 hours ago and my head feels a bit clearer. I will now take my magnesium.. But after all this I need to know the best brand and dosage. I am 59 and have hypothyroidism also. So I take Levothytoxine .. I also am one of those that have been prescribed all sorts of antibiotics. I had lymes years ago and was on antibiotics for almost 3 years. That aside, recently I had diverticulitis and was prescribed a double regimen. I’m all fudged up and I just want to feel normal again. Also would you suggest the flake soaks and for what reason? Would this be absorbed in to my body or just outside. And can I do both? Please and Thank you ahead of time..

    • Maria

      Over 90 percent of hypothyroid people have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. You might want to consider getting tested for the two antibodies tested for Hashi. Thyroperoxidase and Thryroglobulin. If you have Hashi (or another autoimmune condition) there are things you can do to calm down the inflammation and the digestive problems you have.

    • Detty

      DrMercola.com has an awesome Magnesium supplement that does not cause
      any laxative effects. I take 3 or 4 a day and have never felt better.

  • Talha Yaqoob

    Hi hope you are doing well,
    I have plantar fasciitis problem 4 years ago now i am 30 years old age. I have vitamin d dificency that is 13 it should be min 30. Could it be problem of magnasium deficiency? As well as i have problem of sleep insomnia.

  • Connie KittyBlog

    How is pea protein, which is isolated from the pea, a whole food?

  • Marjorie Johnson

    Dr Perlmutter, Could my husbands Atrial Fibrillation be caused by a serious Magnesium deficiency?

    • Chrystal clear

      Absolutely, as well as copper.

  • Erik Wohlfarth

    What’s the best way to supplement with Magnesium? I would like the exact brands and dosages etc. Thank you!

  • stinsoneer@airmail.net

    I thought gout was also a symptom, especially for vegans who don’t eat any rich foods.

  • Karine Pelletier

    Dear Dr. Perlmutter, you say that low magnesium can cause difficulty swallowing. Does magnesium deficiency can cause thirstiness and dehydration?

  • Should caffeine maybe be added to the list of drugs that deplete magnesium?

  • Godfrey

    Not on the list is BPH… a prostate condition causing difficult and
    incomplete urination… magnesium is a GREAT solution to this problem…
    a problem that effects a huge number of men over 50!!!

    Add raw pumpkin seed oil and flaxseed meal… and you will notice a BIG improvement!!!

  • Silvana Dimech-Conti

    I am currently overseas (live in Australia) receiving Lyme treatment at a specialised hospital. I also have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A few days ago at night my body started to shake (I have never had tremors) and every limb became very rigid (visually it was like when we spray an insect and they shake and cannot move anymore). it was like a seizure.

    I hit the emergency button and the night nurse was astute enough to get me to drink a high dose of magnesium powder. my body immediately ‘uncurled’ itself and settled down but still quite immobile. The following morning I was given a magnesium infusion and my mobility returned.
    I never realised magnesium and lack of it could have such a profound affect on our bodies.


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