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Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Magnesium is an important mineral and nutrient. Doctors usually diagnose magnesium deficiency, or hypomagnesemia, when blood levels of magnesium are low.

Doctors define hypomagnesemia as a serum magnesium level below 0.75 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). You can measure this level with a blood test. Hypomagnesemia doesn’t always cause symptoms, but early symptoms can include muscle twitching, numbness, and tingling. Left untreated, hypomagnesemia can lead to health problems and decrease the levels of calcium and potassium in the body.

In this article, we take a close look at the factors that can cause low magnesium levels. We also research the effects of magnesium deficiency on the body and treatment methods.

What is hypomagnesemia?

Hypomagnesemia is the medical term for magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It contributes significantly to:

muscle and nerve health regulation of blood pressure production of energy in the body cells synthesis of DNA and RNA

However, the body cannot produce magnesium, so a person must get it through their diet. If intake is inadequate, or if an underlying health problem interferes with the absorption or utilization of this nutrient, the person may develop hypomagnesemia. When a person has low levels, but not enough to indicate a deficiency, it’s called a “magnesium deficiency.”

Symptoms of hypomagnesemia

People with mild hypomagnesemia may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

twitching, particularly in the facial musclesweakness and fatiguenausea and vomitingpersonality changestremorsexcessive reflexesconstipationA greater magnesium deficiency can cause:muscle twitching epileptic seizures changes in heart rhythm

In a 2019 review, researchers found that low levels of magnesium in the blood can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and atrial fibrillation, a disorder that causes uncoordinated beating of the upper chambers of the heart.

Causes of hypomagnesemia

In otherwise healthy people, there is usually no real magnesium deficiency. This is because the kidneys can control how much of this mineral they excrete through the urine. When the body doesn’t have enough magnesium, the kidneys can stop removing the magnesium the body has, which helps balance levels.

A person can develop hypomagnesemia if:

She is consistently deficient in magnesium in her diet. Your kidneys excrete too much magnesium. She has another medical condition that affects nutrient absorption. Certain groups are at risk of magnesium deficiency, which is easier. This includes those affected by:


Hunger, anorexia, bulimia, or frequent vomiting for any reason can lead to magnesium deficiency.

digestive diseases

People with conditions like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or regional enteritis may have trouble absorbing magnesium from the gut. If a person has surgery to bypass the small intestine, it can also lead to magnesium loss.


Chronic diarrhea can lead to an imbalance in electrolytes. People with gastrointestinal disorders that cause diarrhea are at higher risk of hypomagnesemia.

alcohol abuse

Excessive alcohol consumption can create an imbalance of electrolytes or nutrients and cause the body to release more magnesium than usual.

breastfeeding or pregnancy

Both increase magnesium requirements. During pregnancy, an adult’s magnesium requirement increases from 310-320 milligrams (mg) to 350-360 mg per day.


Magnesium absorption becomes more difficult over time, putting older adults at greater risk of magnesium deficiency.


If a person has type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, high levels of glucose in the kidneys can cause the body to excrete more magnesium. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication of diabetes and can also lower magnesium levels.

organic deficiency

The failure of an organ, particularly the kidneys, can cause the body to excrete too much magnesium.

People taking certain medications can also lose large amounts of magnesium. These drugs include:

certain antifungals diuretics proton pump inhibitors cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug Taking certain thyroid hormones can have a similar effect.

How does the doctor diagnose hypomagnesemia?

The body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, more than half of which is in the bones. Magnesium is also abundant in soft tissues. Less than 1% of the body’s magnesium is found in serum, the liquid component of blood. In the blood, the normal serum magnesium level is between 0.75 and 0.95 mmol/l. Doctors diagnose hypomagnesemia when a person has serum magnesium levels below 0.75 mmol/L. A blood test can confirm the diagnosis. If there’s no obvious cause, the doctor can determine if the person is losing magnesium through the kidneys or digestive system. It can measure the amount of magnesium in the person’s urine over 24 hours.

Treatment of hypomagnesemia

Depending on the situation, doctors treat low magnesium levels in different ways.

light cases

For mild magnesium deficiency in people with no other health problems, a doctor may suggest getting more magnesium through the diet. The following foods contain a lot of magnesium:

Food Magnesium per serving % of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for men % of the RDA for women

Almonds 76.5 mg: 19.13% 23.9%. 1 avocado 39.4 mg: 9.85% 12.311 cup cooked brown rice 78.8 mg: 19.7% 24.63%. 1 cup lentils 90.2 mg: 22.55% 28.19%.

If eating magnesium-rich foods is not an option or doesn’t help, a doctor may suggest magnesium supplementation. However, people with kidney problems should use them with caution. When the kidneys aren’t working well, they may not excrete excess magnesium at a normal rate, leading to the opposite problem – hypermagnesemia. This is when the body has too much magnesium.

Links to Hypocalcemia and Hypokalemia

A person with very low magnesium levels may also be calcium or potassium deficient. A low calcium level is referred to as hypocalcemia, while a potassium deficiency is referred to as hypokalemia. Magnesium helps transport calcium and potassium ions in and out of cells. It can also aid in the absorption of these important minerals. For this reason, a lack of magnesium can lead to a drop in calcium and potassium levels. Treating magnesium deficiency alone can make calcium deficiency worse because magnesium binds to calcium. Doctors who suspect hypomagnesemia often look for other deficiencies. This allows them to simultaneously treat hypomagnesemia, hypocalcemia, and hypokalemia, if needed.

Outlook for hypomagnesemia

The outlook for someone with a magnesium deficiency depends on the cause. When a mild magnesium deficiency is caused by factors such as a lack of magnesium in the diet, pregnancy, or advanced age, eating more magnesium-rich foods or taking a dietary supplement can often correct the problem. In patients with more severe or persistent hypomagnesemia, the doctor must identify the cause before the outcome can be predicted. If he can find and treat the cause, a full recovery is likely. Treatment is crucial as dangerously low levels of this mineral can cause life-threatening heart disease. It is also important not to diagnose and treat magnesium deficiency yourself.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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