Symptoms of magnesium deficiency: signs, causes and treatment

Symptome von Magnesiummangel: Anzeichen, Ursachen und Behandlung

Magnesium is one of the minerals that are essential for the human body, but that we cannot produce ourselves. For this reason, magnesium must be supplied through food. It contributes to the processes of the organism, but also supports the muscles and nerves.

In our article we will mainly deal with the symptoms of a magnesium deficiency, as well as bring you closer to the causes and consequences. You will then learn how to successfully treat the symptoms.

the essentials in brief

  • Magnesium is a mineral that humans cannot do without, but cannot be produced by the human body itself. This is one reason why many are deficient and can exhibit various symptoms.
  • Signs include muscle cramps, trouble sleeping, and migraines. However, a magnesium deficiency can manifest itself in many ways, so it is best to describe the clinical picture to the doctor.
  • The doctor then usually prescribes the required amount. Alternative treatment options include dietary supplements and a balanced diet.

Definition: What is magnesium deficiency?

As you already know, magnesium is an essential mineral for humans. It occurs not only in the body, but also in nature. The light metal is the eighth most common element on earth and can be found in soil, rock or seawater. (1)

If there is a deficiency, it means that the magnesium concentration in the blood is very low. This is also known as hypomagnesemia in technical terms.

Background: What you should know about the symptoms of magnesium deficiency

In order to find out how a magnesium deficiency can occur, what the exact symptoms look like and what the extent of them can be, we have explained the background in more detail in the following part.

How does magnesium deficiency arise?

Hypomagnesemia can have many and varied causes. This includes diet, stress and illness.

Since the body cannot produce magnesium itself, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet in order to absorb enough magnesium. However, if you only eat one-sided food, you may have a deficiency in certain cases. This can often occur with eating disorders or diets. You should also be careful with processed foods and high alcohol and coffee consumption.

Psychological stress can also be a significant factor. When you're stressed, you release adrenaline and cortisol, and because magnesium regulates these hormones, your needs are ramped up.

Whether through sport or high temperatures, people are predisposed to sweating in these situations. As a result, electrolytes are lost, including magnesium. (2)

The most serious cause is disease. If not enough magnesium has been absorbed from food and the excretion is greater, the reason may be metabolic diseases such as diabetes, a gastrointestinal disease or an overactive thyroid.

There is also a correlation between pregnancy and magnesium deficiency, which we will discuss later.

How does magnesium deficiency manifest itself?

The question that arises is what are the exact symptoms of a lack of magnesium. There are many different symptoms that indicate a deficiency, but cannot confirm it with certainty.

A small table to illustrate:

Affected Aspects symptoms
Psyche, mood, well-being Tiredness, exhaustion, nervousness, inner restlessness, concentration problems, sleep disorders, irritability, headaches, migraines
body parts Muscle cramps, twitches, tightness, back and neck pain, numbness, cold hands and feet
cardiovascular system Circulatory disorders, cardiac arrhythmias, circulatory problems, high blood pressure and dizziness
digestion Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pain
Menstruation Cycle disorders, PMS, severe menstrual pain, as well as menstrual bleeding, water retention

As you can see, the signs are very extensive.

A very typical symptom of magnesium deficiency are muscle cramps and tension that can occur. Sometimes it happens that the calves or other parts of the body suddenly cramp. The explanation is relatively simple: Magnesium is crucial for the transmission of stimuli from muscles and nerves. It ensures that these relax again after contraction. If there is a deficit, this can lead to cramps. (3)

Sleep disorders are also an indication of a deficiency. According to statistics, 25% of all adults suffer from sleep disorders. (4) People affected by it still feel exhausted after sleep.

If the magnesium balance were sufficient, the quality of sleep would improve considerably. They would fall asleep faster and also feel more rested. Studies have shown that after an intake of magnesium, the deep sleep phases become longer. (5,6,7)

Other signs of magnesium deficiency are headaches and migraines. People who suffer from the latter usually have a low magnesium balance. (8th)

Are pregnant women particularly at risk of magnesium deficiency?

Women who are during their pregnancy often have an increased need for magnesium. For this reason, it can happen that you have to struggle with a deficiency. Apart from the classic symptoms such as calf cramps, exhaustion or palpitations, it is possible that the contracting uterus can no longer relax. As a result, cramps or, in the worst case, premature contractions occur.

One study looked at women, one group of whom took a magnesium supplement during their pregnancy and the other a placebo. The women treated with magnesium had fewer preterm births and the baby's birth weight was neither too high nor too low. Her pregnancy was also better.

From the study it can be concluded that magnesium substitution can bring benefits. (9)

What are the consequences of magnesium deficiency?

Aside from the aforementioned symptoms that may occur, magnesium deficiency can, at worst, cause long-term damage to sufferers. There is a connection between a magnesium deficiency and the risk of a stroke. In addition, a deficiency contributes to inflammatory processes that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Likewise, the sensitivity of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors of glutamate is promoted, thereby promoting the development of diffuse depolarization, which is considered to be slow-spreading depression. (10)

When should I go to the doctor?

