How Does Magnesium Deficiency Occur?
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Magnesium Deficiency - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Published on Jan 17, 2023 and last reviewed on May 24, 2023   -  5 min read


Magnesium deficiency occurs when magnesium in the blood is lower than usual and causes various health problems.


Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, is caused due to the lesser amounts of magnesium in the blood. Magnesium deficiency can occur due to many health conditions, such as renal and gastrointestinal problems. The usual range of magnesium levels in the body is 1.46 to 2.68 mg/dL.

Magnesium plays an essential role in many chemical and physical processes in the body. The mineral is widely present in our environment and food but can cause severe health issues due to its deficiency. Magnesium is also essential for athletes as it promotes cardio-respiratory function and strength. The lack of magnesium can cause muscle weakness, cellular damage, and muscle fire disruption. Severe magnesium levels can lead to low potassium and calcium in the body, erythema, loss of appetite, cardiac arrest, or sudden death.

What Are the Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency?

The symptoms of magnesium deficiency are as follows:

Early Acute Symptoms

  • Vomiting and nausea.

  • Fatigue and weakness.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Muscle weakness.

  • Hyperexcitability.

  • Tremors.

  • Disorientation.

  • Anxiety.

  • Confusion.

  • Aggression.

Late Chronic Symptoms

What Are the Causes of Magnesium Deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency is caused due to following reasons:

  • Malnutrition.

  • Kidney disorders.

  • Heart diseases.

  • Liver diseases.

  • Vitamin D deficiency.

  • Vitamin B6 deficiency.

  • Chronic diarrhea.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Alcohol use.

  • Excessive urination (polyuria) in diabetic and acute kidney failure conditions.

  • Medication for reflux and ulcers also decreases magnesium levels due to prolonged use.

  • Excessive sweating.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • Digestive disorders.

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

What Are the Functions of Magnesium in the Body?

Magnesium helps in the regulation of blood pressure. It also plays a vital role in the development of teeth and bones. In addition, it helps in the production of energy in the body. Magnesium also improves nerve and muscle function. Blood sugar levels are also controlled by magnesium. It also helps remove the waste material from the cells. In addition, it maintains the body's pH, water, and blood glucose levels. Magnesium helps in the synthesis of protein and RNA (ribonucleic acid). In addition, it helps in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) replication.

What Are the Health Problems Caused by a Magnesium Deficiency?

The health problems caused by magnesium deficiency include:

  • Heart diseases.

  • Gastrointestinal disorders.

  • Pancreatitis.

  • Kidney disease.

  • Osteoporosis.

  • Diabetes.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Migraine headaches.

What Is the Pathophysiology of Magnesium Deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency directly affects the calcium, sodium, and potassium channels in the body and plays a vital role in many biochemical reactions. In addition, magnesium deficiency causes various effects, such as magnesium can inhibit the release of calcium from the skeletal muscle cells and causing an increase in intracellular calcium levels. Inhibition of calcium inhibits parathyroid hormone production, causing hypoparathyroidism and hypocalcemia. Magnesium deficiency also affects the potassium channels in the body and causes excessive release of potassium through the kidneys. This loss of potassium from the body causes hypokalemia or low potassium levels. It is also essential for the sodium-potassium pump in the heart's muscle cells. Therefore, magnesium deficiency affects the potassium levels in the body, which decreases the intracellular potassium concentration and causes tachycardia or rapid heart rate. In addition, its deficiency causes high resistance to insulin and glucose in the body; therefore, it is common in poorly managed diabetes cases.

How Is Magnesium Deficiency Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of magnesium deficiency is made in the following ways:

  • Blood and urine tests include urine magnesium test, calcium blood test, and potassium blood test.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG).

How Is Magnesium Deficiency Treated?

Intravenous fluids are given to a person during the initial supportive treatment. Asymptomatic mild hypomagnesemia can be treated with a diet rich in magnesium. Magnesium supplements are also given via mouth (magnesium oxide) in acute cases, and intravenous therapy (magnesium sulfate) is given if the condition is severe. Symptoms due to magnesium deficiency are treated with conventional medication. Calcium and potassium are also given with magnesium therapy because these nutrients are also lost due to magnesium deficiency. The treatment is given after properly monitoring the renal function of the person. Food rich in magnesium, such as nuts, beans, seeds, and green leafy vegetables, is also given to treat the low magnesium levels in the body.

The complications related to magnesium deficiency are as follows:

What Are the Foods Rich in Magnesium?

The food rich in magnesium is as follows:

  • Spinach.

  • Pumpkin seeds.

  • Potato.

  • Peanut butter.

  • Rice.

  • Nuts.

  • Yogurt.

  • Chia seeds.

  • Black beans.

  • Whole wheat bread.

  • Oatmeal.

  • Apples and bananas.

  • Milk.

  • Carrot and broccoli.

  • Raisins.

  • Kidney beans.

How Can We Improve Magnesium Absorption in the Body?

People can improve magnesium absorption in the body in the following ways:

  • For example, a person can avoid cooking vegetables and eat them raw to enhance magnesium absorption.

  • The doctor must treat the vitamin D deficiency in a person must be treated.

  • A person should avoid taking high doses of zinc supplements.

  • A person should not take a calcium-rich diet two hours before and after the magnesium-rich food.

  • A person should also avoid smoking habits to improve magnesium absorption in the body.


The deficiency of magnesium is not a very common condition but can be associated with many health problems. The symptoms produced by low magnesium levels in the body are not very specific to this condition and can make the diagnosis difficult sometimes.

Magnesium deficiency mainly occurs in people with digestive problems, chronic alcohol use, malabsorption, malnutrition, or irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, early diagnosis of this hypomagnesemia is vital to avoid these medical conditions. Though treatment for this condition is available, chronic health problems can be fatal and need timely diagnosis and intervention by the doctor. In addition, the doctor should correct the electrolyte imbalance and magnesium metabolism to minimize the risk of complications due to magnesium deficiency in the body.

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Last reviewed at:
24 May 2023  -  5 min read




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