What Are The Effects Of Low Magnesium? 7 Symptoms That May Show You're Deficient
While you might think about whether you're eating enough protein or getting enough iron, you probably don't spend too much time wondering if you have a magnesium deficiency. But surprisingly, not getting enough magnesium can affect your mental and physical health in a number of ways, according to experts.
"Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral inside our cells, which helps explain its significance in our physical and mental health," Stephanie Paver, MS, RD, CSO, CNSC, an integrative functional registered dietician, tells Bustle. "The majority of magnesium is housed in bone, followed by muscle," she says. While you might assume that the foods you eat are giving you all of the magnesium your body needs, that's not necessarily the case.
"Most people don’t get enough magnesium, and it can be difficult to meet the daily requirement of magnesium through diet alone," Paver says. You need between 310 to 420 milligrams daily, depending on your individual needs. If your doctor determines that it's hard for you to get enough magnesium on a daily basis through your food alone, they might suggest that that you take a daily supplement of magnesium citrate orglycinate, as long as you don’t have kidney problems.
Here are some ways that a magnesium deficiency can affect your health, according to experts.
1. Lower Energy
When you're just doing your best to power through a busy day, it can be incredibly frustrating to realize that you have no energy for some reason. A magnesium deficiency might actually be that reason.
"ATP, the main source of energy in your cells, must bind to a magnesium ion to be biologically active," Tara Garrison, a certified functional strength coach, certified neurotyping coach, and certified nutrition coach, tells Bustle. "If you don't have enough magnesium, you are diminishing your body's ability to make energy."
A cup of coffee or green tea might be an OK short-term pick-me-up, but if you're noticing low energy levels on a regular basis, check in with your doctor to make sure you're getting all of the nutrients your body needs.
2. Worse PMS Symptoms
When you're on your period, you're probably dealing with a whole host of side effects in addition to the bleeding. Whether you're someone who barely has cramps or you have intense symptoms, a magnesium deficiency can make your period side effects worse than ever. "Low magnesium worsens PMS symptoms such as carb cravings, water retention, anger and depression," Garrison says. The good news is that some of the delicious foods you might crave while you're menstruating, like dark chocolate, nuts, and avocado, are all great plant sources of magnesium. So mash up a bowl of guacamole or dish up some dark chocolate ice cream and enjoy.
3. Disrupted Sleep
No matter what your everyday life looks like, not getting enough sleep can throw a wrench in all of your plans. Being tired can make it harder to focus, less motivated to get things done, and put you in a less positive mood. If your sleep quality has been worse than usual lately, you might want to think about how much magnesium you're getting on a daily basis. "Magnesium increases GABA, the 'brakes' on your brain neurotransmitter, which helps you calm down, relax into your parasympathetic nervous system, and get more REM and deep sleep," Garrison says. Try spending a couple of days paying attention to how much magnesium is in the foods you're eating. If you aren't getting as much as your doctor suggests, talk with them about possibly introducing a supplement.
4. Blood Sugar Regulation Issues
You might not give your blood sugar levels too much thought unless you have diabetes, but if you aren't getting enough magnesium, your blood sugar might begin to pose a problem. "Magnesium plays a significant role in the regulation of blood sugar and insulin action," Hailey Crean, MS, RD, CDE, CSOWM, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and founder of Hailey Crean Nutrition, LLC, tells Bustle. "The risk of magnesium deficiency grows with uncontrolled blood sugars levels because magnesium is lost in the urine with excess glucose," she says. Consistently having low magnesium levels can make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Not every symptom of a magnesium deficiency is strictly physical. "There is evidence that magnesium deficiencies can contribute to depression," Dr. Jared Heathman, M.D., a psychiatrist at Your Family Psychiatrist, tells Bustle. Of course, that does not mean that adding a supplement of the mineral to your daily routine will cause all of your mental health problems to vanish. But, with the approval of your doctor and psychiatrist, making sure that your body is getting all of the magnesium that it needs can be one part of improving your mental health. "Your physician can order a magnesium level test to evaluate current levels," Heathman says. Foods like edamame, brown rice, and bananas can all be delicious ways to add extra magnesium to your day.
When you think about your bone health, drinking plenty of milk and eating lots of cheese probably comes to mind because dairy products contain calcium. But magnesium also plays an important role in protecting your bone health and preventing conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis. "Higher intakes of magnesium are associated with greater bone density," Paver says. Plus, meeting your daily requirement for magnesium can significantly reduce your risk for having a bone fracture. If you're concerned about whether you're consuming enough magnesium, bring it up to your doctor the next time you have a checkup, and they can advise you on ways to make sure that your body is getting what it needs to stay strong.
7. Causes Muscle Cramps Or Twitches
If you're trying out a new exercise routine, you probably aren't too concerned if a muscle begins to cramp up. But if you haven't done anything that would cause muscle pain, your magnesium levels might actually be to blame.
"Muscle cramps or twitches have been linked to low magnesium," Dr. Nicole Avena, visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, nutrition researcher, and author of What to Eat When You're Pregnant, tells Bustle. "This is because when one is low in magnesium, too much calcium is then able to enter the nerve cells, leading to uncomfortable twitches and cramps," she says.
If you suspect that you aren't getting enough magnesium in the foods you're enjoying on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about whether you need to add a supplement. Of course, snacking on plenty of dark chocolate can help too.