Regardless of an existing diagnosis, suspicion or obvious symptoms - it is best to see a doctor in all cases, especially if the magnesium deficiency affects everyday life.

If a deficit has not yet been diagnosed, the doctor will determine this through the blood values. Even if the magnesium levels in the blood are within the normal range, a deficiency cannot be ruled out. This is because the magnesium concentration in the blood is independent of the concentration in the cells. For this reason, the clinical picture of the patient is questioned and then the magnesium content in the blood or urine is checked.


  • the magnesium value in the blood serum > 0.65 per liter, or
  • the urine levels below 3.0 millimoles per liter

lie, there is a magnesium deficiency.

The following values ​​are normal:

group Millmoles per liter in blood
Women 0.77 - 1.03 millimoles
Men 0.73 - 1.06 millimoles
Children 0.6 - 0.95 millimoles
newborn 0.48 - 1.05 millimoles

Magnesium deficiency treatment: what is the best way to treat a magnesium deficiency?

If there is a magnesium deficiency, immediate action should be taken. There are various ways to improve a low magnesium balance. This includes substitutions as well as natural foods.

preparations and dietary supplements

Whether preparations or dietary supplements, they are offered in various dosage forms. From effervescent tablets, chewable tablets or powder - there should be a suitable variant for every preference. But before you buy any drug, it would be important to have consulted a doctor beforehand. He will state the correct and individual needs.

supplements in tablet form

Pill form supplements are the most commonly used. (Image source: Pexels /

What foods are recommended for magnesium deficiency?

In order to treat or even prevent a slightly milder magnesium deficiency, a magnesium-rich diet is of great importance. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and many other foods.

nuts and seeds

Not only do nuts lower the risk of heart disease, they are also a high-protein source of B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, iron, and magnesium. (11) It would be good to know that they also contain a lot of calories.

A handful of cashew or sunflower seeds can already cover half of the daily requirement.

These nuts and seeds contain the highest levels of magnesium:

nuts and seeds Magnesium content (mg) in each 100g
sunflower seeds 420
almonds 170
walnuts 129



Grains, more specifically whole grain products, are also a good source of magnesium. For example, millet or quinoa offer high levels of magnesium, with two small servings covering the daily requirement.

In contrast to other cereals, whole grain products provide twice as much magnesium.

Grain Magnesium content (mg) per 100g
wheat bran 490
quinoa 277
oatmeal 135
millet 123
Whole grain bread 56

dried fruit

Fruit that has been dehydrated contains nutrients in a concentrated form and has higher levels of minerals than regular fruit. For example, banana chips contain four times more magnesium than regular bananas.

dried fruit

However, it should be noted that dried fruit is also very high in sugar and should therefore be consumed in moderate portions. (Source: Bru-nO /

These fruits contain the largest amount of magnesium:

Dried fruit Magnesium content (mg) per 100g
Dried Bananas 110
dates 51
bananas 36

Is an overdose possible?

It has not yet happened that the consumption of magnesium-rich foods resulted in an overdose.

However, supplements used to combat magnesium deficiency can cause diarrhea even at relatively low doses. This could also happen with a daily requirement.

The maximum tolerable intake of magnesium was set at 250 or 350 mg×d⁻¹. (13)


Magnesium deficiency can have different causes. Anyone who already suffers from a low magnesium balance or would like to prevent one should try to identify the triggers. In this way, a "next time" can be prevented. Diet also plays an important role.

Even if a magnesium deficiency is not particularly unusual, it should not be underestimated. Symptoms of a deficit, such as muscle cramps or insomnia, can affect everyday life to some extent, so the doctor should be consulted promptly so that he or she can prescribe suitable preparations or dietary supplements.


  1. Author: Harold, Harper Publisher: Springer Verlag 1975. p.30.
  2. Author: D. Böhmer
  3. Authors: Thomas Penzel, Helga Peter, Jörg Hermann Peter and M. v. Heinrich F. Becker, Ingo Fietze, Jürgen Fischer, Geert Mayer, Thomas Podszus, Friedhart Raschke, Dieter Riemann, Thorsten Schäfer, Helmut Sitter
  4. Authors: Forrest H. Nielsen, Luann K. Johnson, Huawei Zeng Magnesium Research. 2010;23:158-168.
  5. Authors: Katja Held, IA Antonijevic, H Künzel, M Uhr, TC Wetter, IC Golly, A Steiger, H Murck
  6. Published by: Swiss Journal of Holistic Medicine. 1991;2:1-4.
  7. Authors: Emel Köseoglu, Abdullah Talaslıoglu, Ali Saffet Gönül, Mustafa Kula
  8. Authors: L. Kovács, BG Molnár, E. Huhn, L. Bódis
  9. Authors: Emel Köseoglu, Abdullah Talaslıoglu, Ali Saffet Gönül, Mustafa Kula
  10. Published by: German Nutrition Society
  11. The composition of the food. Nutritional Tables. 6th revised and supplemented edition, Medpharm Scientific Publishers, Stuttgart, 2000.
  12. Important characteristics regarding magnesium
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